View Full Version : Question about Texture

Donna T
09-06-2008, 12:03 PM
I would really like to get your opinions about texture in our pastel paintings. By this I mean the ability to not only see the strokes of pastel but the surface of the paper showing through. This quote by Deborah in one of Rudi's recent posts got me thinking:

"The texture works for some elements, like the grasses and trees, but distracts in the sky. I sometimes use a little sandpaper to smooth out areas like that, leaving the rest textured for effect."

Deborah, if you happen to read this, do you mean that we could sand our paper in the sky area before we apply pastel? I never thought to do this. If anyone knows about this or has tried this I would love to hear your thoughts. I've been making my own support with watercolor paper, pumice gel, Colourfix primer and pumice, in a million different combinations and also work on Wallis and UART. I always get comments on the texture when I use my own support and wonder how many of you like to see the texture and why. Do those of you who prefer the sanded papers dislike seeing the texture of the support? I understand Deborah's thoughts as to why texture in the sky can be a distraction and how it can be effective in other areas. Part of the reason I'm asking is because the watercolor paper I use is on "super-sale" until tomorrow at Jerry's. I don't want to invest in it if most people find texture to be undesirable in a pastel painting. I know, there are probably as many opinions as there are artists but I'm curious to hear your thoughts anyways.


09-06-2008, 12:13 PM
Hi Donna,

You are going to roll your eyes when you read this:evil: You are the one that has to like the texture in a painting if you are going to work on the surface you like, not what others think about it. It is your creativity that will make the texture beautiful or not, and there will always be someone out there that likes it or doesn't like it....

To answer your question about texture from an individual's standpoint, I love it, even in the sky. I am not crazy about a uniform texture like the textured side of Canson, but there are artists out there that make that paper sing on any side! So, it is really all about what you LOVE to work on.

My two cents! :D

Donna T
09-06-2008, 12:33 PM
Thanks Kim. I'm not sure what I like to work on best! I like smooth, I like textured, I don't like really rough and bumpy. You're right, of course, I have to make my own choice ... but it's so difficult! :lol:


09-06-2008, 12:53 PM
Kim's right Donna. There is no way to say one is right or wrong. I like a lot of texture, and I leave it in a lot of time in my skies. But I also use a smoother surface blending in them sometimes also, so it really depends on the mood I'm in for the type of painting I want to achieve. So, it does really come down to , what it is you are after in the final outcome.

09-06-2008, 01:06 PM
Hi Donna

Tom Christopher uses a textured surface. One thing I always look for in Tom's painting are the brush strokes of the "painted on" surface. They just seem to add to the feel of the painting. I like the look but that doesn't mean everybody does.

Of course I agree with Kim and Tressa. You should use whatever you like.


Deborah Secor
09-06-2008, 01:08 PM
Well, I have to join that chorus. I can't tell you when or where texture works, or even why--it's so individual!

In Rudi's painting I found the digital shot showed a bumpiness in the sky that I personally find distracting, but he's free to love it--and of course, IRL it may look great, digital shots being what they are.

Probably the kind of texture I find distressing is a stucco-like over-bumpiness where there are bits of grit planted in a smoother area that grab clumps of pastel and create odd islands of pigment that cast shadows. I used some commercially prepared grit one time that created this look and it was nasty. Definitely not for me!

I have been known to make my own surfaces using gesso/pumice on paper or board and sand down areas that are too bumpy or textured so that it becomes velvet smooth, while retaining other areas of deeper texture. I use a sanding block with fine grit sandpaper on it. This becomes the first step in the process of composing. I find the sky area, or the glassy lake, and sand out a spot for it. Usually that means that I won't have the luxury of multiple layers, so I approach those spots with a sure decision about color and value.

I also think that all of us find the texture that works best for us and stick to it generally, BUT we also should be open to the idea that different subjects will work better done on a particular kind of texture. I love doing animals on La Carte because of its soft grittiness. I like to use Sansfix to paint trees or other active, busy, textural things. I prefer Wallis for most of my landscape work. So trying all different things will educate you as to what works best for you--and the next artist will come along and disagree, or make some great suggestion for a texture you should try. That's about half the fun of making art for me!


Donna T
09-06-2008, 01:26 PM
Tres, I love seeing the texture in your work. You seem to know how to make it work for you instead of fighting against it. I agree, the mood we're in and the mood we want to achieve should influence our decisions.

Doug, I always look for those brushstrokes in Tom's paintings! It's kind of fun to look for the patterns that appear under his pastels and those swirls add so much movement to whatever is on top.

Deborah, I was going to pm you about the sanding question but it's your birthday and I didn't want to bug you. (I hope you're having a wonderful day!) Thanks so much for explaining how you do that. I sand lightly between my pumice/ Colourfix layers because I seem to get a smoother surface in the end but I'll have to try sanding the sky areas once I decide on the composition. Perhaps areas of different texture provide more interest when the piece is viewed?

