When we think of creating our own work of art there are so many things to consider: the support or surface, subject matter, background, light source, center of interest, and so forth. We know what makes up a good overall design: color management, value, and intensity control, creating a good focal point, line of design, etc. But, how often do we think of texture and the role it plays. Or do we even think of it at all?
Texture what is it and where is it?
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Types Of Texture – “Relief” Vs. “Visual.”
Let’s take a look at the two different types of textures and some examples and the roles they might play in our paintings.
Can you see that each of these will need to be treated in different ways so the viewer can understand how these feel to the touch? Color, value and intensity can be used to describe this texture.
This can be described with mottling or sponging the background of a painting. We know the background should stay in the back, so anything like texture that we do back there should be subtle. Values of the colors used would need to be quite close, intensities should be dull or soft. This type of background would be a very effective way to carry color (subtly), and then of course it would add to the overall effect of the composition, but without drawing the eye or creating too much.
Strong color along the outer edges of this rose bleed into the petals forming a delicate pattern. Can you see the texture? Let’s look at this visual texture, for example on a rose that is in the center of interest area like the one above in the photograph. It would require stronger visual texture on the outer edges of the petals, stronger lights on the turned edges, more color, detail, and contrast with perhaps the addition of bug bites and stamens, the veins within the petals would possibly be visible as well. This visual texturing is achieved through more detailing, stronger contrast between colors and values, sharper lines, and the like. A rose in the background of the design would have much less (details and contrast) of everything.
The artist could also make use of visual texture in the random patterns created by the clouds in the sky. Everything helps the artist create interest.
Textures To Consider When Painting Fur – Animals
Fur has many textures…Artists strive to create textures that allude to the true characteristics of the animals they wish paint. When painting their fur, these textures play important roles. From a technical point of view the placement and texture of the fur helps the viewer understand the individual characteristics of the animal in a particular setting or habitat.
These fur textures are rendered in a variety of ways, but first the artist needs to understand what these various types of hair or fur feels like, or looks like to make the animal unique and realistic. Here are some of the most common pointers we give students when we instruct them on how to paint fur.
- Texture – Course and stiff hair: This is found on lions, wolves, or other large animals and cats.
- Texture – Soft and ‘fluffy’: as found on young animals.
- Length – Short hair: small animals like the squirrel, rabbits, chipmunks.
- Length – Long hair:
- Patterned – fur found on leopards, giraffes, zebras, etc.
- Two Tone – Panda, dogs and cats.
- Wave – Straight or curly – sheep, goats
Characteristics of painting fur in unique situations
- Light – How does the artist convey fur reacting to different types of light?
- Wet – how does the artist paint wet fur?
- Color – How does the artist paint different colors of fur?
Fur Textures – What To Look For – Animals.
Artists pay close Attention to the following when painting fur…
- Create Texture – straight or curly – overlapping brush strokes.
- Establish Length – short or long brush strokes.
- Create Depth – shadow values between the fur.
- Create Density – thick or thin coat.
- Establish Direction – growth pattern.
- Address Patterning – decorations of the animal, eg. spots, stripes etc.
- Judge the Perspective in patterns – some spots will be ellipses.
- Create Highlights – the light source will determine these.
- Rakes and comb brushes – creating bulk, fine soft detailed work.
- Liners – long and short – detail and individual hairs.
- Large flat, wash brushes – application of washes.
- Mops – to disperse transparent glazes for adjusting hue, intensity and value.
The ‘Textures’ when painting whimsical styles…
Creating Visual texture – Artists often use color and detail to create the illusion of textural characteristics not only for realism but when painting fun whimsical styles. Often, these textures can be exaggerated to emphasize the character, or can also be treated with realistic techniques to bring them more to life. The artist can use or alter colors to create interest and add detail to individual elements.
For example, learning to paint realistic fur and hair, when painting the natural texture of animal fur comes in very handy when painting a stylistic whimsical character like the ‘Father Christmas’ shown below. The techniques that are used to paint realism are the same and transfer from painting to painting.
Waiting for Christmas Eve by Neadeen Masters – This painting lesson below will show the student how to create the visual texture of both animal fur and realistic hair. These are transferrable skills that can be implimented when painting animals that require longer fur. It is important to establish texture in our paintings as this enhances interest. This is an e-packet and is available for your immediate download when purchased.
Check Out Our “How To Paint Santa” Class.
Surface Texture Of Flower Petals.
