Paint Texture - Developing a Balance of Thick and Thin: Secrets of A Modern Painter
Secrets of A Modern Painter: Paint Texture - Developing a Balance of Thick and Thin

Paint Texture - Developing a Balance of Thick and Thin

White Horse #1 36 x 48 Acrylic
For many years, I painted exclusively in oils and wondered what kinds of effects the solvents were having on me; gradually I phased out all mineral spirits and painted with only pure paint with a little added stand or linseed oil when necessary. My paintings were thick: as I was self-taught and always experimenting, layer upon layer built up over time and the difference between the thin scraped-back passages and the thick applications became less distinct.

About 5 years ago my relationship with acrylic paint suddenly changed and I found a way to express myself with it - what I liked especially at first was the ability to thin it down to a watercolor consistency and then play that off of thicker passages. Gradually a different style emerged with an emphasis on both knife application and glazing until I found a balance of textures that expressed my intentions with the medium.

While I do apply oil techniques to my works in acrylic, there is something fundamentally different about the two that forces me to acknowledge the inherent aspects of the medium when I paint. I feel that expressing the potential of the substance - whether the natural oil or the synthetic polymer - allows for an internal conversation that acts as a supporting element to the main statement.

So how do you balance textures in your paintings without being too descriptive?

Primarily I aim to imply substance with the paint quality as opposed to a detailed or accurate visual representation of the object - I would rather the paint feel like trampled high grass than look like it.

Of course it varies painting to painting: in this picture, the white horse is the focal point as well as the field to the left, and that is where the majority of the texture lies. Across the neck and back of the horse the paint thins until the rear leg and tail all but disappear. The sky and hints of water are left light and airy although that need not be the case, it just works well here.

We've all read over and over the main points of using texture as a focal feature - it advances and draws attention. The trouble is that when seeking to accurately represent a scene the texture can seem to become important all over the painting, and consequently the various focal points take on equal weight. Try to avoid overworking textures by pulling back from an all over sense of accuracy and trusting the vague hint of color and light to set off your viewers imagination to complete the work themselves.

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