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CMW’s May Membership Meeting with James Turner as the Demo Artist


CMW members met Monday, May 8th at the Paramount in the lower level at 6 pm. There was a brief business meeting and then James Turner, the chosen demo artist for the evening, was introduced.

James started his demo by saying that he has worked with Yupo for about 20 years. It’s very different to work with, as compared to watercolor paper, as are the techniques he uses and the subject matter that he paints. His first introduction to Yupo was at a workshop His first experience was AWFUL he said, but he bought the artist’s video and continued using and improving his techniques. A brief definition of Yupo is that it is the recyclable, waterproof, tree-free Synthetic Paper with attributes and properties that make it the perfect solution for a variety of needs.

Generally, James uses a stencil that he cuts out of Tyvek (Yupo product) and paints an abstraction opaque around it. He finds it FUN because:

  1. It gives incredibly intense color – a stain class quality.

  2. The paint doesn’t seep into the paper.

  3. Paint can be easily lifted.

  4. Many times, he paints a dark background and lifts out the painting.

  5. Paint granulations looks different and interesting and creates flowing patterns.

  6. It is hard to control patterns.

  7. Can’t easily increase the value by glazing-hard to do without lifting.


James chose to paint from a photo he took with palm trees, the ocean, and a woman lying in a hammock. To paint on the Yupo, James uses fresh watercolor paint from the tube or liquid watercolor paints. He started by squirting liquid watercolor on the Yupo. He was using Dr. Ph. Martin’s liquid watercolor paint and then regular tube paint. One of his favorite tube paints is Andrew’s Turquoise and then later says he also likes New Gamboge.

He wets (lightly sprays) just enough to move paint around, using a large brush, mixing but leaving the paint somewhat separate to begin with. (He demonstrated painting with his fingers, too). He says try to keep some of the pure color as you fill the paper. He keeps a water spritzer handy so it doesn’t dry. He picks up and tilts his painting to move the paint. (He doesn’t use alcohol ink as you cannot lift it other than with alcohol).

While the paint is wet he can take a thirsty brush and lift to the white surface. He will use a squeegee to lift and add patterns. He made palm leaves in this particular painting with the squeegee. While wet he can drop more color in. He does some patterning in to match the subject. He created patterns to play off the palm branches. He also sprinkles colors in…they can create interesting blossoms.


James Turner Demo 1



Turner Demo 2



Turner Demo 3


In other situations to gain texture, he has used gift wrap, bubble wrap, cardboard with interesting texture, paper towels with special textures.

He added American Journey Orchid paint from Cheap Joes. It has opacity and he uses this on paper too when plein air painting. This is a great color to add to foliage or rocks. He explains it as “unexpected” color.

When he wants a graded wash or wall for example, he uses a roller to flatten an area.

Next he wanted to create more color contrast so he used a thirsty brush and lifted and replaced color with chrome orange and new gamboge (something obviously that cannot be done when painting regular watercolor).

James said he paints everything on an angled board (inside and outside). It gives a wet edge. He then crumpled up a paper towel to give some texture to the painting—he brushed with it.

He tries to stay away from staining colors where he tries to lift—they can be lifted but may affect the painting in ways he doesn’t want.

Yupo doesn’t expand or wrinkle—water has no effect on it.

One of James’ favorite brushes is ½” flat with and angled handle-he can use that angled end of the paint brush to scrape paint away. He has Series 965 Windsor Newton squirrel-hair brushes. They are expensive but last forever.

He again mentions the beauty of Yupo is that you can lift and replace color. Half the time he paints abstractly to begin with and then sees where it goes from there.

James said you must spray varnish after your painting is done. The painting needs to sit for a long time to be sure it is completely dry before applying varnish. He sprays 6 to 8 layers of spray varnish, usually semi gloss if the painting will be under glass. The glossier, the more intense the color. He frames with or without a mat. A Yupo painting lends itself well to reproduction.


His demo painting was almost dry so he spattered it with Andrew Turquoise – he likes Cad Red too. He says it’s important to learn how much paint and water in your brush—Yupo doesn’t need much water. He then dried the painting with a hair dryer.

He then described how he makes stencils for his paintings. He uses Tybek—the same material that is used to wrap our houses. It’s the same as Yupo but is woven. He places it on a flat surface and cuts the stencils with a knife.

He had already cut the stencil prior to our meeting. He placed it where he wanted it. He rolled over the stencil—it rolls color off. He runs the roller and dries the roller several times with a paper towel to make it lighter where he wants to. Using a brush doesn’t work as well as a brush will get water under the stencil.


Turner Demo 5



Turner Demo 6



Turner Demo 8



Turner Demo 7


Also, he sprayed blue paint onto the painting with an atomizer for the water. He rolls it out while it’s still wet to smooth the texture out.


Turner Demo 9



Turner Demo 10


He partially covered the water with a piece of Tybeck and continues to lighten the sky with the roller (it wasn’t quite dry so it was harder to lighten).

Again, he says he finds Yupo to be FUN!

He touched up after removing the stencil—doing repair from water that got under the stencil.

When the paint is dry, he will go in and carve out the shape of the palms. He used a thirsty brush to pick up paint and leave a light pattern. He created light holes above for the sky. He pointed out in the abstraction how shapes and colors look like palm trees.

James says if you haven’t done Yupo before you will be intensely frustrated to begin with. CMW member Kerry Kupferschmidt, who has painted quite a bit with Yupo, said if you get mad at it, you can’t even tear it up! HA!

James also said that half of it happens by accident and letting it develop.


This is the finished painting James e-mailed after the demo. Amazing! The colors are stain glass quality!

Thank you, James Turner, for an exciting and very different watercolor demo because of the Yupo. You demonstrated how much you enjoy and have fun with it! You’ve inspired many CMW members to give it a try!

notes submitted by Paula Tift, CMW Social Media Coordinator

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