The ‘Textures’ of flower petals…Artists use color and detail to create the illusion of the texturalcharacteristics of the petal’s surface. Some flowers have petals that feel like velvet, some like silk, some soft and smooth, others may be like rubber, others feel and look so sheer because they are fragile and easily blemished. All of these textural characteristics can be created if the artists understands that the surface texture is usually a response to light and how it plays off the petal’s surface.For example, a velvety surface will not reflect light in the same manner as the surface that is polished and will exhibit a greater shine. When studying flower petals, look at the amount of shine and how it is reflected off the surface. The more ‘fuzzy’ the surface, the less light will be reflected.
- Is the surface of the petal smooth or fuzzy?
- What does the petals surface feel like?
- Is the petal’s surface dull or reflective (shiny)?
- Is the petal’s surface sheer and very fragile?
- Are there markings on the petal, i.e. visual patterning?
- Are there striations or vein lines?
- What values are the vein lines, are they lighter or darker than the petals?
- Are the petals translucent, so thin that light seems to pass through them?
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Surface Texture Of Water For Landscapes And Seascapes.
The Visual surface ‘textures’ of water: What does the artist look for when painting water? First they begin paying close attention to the reflective quality of the water and if it is still or moving. The air also plays a major role in painting water, the surface reacts to moving air such as wind. On a river when the flow is low at the end of the Fall Season, the waters surface can be as calm as a lake, just like a mirror. Look at the examples below, calm water that is highly reflective offers the artist a wonderful opportunity for painting reflections. Moving water can offer interesting textures. A single pebble ‘plopped’ into still water can send a rippling effect for several yards across the surface, creating texture on an otherwise flat surface. When water changes from a calm flow to quickly falling off the edge of a cliff or a sudden drop in a river, it can also create a lot of texture and interest, sometimes referred to as ‘white water’.
Watergarden by Neadeen Masters – This painting lesson below provides an opportunity for the artist to create the texture of calm water surfaces. This is an e-packet and is available for your immediate download as soon as purchased.
The Surface Textures Of Metal – Still Life
Metal is a hard, non porous, highly reflective surface. If we tap metal, it resonates or reverberates a sound, and some metals resonate more than others. Clean polished silver, brass and copper are the most reflective of the metal surfaces with the ‘shininess’ of metal determined by the strength of the light source which falls upon it. Still Life Artists always consider the quality and quantity of light when planning their compositions, and if they include a metal object, the reflective properties of the object are factored into the planning of the composition. This is an important consideration as the shines can either add to the composition by providing interest, or they can become a distraction.
Antique Pewter: The pewter in this still life has a smooth texture and the shine can be recognized by the strong contrast where the light hits it first on the middle right side. The carved details add depth and dimension through the use of light and dark values. The two pieces in the foreground are lighter because they are closer to the light source. Note that the blue reflected light color on the left side which translates as a cool color of the silver.
The closer the object sits to the light source the higher-in value, the shine will become. Pewter and tarnished metals are duller than highly polished silver or brass, thus making their surfaces less reflective.
Antique Glass and Silver: The silver on this wine decanter is very shiny and highly polished. The shines are strong and crisp. Notice how the values range from black (value 1) to white (value 10) within very small areas. The carved handle is not as smooth in texture as the polished neck and foot therefore more texture equals less shine.
Copper: The copper jelly mold has crevices which create a blockade for certain light. This allows for the higher peaks to illuminate and capture more shine than the lower areas of the piece. Notice how the medians between the “mountain like” areas are dark-revealing areas where light is unreachable.
The small peaks on the bottom of this copper jelly mold grasp a small fraction of the total amount of light falling on the object; however this represents and describes a difference of depth and structure. If there were to be no light, the object would be less three dimensional and appear flat. This object represents a variation in structural form. Light touches the highest points of the object and ignores those that are hidden behind. Copper is also one of those metals that will oxidize when exposed to air. This happens over time. Many artists like to include tarnished copper in their still Life compositions showcasing it’s natural patina.
Patina – This is a natural film or texture that forms on an object as a result of oxidation, this is due to age and exposure to pollutants in the air. Antique objects may loose their antique value if the ‘patina’ is removed.
Surface Textures of Enamel
What is Enamel? Enamel is a surface coating that is applied to metal containers and objects. This coating is actually a very thin layer of glass that is applied to the surface and after high heat (800 C) has been applied, the tiny glass molecules in the coating are fused to the surface making it very hard and quite durable. Enamel does chip, and these chips can eventually rust. This is what attracts the artist to them, the rust forms intricate patterns on the surface and lends character to it. The words ‘smelzan’ an old German word and the French word meaning ‘esmail’ were used to describe the enameling process. Vitreous enamel is what we now know as ‘Porcelain Enamel’ today.
Enameled surfaces have been used by artists for hundreds of years. The famous artist Carl Faberge was known for using enamel on his beautiful eggs and jewellery. Enamel containers have been featured in Still Life paintings that have an Old World feeling about them. These containers have been highly prized by collectors because of their aged and characteristic look; because of this, they can be ‘fun’ subjects to include in compositions.
