Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Texture in Nature and Art

In order to experience texture you have to touch a thing; it is a physical and active way to become familiar with an object.  Texture is the way an item feels, everything has its own texture; bark can be bumpy, scratchy, smooth, waxy, cracked, or flaky.  Since no two trees, rocks, or other natural object are exactly the same, there is a limitless number of textures to explore in nature.  You can not experience the way a fern feels by watching the discovery channel's jungle special, you can't experience it in a book, on-line, or by looking at photos. You must actually have a thing with mass and be close enough to touch it.

I am inspired to keep looking for textures found in nature; I like to brush my hands through fluffy grass, wiggle my toes in sand, and get bear hugs.  I enjoy finding the juxtaposition of things with widely different textures for example: a smooth stone surrounded by rough gravel, soft moss next to a hard river bed, or a prickly cactus wedged in a rock crevice.  I enjoy imagining everything in black and white and seeing if any textures pop out from the crowd.  Textures can bring new wonder to a familiar place.  What are your favorite textures?

Memories can be triggered by the way something feels.  The Nature Center celebrated International Mud Day with a big mud pit.  When I squished my toes into the mud, I was transported back to summers of making mud pies, and playing in puddles after summer rainstorms with my cousin Suzy.  Holding a fuzzy peach makes me think of the juicy peaches that grew in my parents orchard and the green june beetles who also liked the delicious fruit.  One of my favorite things about the Nature Center and taking kids on Nature Walks is providing opportunities for kids to make their own memories.  Perhaps, they will member the 'Nature Lady' when they find an earthworm in their garden. 

Texture in 2D art projects can make the subject more interesting, more realistic, and convey an emotion or idea.  Texture can be added literally by adding grit to paint to make a sandy scene or using thick putty to build layers onto a canvas.  Artists can also create the illusion of texture with careful brushwork.  I am often guilty of forgetting about texture as I try to get the color, shape, and shadows just right in a painting.  Using a variety of texture can make the scene more alive, it can add patterns, create repetition, and give variety to an art project.  The closer you get physically to an item the more you can see the texture.  A realistic close up of an animal will show the individual hairs of the fur coat, but an animal at a distance may not even look furry.  Sometimes texture is used abstractly, a rough texture can make the viewer feel uneasy or chaotic, a smooth texture can create a sense of calm.  What kind of texture is used in your favorite work of art?   

I challenge you to look for texture in the week ahead.  Try tuning out color, and see how many different textures you encounter.  I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments section of this blog!

Check out this website to see a bunch of wonderful close up photos of plants, animals, and other nature items.   Check this website for art class definition of texture.

snail fossils and fern

Calcite crystals and ink bottle

Wax honeycomb and oyster shell

Gila monster painting with textures, ACM 2010

Sand grain media for the dirt, glossy glaze for the reptile scales, and lots of gloppy paint in the cactus;
textures used a literally.