Thanks everyone,

09-06-2008, 01:26 PM
Locally we have an artist who uses a lot of texture in her gesso which is applied showing lots of heavy random strokes. She paints in oil on canvas. She's very popular, ie. sells her stuff, but to me it looks gimmicky because it looks like texture for the sake of texture without any thought to what the final work is. Sometimes I like texture, but mostly I like the eveness of Colourfix or Wallis. I like the texture created with the painting, rather than in the support. If I were doing something more abstract, I would really like the texture. As was said before, it depends on what you like.

09-06-2008, 01:55 PM
As Kim says, it totally a question of what you prefer. My general pref is that I like texture, as it enlivens the surface, causing sublte natural shifts in colour when the light hits the surface.

I'd like sanded papers to give a less smooth result, actually, but as I don't want to make my own surfaces, I've learned to like smoothness.

Basically, it would only bother me if the texture has a definite shape in the pattern, like a flower or a boat underneath the sky-colour...


Donna T
09-07-2008, 11:12 AM
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Helen and Charlie. Well, I ordered that paper - can't pass up a good sale. Part of the reason I like working on my own surface is that I like experimenting and on days when I don't feel like painting I at least feel like I accomplish something art related.


09-07-2008, 03:42 PM
Well Donna, looks like you have some really great advice already and I agree with them all, it is a personal choice to what you like, as for me I am a major blender, so smooth-ruff doesn't bother me at all and if textrue is left after many layers, for me it just add to the painting.

WC Lee
09-07-2008, 04:34 PM
I'm going to put in my 2 cents :D I prefer not having any texture on the painting surface at all (same goes for oils), but as everyone has mentioned, it is a personal choice. But as for the medium leaving the texture, I can live with that but it depends on what it is.

09-08-2008, 11:43 AM
LOVE texture!!
I very much like to "see" how the painting was painted, the artist's hand on the paper visible through strokes of color lightly or heavily applied. I like to see underpaintings pop through here and there because most of the time the top layers of pastel markings show their shape. I'm one of those people (who definitely can stand back 10 feet and enjoy a painting in its entirety) who gets so much enjoyment when I walk up very closely to the painting and see the life of the artist in the markings. Texture, yes!
That said, I have always said I enjoy blended and smooth paintings, too....subject, comp, and palette sometimes win over texture! :)

Donna T
09-08-2008, 06:42 PM
Nice to get your opinions Scott and WC. Looks like you two prefer smooth instead of chunky. :)

Cindy, I know you are a fan of texture (love it in your work!) but it's nice to hear why you like it. I also like to get up close and discover the texture beneath a painting. It's like an added bonus after you see the image from across the room.


09-10-2008, 09:04 AM
Hi Donna - I'm late to this discussion but I'll put in my two cents as well. I prefer highly textured paper which I make myself with etching paper and pumice/gesso. I use this paper for most of my work but will use Wallis or other supports for different subjects/moods. I agree with Deborah that there are times that you don't want too much texture everywhere - particularly in a background sky - because it will detract from your focal point. That is usually easily handled by building up more pastel layers where you want the texture smoother (when you're using sanded paper).

In one of the first workshops I took with Doug Dawson, he said something that resonated with me because I was getting frustrated trying to work the same way on several different types of paper. He said pick a support that you really like (whether your own sanded paper, Wallis, Canson, etc.) and stick with it. Work on that paper consistently until you are totally comfortable with all the properties that pastel has on that specific paper (and color of paper!). He said you can't learn how you are progressing if you are constantly trying to adjust to different papers. That doesn't mean not to experiment, but try to find one support that is good for style that you like to work in.

Donna T
09-10-2008, 09:43 AM
Thanks so much, Eden. I really appreicate your thoughts and the advice from Doug Dawson is priceless. It is frustrating trying to do the same style of painting on different papers! One kind of paper for studio work, another kind for plein air - no wonder I get confused! :lol: Different colors for underpaintings on different kinds of papers is also throwing me off. I've been reading Michael Chesley Johnson's report of your recent workshop with Doug Dawson and found this to be very helpful to my current struggle:

"On overcast days, Doug likes to start with a sheet of paper toned a cool violet-red to give the painting a cool look; on sunny days, he starts with a sheet toned a yellow-orange for warmth."

I am going to try that. It seems like a simple way to use the same paper(same texture) but be able to adapt it to different kinds of light/weather.

Thanks again, your help is very much appreciated!

09-11-2008, 12:00 PM
Interesting thread. I am relatively new to pastel work and have been using primarily MiTeintes paper. The rough side I find is interesting to use on water (ocean) because the color of the paper shows through a bit and actually gives some additional highlight/reflections. I find myself smoothing and blending a lot in sky or other areas that I don't care for all the bumps showing through. I just tried UART sanded paper (sample I got from the company) and really like the support for the way it holds the pastel - heavier application of the soft pastel gives almost the look of oils. Also bought a piece of Wallis and another sanded surface for next efforts. The net is it varies for me with the subject and intent.