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Yupo has become an obsession for Las Cruces artist


Cheryl Lynn Nelson is a new Las Cruces artist with a background in commercial art, cartoons, caricatures and line art.

Doña Ana Arts Council Communication Director Kathleen Albers got Nelson to try her hand at painting during a DACC workshop last May. Since then, Nelson has produced nearly 70 paintings.

She said she likes working in pastel, watercolor and especially yupo, which makes use of a synthetic paper that is waterproof, stain resistant, strong and durable, and welcoming to a variety of media.

Yupo “has an extra smooth surface and can be used with a combination of media, including but not limited to watercolors, alcohol ink, acrylic paint, pastel, graphite and silkscreen,” Nelson said. “Water is freely applied to yupo paper prior to the watercolor being applied and floats freely on the surface. At that point, it can be manipulated by the artist.”

After it dries, she said, a fixative spray is applied.

 Yupo is so colorful, so unique,” Nelson said. It creates “colors I can’t duplicate on purpose.”

And, because yupo works of art dry in two to five hours, “you have to finish them when you start them,” she said. But that also means that if Nelson doesn’t like what she’s producing partway through creating it, she can “take it out in the back yard, wash it off and start over.”

“To me this is a very organic thing,” Nelson said. “It’s water and air, and I add color. It’s painting itself in a way.”

Using different-sized brushes, Nelson said her technique with yupo is “getting better and better. It just happens and I help it happen. This is very free, very easy. It’s always a surprise.”

Each sheet of yupo paper is different, she said, because “they hold water differently.” And the images created on yupo tend to be very different if you’re viewing close up or from far away, Nelson said.

The process also keeps her artwork affordable to the public, she said, and means it could be hung four different ways.

Nelson’s artwork is and has been shown at local galleries, she said, including Mesquite Gallery, Amaro Winery, Mas Art and the Frame and Art Center.

An Air Force brat, Nelson said she has lived all over the United States, including the Washington, D.C.-Virginia, Maryland area.

She came to Las Cruces in 2006. As part of a panel at a National Cancer institute gathering in Albuquerque in February 2006, Nelson saw the Milky Way over a northern New Mexico pueblo and “decided I needed to come back.”

“I practically drove off the road when I saw the Organs,” she said of her first trip to Las Cruces. “I’m supposed to be here,” she said.

Nelson found an interest in art as a little girl, she said, first drawing cartoons and caricatures of her teachers.

“I could always just draw,” she said.

She was the editorial cartoonist for her college newspaper and began drawing political cartoons, including many suggested by the Watergate scandal.

Yupo painting has become an obsession for Nelson.

“My muse keeps me up all hours,” she said.

For more information, contact Nelson at 575-521-3742 or nelsoncheryl12@yahoo.com.