Visual and Physical Texture – The image on the left bears the appearance of heavy texture, but is completely flat and smooth. The image on the right shows the strong physical texture available with the use of thick oil paint.
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 a 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 support surface remains smooth and flat.
Transparent watercolor or Gouache generate little physical texture other than the roughness of the paper they are applied to. Impasto oil paint or Mixed media allow advantage to be taken of physical as well as visual texture.
In architecture and sculpture, physical texture is more obvious, but visual texture is still employed. The large variety of marble used in St. Peters cathedral, Rome gives a rich visual texture, while the surfaces remain hard and smooth.
St Peters Rome (Detail) – smooth, polished marble with strong visual texture.
All painting surfaces have texture, from the smooth , carefully rendered surface of Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring” to the fractured brush strokes of Rembrandt’s “A woman bathing”.
Understanding the difference between physical and visual texture and being aware of the fact that all surfaces have some kind of texture, helps us take full advantage of this element.
Paint can be applied in thin flat glazes to reduce physical texture or with heavy impasto strokes to create physical texture
Some of the lane ways and back alley of inner city Melbourne, Australia, have developed into impressive galleries of heavily layered graffiti. The build up of textures is amazing, with skilfully applied artwork coating every available surface.
The paintings often ignore the underlying surface texture and span everything from steel mesh, plumbing pipes, switchboards to rendered brick walls.
Hosiers Lane Graffiti
Just as in nature, variation in texture plays a major part in Landscape design. Differences in leaf size, density and arrangement provide the landscape designer with a huge palette of different textures to work with.
Texture variation plays a major role in landscape design, providing a means of controlling depth and scale.