Texture is an obvious and important element in a painting. To save confusion it can be broken into two parts.

Physical Texture is the texture you can actually feel with your hand. The build up of paint, slipperiness of soft pastel, layering of collage - all the things that change the nature of the papers surface.

Visual Texture is the illusion of physical texture, created with the materials you use. Paint can be manipulated to give the impression of texture, while the paper surface remains smooth and flat.

Traditional transparent watercolour makes little use of physical texture other than the roughness of the paper. Mixed media allows advantage to be taken of physical as well as visual texture.

This detail shows the use of visual texture.
The surface appears fractured and broken
but this is an illusion created with the paint.
The paper in this area of the work is
smooth and flat.

In this detail patches of Japanese rice paper,
gesso and thick swipes of soft pastel add a
strong three dimensional physical texture.

Understanding the difference between physical and visual texture helps us take full advantage of this element.

Things to consider

Texture is often something that finds its way into a painting in an accidental sort of way, particularly with mixed media. Lumps, bumps and scratches pop up all over the place, often bearing no relationship to the painting. Make it a habit to question whether these marks help the work or just add unnecessary confusion.

Some heavily textured watercolour papers can have an overbearing effect on a painting. Always try and relate this type of paper to your subject

Texture can have more impact through variation and relief - contrasting rough, course areas with orderly patterned areas and providing smooth areas of relief will make a painting far more interesting than an even, unrelieved texture running from edge to edge.

Remember - creating textures is easy, itís where and how you place them that makes the difference between a good painting and an ordinary one.

  visual physical

click on each of these images for demonstrations of physical and visual texture


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