Tissues, Sand Paper and Razor Blades

Attack Your Canvas with More Paint Texture

Beginning at the Water's Edge by Jovan Karlo Villalba.
Beginning at the Water’s Edge by Jovan Karlo Villalba, oil on stainless steel, 2010.

I sometimes put so much emphasis on what I’m painting—thinking about what makes a strong composition and how to lead a viewer through an art piece —that I will forget or forego the opportunity to explore a purely sensory relationship with the surface and paint texture.

Try closing your eyes when you paint, or paint with your fingers. Tactile sensation takes over—the oozy slickness of the paint, the slight tooth of the canvas or the firm press of board.

You can take this one step further and learn how invigorating it can be to enliven a painting surface with different treatments or manipulations. Feather a tissue along the wet paint to dull edges. Rough the surface with sandpaper so the paint fills the pits and you have an expanse of paint texture. Or scratch a finished painting with razor blades to create a subtle visual sense of movement.

You can interact with your art in so many ways, beyond putting brush to canvas. It’s just a matter of embracing experimentation and giving yourself the permission to take up a new process.

Explore and Discover

Colored Innocence by Asghar Gonchehpour, mixed media painting.
Colored Innocence by Asghar Gonchehpour, mixed media painting.

As artists, it’s up to us to explore traditional and experimental techniques that can lead to new inroads in our art, regardless of genre or media. For example, dabbling with egg tempera has allowed me to re-envision how effective and meditative careful mark-making and layering washes of color can be.

What about silverpoint? I’ve never used it before, but the metallic glint of that implement gives a sheen and glow to artworks that could possibly be utilized other ways. Perhaps it could be used as the foundation of a mixed media art piece since silverpoint is made with a specific tool on a certain type of ground.

Each new process I discover heightens my awareness of art as a whole. The “goal” doesn’t always have to be the composition or even the subject matter. Instead, the physicality of the painting process can sometimes come to the fore. When that happens you, start to understand how your work operates in a sensory manner, as well as an intellectual one.

If you want to further explore old and new techniques and discover the possibilities inherent in the materials and processes you work with, look into any of the resources in North Light Shop’s Surface Treatment & Texture category.

And, be sure to watch the video below for texture design tips from watercolorist Soon Y. Warren. In this quick tutorial, Soon shares watercolor tips for painting textures and designs to add a touch of sparkle and glam to your paintings.

Whether you find something here that intrigues you, or you just decide to go for it and start playing with your art materials, take this opportunity to try something new! I, for one, can vouch that it will take you in new directions. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

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