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The Craft: How Important is Texture in an Art Work?

How important is texture in an artwork? Is it something you consciously think about, and what part does it play in the finished work?

I think texture is probably one of the more underrated aspects of artwork, especially for beginning artists. Texture is something that gives a sense of three dimensionality to a work. It can also inform the narrative of a piece in a subtle ways. I experienced this recently when looking at a work by Caroline Zilinsky - a portrait of Jai Evans, a Fragrancer living in Sydney.

When I first saw this work I was drawn to the unusual grittiness underlying the paint, which was overlaid by a very fragile portrait of Jai. Reading the artist statement I was amazed at how intentional and essential this grit was to the underlying story of the work.

Here is what she had to say -

‘Jai Evans built an empire out of slick campaigning and glossing over the grit of life, but I suspected that there was more to him than this metallic shine and I had to dig deep to portray the vulnerability that sat within him. When you look at the portrait she has created, the fragile line outlining his naked figure sitting within his chair, deepens this sense of vulnerability and yet the grit ( texture) is still there. This creates an amazing juxtaposition of fragility and strength.

The thing about texture is that it has an almost esoteric quality to it which is hard to define in words.

Texture is something more often employed perhaps by the abstract artist, which is often about a felt response as opposed to an intellectual one.

Detail of the painting

Becoming more aware of texture is a way of expanding your visual vocabulary.


• Over the next week collect 20-30 abstract images / or objects that have a visual texture you are drawn to.

• If they are objects, photograph them and then paste them into your visual diary.

• Do you notice any similarities about your textural explorations?

• Notice which kinds of textures you are drawn to and which ones you are repelled by.

• How might you employ those patterns within your art practice?

NEXT WEEK: Inside the studio in July

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