The Nature of Things: Texture

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Ellie’s photo of a Cyprus Pine stump

Everything has a texture. Part of the essence of a life form, natural or manmade object and substance relates to its texture. This can be silky, smooth, rough, spiky, sticky and so forth. There are so many words just to describe how something feels, that one could go on and on. Even sounds and music can be referred to in a textural manner such as abrasive, soft, fuzzy, scratchy or sharp.  Textures are very inspiring to visual artists, writers and musicians because they can be used realistically and metaphorically.

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When I learnt basic photography as part of an art course, one of the first exercises given was to photograph patterns and textures. This has stayed with me and I still like to take photos of something just for its texture. These photos can be used as inspiration for an artwork or an end in themselves. The textures of plants create interesting photographs. The spiky native “Silver Sunrise” grasses with or without their yellow flowers; shiny yellow grapefruits against intense green foliage and rough tree-fern trunks all make tactile looking subjects.

I don’t have a SLR camera and it is difficult to get really close to an object so I must use iPhoto to crop the images and zoom in on a particular area. I find that you can do a lot with a basic photographic program to enhance and manipulate an image. For example I added definition to a yellow rose and increased the color, zoomed in on a sculptural rock to emphasize its soft green mossy texture and enhanced the shine on a rock with quartz crystals to make it more crystalline. The inherent characteristics were stressed for their own sake.

Sketching textures provides inspiration for visual art. With black ink, pens, stippling sponges, corks and brushes it is possible to get a variety of textural effects. I used some of these techniques in drawings for tapestry designs. They were worked up in a series of gouache vignettes, components of which were used in a final design. There are many other ways to use textures in art, from realistic oil painting, textured materials to simulated surfaces in computer graphics and is just a matter of personal preference.

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Version 2

Our personal experiences give us an understanding of texture. It is difficult to forget the experience of a sweaty handshake, a lumpy mattress, or the soft, velvety feel of a puppy. Words relating to texture often describe a person. Someone can be prickly, slick, oily, sleek, bristly, slimy, cuddly, hard etc. We associate touch with human characteristics and using these types of words can sum up and individual’s attributes without the need for a long explanation and are very useful for writers. When the sense of touch is engaged with words our minds conjure all kinds of feelings that can either repel or bring us closer to the subject.

Texture in music is often very involving for the listener. Layered music that creates sound textures can take you to real or imaginary places. The contrasts between different types of instruments like strings, electric guitar and drums, melody, rhythm and harmonies makes for rich, complex and emotional pieces. The Australian band, The Dirty Three, play imaginative textural compositions. This band of Victorians was formed in 1992 with members Warren Ellis on violin, Jim White on drums and Mick Turner, who is also an artist and designer of their album covers, on guitar. They often collaborate with Nick Cave. The following is a piece from their album, Ocean Songs (1998)

When considering a creative idea, don’t forget texture. It will add another dimension to your work, whether it is visual, written or auditory.

Kat

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