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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Texture: The Element of Intrigue

Except for the minimalists, take any painting you like, subtract from it all texture and what do you have left?

One painting I like a lot is Clyde Aspevig's Selway River Wilderness shown below.

Clyde Aspevig "Selway River Wilderness"

On my knees begging forgiveness from Mr. Aspevig, here's what happens when we take away all the texture.Okay, so I had to throw it out of focus to prove my point, (and that IS a bit annoying), but the out of focus shot does give us an idea of what happens when we strip a painting of it's texture. No other element plays such a strong role in communicating the character of images or engaging the viewer's attention.

At the same time, no other element can so easily cause chaos. I dare not reach for another artist's painting to illustrate this point, but maybe the photo below will help.

For texture to work it depends upon pattern. When no pattern is evident, texture is apt to create chaos. In the photo, where the grasses, branches and limbs become so entangled that we can't make out a visual pattern, there is confusion. And where there is confusion, there is chaos. But when textures of such a subject get rearranged into a perceptible pattern, it doesn't matter what the subject is, it can still be intriguing to look at.

So when choosing our subjects, we might very well take something chaotic and give it order just by reorganizing within it a textural pattern.

Our observation and translation of textural patterns can count strongly toward creating interesting areas in our paintings. In Lilli Pell's Into The Evening Sun (below) there are numerous intriguing textures translated from careful observation of the edges of tree limbs, sheep, foliage and grass.

But that's only one side what makes the painting intriguing. The other side is how Lilli applies her brushstrokes. Take another look at the details above, this time focus just on her brushstrokes.

How we wield our tools count as much toward the intrigue of our paintings and drawings as how we interpret the subjects. Take a little trip with me over to Katherine Tyrell's portfolio website and look at the gorgeous textures she creates with colored pencil, pen/ink and pastels. (Note: Katherine's blog Making A Mark is one of the richest resource blogs on the web, but she makes a mighty fine mark as artist, too.)

Now let's go to Colin Page's website. Click on the paintings one after another and study his brushstrokes. One more trip to watercolor painter Carl Purcell's website. Even watercolor offers numerous opportunities for creating textures with tools, something at which Carl is a master at doing.

These artists' works are among dozens on the web done by artists whose handling of their tools (as well as observations and translations) create rich and engaging textural patterns. Delete the textures from any of their works and we loose the intrigue of the artist's handwriting as well as how the artist interprets their subjects.

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