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Creating texture in my work: 3 favourite techniques I use often...

"Somewhere New"

Texture is something that naturally forms over the course of any acrylic or oil painting, as the brushstrokes build up and leave their marks. I never thought about a painting being anything more than a flat surface when I first started, until I was inspired by an 'artist in residence' at the school I was going to. She had painted a tree, but to add texture she had mixed in cement, sand or some odd combination to create the affect of being able to feel the rough marks of the tree trunks and for me, it just blew my mind. It made it so much more than just beautiful to the eyes, but it made you want to touch it, and look at it for longer.

Inspired, I went home and tried painting my first picture with texture. It was actually a really scary thing, because at that time I was still learning and had more failures than success, so when this painting turned out well, I was worried that adding the texture would ruin it. I painted three beach huts, (you'll have to excuse the blurry photo, but it's the only one I have!) and decided to stick actual sand to the bottom to make it feel grainy. It brought a whole new sense of fun to painting, and opened up my mind to the idea that you don't have to stick to just paint on a canvas, you can do anything! Unfortunately this photo was taken before I added the texture, but like I said before, it's the only one I have so just use your imagination...

"Beach Huts" 2013

So that was the moment that started off my love for texture in artwork, and overtime I have developed some of my favourite techniques to use. At my first exhibition, how I created the texture in my work was definitely one of the most frequently asked questions so I'm going to share with you three of my most used techniques and products that I currently use.

1. Tissue Paper/Paper types

It is the most simple but most effective technique that I use. I start by layering the tissue paper on the base of the canvas using pva glue, and the main trick is to let it crinkle rather than pressing it down smooth. I don't tend to worry about the colour because I almost always paint over it, but sometimes it's nice to let some of the tissue paper peep through if that's the look I'm going for.

Using tissue paper results in a crinkly, skin like appearance, and is very erratic - some areas will be very textured and others will be less. I love to use it especially when painting animals, or if I want to create a more rustic appearance.

This picture on the right shows the beginning stages of laying tissue paper down to create my new painting "Justice". I had a plan right from the start of this artwork, so it was easy for me to decide how and what to use to create the texture I wanted. As you can see, I only stuck it in the area of the actual rhino. This is because I wanted the tissue paper to mimic the rhino's creased, thick skin, and this will also make him stand out more from the background.

Once I have painted over the tissue paper, you can see in the picture on the left, what the final effect looks like.

Tissue paper can be used to create texture in more ways than one, and this of course is just one example, but it's definitely the one I most commonly use. You can also use other paper types as well to achieve similar effects.


2. Modeling Paste

Modelling paste is a great option to use to create smoother areas of texture. You have a lot more control over how the product behaves, so you can use it for more precise or detailed artwork. I like to apply it using a palette knife, as you can create clean sharp edges. This product won't work for spontaneous artwork, as it will need trying time and you will potentially need to build up the layers so it's definitely a case of planning ahead.

You can see in this painting "Focus" (Sold) I have used the modelling paste to create the appearance of waves. It adds a 3D effect which gives the artwork more depth, and the feeling that the water is coming out of the painting towards you.

The product I currently use is Pebeo High density modeling paste, but I have also tried Winsor and Newton, Heavy carvable modeling paste which is also fantastic, especially for a thicker application.

3. Acrylic Mediums

Acrylic mediums are great because there is a whole range of different textures to choose from, and I haven't yet had the chance to try them all but hopefully in time I will! These mediums can either be used alone on top or underneath the paint, or the way I use them is to mix them in with the actual paint itself and apply it. This is great for creating texture in a spontaneous artwork, because the texture develops as you paint, rather than having to wait for layers to dry.


For this painting above I used Winsor & Newton's Black Lava Texture Gel to create the grainy appearance of the sand. I love the effect it creates, and you'll find that I have used it in a lot of my coastal/beach paintings.

So these are my three most used methods to create texture in my paintings, however I always like to experiment with new techniques so no two painting will ever be the same. If you found this interesting and would like more posts on my techniques and the products I use please let me know in the comments below.

- Sophie

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