Monday, May 18, 2015

Mysteries of Painting: Texture Draws the Eye

Texture is a particularly interesting art element because it can manifest in so many ways.

For example, art can bring us texture as pure Illusion.

Many painting and drawing mediums allow artists to render textures with astonishing clarity and realism.  For centuries still life paintings were designed expressly to demonstrate an artists skill in representing various textures.
And it's fun to do - the closer you look, the more you see. It can be kind of addictive!

Pieter Claesz (1597-1660)   'Still Life with Musical Instrument's

In this collection of carefully observed objects, my hands-down favorite is the silver platter and loaf of bread. I think the artist favored it too, placing it dead center in the composition.
Those crusty slices of bread contrast gorgeously against the cool, mirror-like surface of the platter.

These wonderfully slippery looking fish by Jacob Gillig are so realistic that I can almost smell them!

Jacob Gillig (1636-1701)     'Freshwater Fish'

And these flowers look even more fragile situated on that hard marble surface.

Willem van Aelst (1627-1683)        'Flower Still Life'

Simulated textures can add a great deal to our appreciation and understanding of a subject.

 But in addition to illusion, there is another way in which a painter can use texture.
This is by creating Actual Texture.

 If we were allowed to touch the surface of this painting by Van Gogh with our eyes closed, our fingers would read the paintings textural changes from flower to flower.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)   'Sunflowers'

Creating actual texture with paint is called impasto.
Notice the how selectively the texture has been applied against a relatively smooth background. These flowers seem to press against the restraints of the canvas as if to escape the confines of two dimensions!

This work is less realistic than the fish painting, less like a photograph, but very obviously the result of close observation of a specific vase of sunflowers.
 Van Gogh is inviting us to experience these sunflowers in a different way from the classical compositions of earlier generations.

A third way that artists employ texture is by adding materials other than paint to their canvas or board.
This type of actual texture is called collage.

Suzanne Oldham                                                                     Bouquet

This is collage of recycled papers. Inspired by my garden, I wanted to capture the exuberant energy of new growth in a way that I could not with brush strokes or with a realistic style.
 The raw, torn edges of the paper and their various unexpected surface textures feels very immediate to me. There is an untamed quality - just the thing for my untamed garden!

Examining how and why an artist uses texture is a fascinating way to approach a piece of art.

Have you ever found yourself  intrigued by an illusion or a surface before even considering the theme or subject?

2 comments:

  1. Your collage is incredible!!! I am just blown away by the vibrancy in your piece! You have taken me back with your post here about texture as it was one of my favorite elements to play with in art school! Thank you for popping by my blog! I look forward to following along with you!!! Nicole

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  2. Thank you, Nicole. I love connecting with other artist-gardeners! I'm enjoying your blog too!

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