A good cook will spice up a recipe, adding complexity to the flavors. An artist can do the same with a small measure of well-placed texture. Texture adds impact and energy to a painting. The amount of texture will depend on what the artist is trying to convey and what medium is used.
Texture can add to the story the artist has to tell, or it can detract from it. Using too many gimmicks can label an artist, but the occasional addition of texture is a bit of unexpected excitement that adds zest to the painting.
Not every painting is necessarily a masterpiece, nor painted with the intention of being one. Some paintings are just for fun, for innovation and novelty. If the artist is feeling playful, a bit of texture can add just the right note to transform a ho-hum painting into one that says, “Take another look.”
Texture can be created in most forms of painting, but the easiest and most malleable medium is acrylic paint. Thickener can be added to tube paint to make it easier to build up depth. However, acrylic paint is sufficiently stiff to give textural interest without any additives.
The surface upon which the artist paints can also give texture to his work. A neatly primed masonite board will have little or no texture to it. The artist can also use gesso boldly to give a pre-textured surface to the board. Preplanning in this step can save a great deal of time and money, since gesso dries quite rapidly, and is very economical.
If an artist chooses to work on canvas, there are also choices there as well. Canvas is available in a number of degrees of roughness. This can be used as a texture itself, minimized with primer, or obliterated with textural amounts of gesso. If large quantities of gesso and texture are to be used, it is advisable to use a rigid board rather than canvas. The weight of the paint and primer could undermine the integrity of the canvas.
Adding Texture With Tools
Texture is a very loose term. It does not necessarily mean big globs of paint protruding from the canvas. It can mean the look of the brushstrokes on the surface of the painting. Subtle gradations and quality of brush strokes can have a big impact. They may not jump out at the viewer, but lend a quality the artist wishes to convey.
An artist painting in a more modern fashion may use his palette knife to apply his paint. This definitely shows texture, which the artist can control with the depth of paint and direction of his strokes.
Artists are experimental by nature, and texture is a great way to test the limits of paint and painter. Apply or remove paint with found objects. Apply paint through a mesh. Sponge the paint onto an area. Use a glass to draw paint up and away from the surface. Look around the kitchen or the garage for interesting painting devices.
Sand or sawdust can be added to the paint for instant texture. Adding sand while painting the dusty meadow lane draws the eye towards the road as a focal point. It leads the viewer along the path to the center of interest. That small bit may be successful. If it is not, perhaps it is too eye-catching. Use texture in another area to balance it. It is all a matter of experiment and finding what works best.
Acrylic paint is a good adhesive, so any number of items may be added. Fabric and paper are popular choices. At this point, the painting may become a collage or labeled “mixed media.” Who cares how it is labeled, if it is a successful piece?
Once the found objects are established on the piece, the artist can continue to apply more paint to obscure it in the painting. It becomes an integral part of the scene, something to be discovered, and not a postage stamp applied for effect.
As fun as found objects can be, care should be taken in selecting additions to a painting. If the item is inorganic it can leach color onto the surrounding area. If it is organic it may deteriorate over time. Will the macaroni hair turn into bug infested Medusa locks? If organic materials are used, make sure that they are protected against humidity, oxygen and sunlight with proper barriers.
Texture is all around us. A painter needs to look with an artist’s eye at the world. Look at the things around you. Examine a simple homey object and see what texture does to the shape and essence of the item. Learn to translate that quality to your painting. Using texture as a tool can broaden your scope as an artist. Add that little extra dash of zest and watch what happens.