Enameled jewellery has been found in Cyprus and is believed to be from the thirteenth Century. This jewellery from a Mycenaean tomb at a location in Kouklia, was decorated with a coating believed to be vitreous, suggesting an enameled application. This proves that the process has had its unique appeal for hundreds of years.
Enamel Coffee Pot: Enamel surfaces are similar to other reflective surfaces. There is a degree of shine and a reflective quality that the artist has to describe. Sometimes, as in the case of the example above, the color of the enamel ware is a blue green. If the artist uses the container as is, they will have to build and create a value scale to match the blue-green hue. Pay close attention to the quick change in values from the shine to the rest of the container. When shown in gray-scale, the range of values is seen more easily.
Patterns also react to the light source and will change in value accordingly: In the example above, the coffee pot’s lid and the thin rim at the base has rusted.
The pattern on the enamel is a mottled or ‘spotted’ pattern similar to an animal skin. Note the way the markings also change in value as they react to the light. The value of the background and the gray spots lighten at the same rate.
Texture in traditional Folk Art And Stroke Work
Golden Harvest by Gaby Hunter:
This painting lesson will show the student how to create soft textures of fruit for folk art style painting. It is important to establish texture to create interest in the focal area of the painting. This is a 2 hr. DVD presentation featuring artist Gaby Hunter.
Surface Texture In Vegetables – Still Life.
All surface textures offer challenges to the artist, whether they come from vegetables, fruit, metals or flower petals. The same considerations apply as high shine, or low shine becomes the deciding factor on how we describe them with paint and texture.
The texture on this bell pepper is smooth and shiny which is apparent in the strong contrast in value from red to white indicating the light is not absorbed therefore the texture is hard and smooth. The stems texture is rough in relationship to the pepper as it absorbs the light.
Hard, bumpy, highs and lows, dimples, rough are all descriptions of this avocado’s texture.
The fragmented light is dispersed around the high areas of the avocado revealing the peaks which tells the viewer the surface is bumpy.
The texture on the outer skin of the onion is very fragile and paper thin. As the onion ages the paper thin layer gets dry and brittle peeling off like a dead layer of skin revealing a new fresh layer underneath.
The roots are very thin like string as the onion ages the roots get brittle and dry.
The surface of a pumpkin is hard, the texture smooth although linear grooves on the surface allow for dark concave areas to add interest and give the pumpkin its character. The stems are very rough in texture and porous absorbing the light.
These onions are very smooth and shiny in relation to the onion above. The light source is obviously stronger and brighter and these onions appear to be fresher than the onion above. Note the change in color compared to the onion above.
Variety is the spice of life in this photo. Textures exhibited are smooth versus rough, variegated compared to plain. All of these surfaces are hard to the touch and absorb the light because of the lack of strong contrast in the light areas.
These also exhibit visual patterning as seen in the interestig markings on the surface.
Compare the shiny surface of the tomatoes to the rest of the vegetables in this photo. This photo shows the difference between shiny and dull surfaces.
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How To Paint The Texture Of Birds And Feathers.
When we think of texture, birds may not be the first subjects that comes into our mind. However, just like the skins and furs of animals, birds feathers protect them from the elements and provide camouflage or serve to attract other birds, such as a mate. Feathers react to light in many ways, some feathers are highly reflective because of the natural water-proofing oils that birds dress them with. Some feathers are brightly colored, others drab for their ‘hiding ‘ or camouflaging ability. All together, feathers make birds very interesting subjects for the artist to paint.
Macaw by Neadeen MastersThis painting lesson below provides an opportunity for the artist to create the texture of fine feathers and a mottled background support. This is an e-packet and is available for your immediate download as soon as purchased.
How To Paint The Textures Of Fruit.
- Shiny – Reflective when polished – Apples, pears
- Patterned – Mottled, speckled, striations – Apples, pears, bananas.
- Dull – Those fruit covered in ‘bloom’ (a type of yeast mold) – plums, grapes, berries.
- Pitted – Highly textured like a strawberry.
- Fuzzy – Velvet like a peach or apricot.
- Rough – Kiwi
When painting fruit skin – the texture is dependent upon the amount of light that is reflected from the surface of the fruit. The more smooth the more light will be reflected so the fruit will have higher shines on it.
The apple in image #3, in comparison to the ones above in image #2, which has one light source noticeable by the minute shine in the bottom right corner. Its smooth surface is distinguished by the sharpness of the reflection, whereas in the picture above it, the light source is scattered because the fruit is unwashed and the light source is not directional in nature. There are no dirt or dust soils on the clean piece of fruit which gives it its smooth polished surface.
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