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Wall Art: A Beginner’s Guide to the Different Textures in Art
23 June 2022

One of the most fascinating things about art is there is always something new, even if it’s tens of thousands of years old. In 2017 a group of archaeologists discovered cave paintings in Indonesia estimated to be at least 45,000 years old. 

The paintings depict humans hunting boar and buffalo. But if you look closer at the photos of the paintings, you can see the different textures. The bristly boar hair is rendered in astonishing detail, and the red ochre handprints appear to float on the cave wall. 

Texture adds depth and dimension to art, making your statement art piece stand out. Let’s learn more about texture in wall art and how texture can bring your decor to life. 

Photo by Maxime Aubert

The Seven Elements of Art

Art has specific elements that serve as its foundation. Without one or more of these elements, the artwork might appear one-dimensional or flat. Even though we’re focusing on texture, the other elements of art help bring texture to life.

Let’s find out more about these elements and their purpose.

Line

Line work in art might be the most recognizable of the seven elements. The line draws your eye to the artist’s focal point. In short, the artist uses their line work to begin each piece, and those lines will come together to create a cohesive image or design.

Shape

Shape may seem like a simple concept, but in the art world, shape brings the artist’s ideas to life. Since we start with a line, the next step is to close that line. The line could be closed in myriad ways, but the end result is a two-dimensional shape like a circle or a square.

Form

Form builds on the element of shape and makes it three-dimensional. Form can be geometric shapes fleshed out to add dimension, or form can be more organic, like the shape of a mountain or a flower. Form adds weight and volume.

Space

The use of space is one of the ways an artist adds depth and perspective to their work. When you look at a painting and see some elements move forward while other objects fade to the background, this is a classic example of space creating the illusion of depth.

Texture

Texture is arguably the most exciting element of art. It attracts the viewer via two senses, sight and touch. In the cave painting of the boar, the bristles on its skin draw the eye. Texture can also be felt via touch when the artist uses paint to build dimension or if the art piece is the texture, as is the case with textiles.

Value

In this case, value is not about the price of the artwork. Value refers to the colors, especially the shades. By using varieties of light and dark shades of color, the artist adds value in the form of contrast. Value can be incredibly impactful in photography.

Color

Lastly, we look at color. Color is not just about depicting a subject accurately. Color is also about reflecting light. An artist can use various shades of red to depict an apple and the use of those colors can create form and dimension.

ThoughtCo / Marina Li

Different Textures in Art: The Basics

Now that we know about the seven elements of art, we can learn more about the importance of texture. We’ll also discover the many different ways artists incorporate texture into their work.

Physical Texture

Our sense of touch is one of the ways we navigate our world. We gather so much knowledge via touch and don’t always realize it. You might drag your finger across a piece of sandpaper and instantly know if it’s too fine or too coarse. Or you might lay your hand on the trunk of a tree and know its species based on the rough or smooth bark.

An architect uses specific materials like wood or stone when creating a building. When you touch your hand to the side of the building, you can feel the wood’s rough grain or the stone’s smooth coolness. The texture plays a part in how a viewer understands the structure as a whole.

Texture is an integral part of the work of a sculptor. A marble or bronze bust highlights the features and textures of a human face. You can feel the ridges of bone, the smooth curve of a cheek, and the rough irregularity of hair.

Collage is a medium that begs to be touched. Artists use everyday materials to create texture and evoke specific sensations and emotions. For instance, collage artists might use soft, airy feathers alongside rough, gritty papier-mache to accentuate the contrast between the two materials.

Physical texture appears in paintings as well. Artists can layer their paints and use brushes and other tools to build texture on the canvas. They can create the rough feel of tree bark or the smooth touch of wet stone solely by using paint.

Implied Texture

Implied texture requires the artist to convey the feeling of texture without physical touch. For an artist to incorporate implied texture successfully, the viewer should be able to know what the piece or subject would feel like if they could touch it.

An example would be a watercolor painting of a dog. By utilizing different paint colors and brush strokes, the final result should be so realistic you can feel it.

You, the viewer, can see the distinct separation of hairs in the coat and know what it would feel like to touch the dog’s soft fur. You can see the shine on the dog’s nose and know it would be cool and damp. You see the dog’s half-open mouth and know its slobbery tongue would be warm and slimy.

Trompe-l’oeil still-life by Samuel van Hoogstraten, 1664.

Examples of Texture in Wall Art

Now we’ll dive a bit deeper and take a closer look at the ways artists create texture in wall art. When you’re choosing an art piece for your space, you want the texture of the piece to be a part of its overall visual appeal.

Trompe L’oeil

When translated from French, trompe l’oeil means “trick of the eye.” It’s a painting style that uses texture and space to create scenes that mimic movement.

This style of painting appears in art movements dating back to the Roman era and is still in use by contemporary artists. Many muralists and street artists rely heavily on trompe l’oeil to create hyperrealistic scenes.

A perfect example of this trompe l’oeil feature is “The Human Condition” series by Rene Magritte.

Impasto

Impasto is a painting technique that requires the artist to lay down the paint in heavy layers that result in physical and implied texture. This technique is best suited to thick oil paints, and the paint is often applied with a knife rather than a brush.

By using the impasto technique, the artist creates raised surfaces. These finished pieces have physical texture. Vincent Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock are wonderful examples of artists who employed impasto technique.

Tenebrism

Another dramatic use of some of the elements of art is the beautiful light and dark seen in tenebrism. First popularized in the mid-16th century, tenebrism literally highlights the main subjects in a piece and relegates the minor players to a dim background.

The result is a gorgeous use of value and texture. Simply by using the power of contrast, the artist directs the viewer’s eye to the subject. Then the darkness of the background slowly comes into focus, revealing the entire piece.

Tenebrism is used in photography as well. This technique creates a stark division between the subject and the background and is popular in portrait work.

Fabric and Textiles

Wall-mounted textiles and fabrics might have started as a necessity but quickly evolved into art. Fabric art in the form of tapestry was first seen in Europe in the 10th and 11th centuries, but tapestry remnants dating back to 1350 BCE have been found in Egypt.

European weavers and artisans used wool combined with silk, gold, and silver threads to create beautiful tapestries. These tapestries often depicted scenes from everyday life, such as hunting. Their popularity rose in the 14th century and remained en vogue until the French Revolution in 1789.

Today’s fabric wall art offers a luxurious sense of texture. Often made with wool felt, these pieces add depth and a richness of color saturation not found in other styles of textured wall art.

Wander Mirrors

Styling a Room Around Textured Wall Art

When you acquire a statement art piece, it might seem difficult to style your space around it. If you want your art piece to stand out, you should consider its texture when choosing furniture and decor.

For instance, a heavily textured piece done in the impasto style would benefit from smooth leather furniture and other pieces with clean lines. These furniture styles won’t detract from the rich texture of the art but instead, complement it and add a lighter contrasting texture.

The dark and light features of tenebrism are very well suited to pops of color. Utilize textiles to achieve this by adding colorful throw pillows, rugs, and furniture fabrics to brighten the room while also highlighting the dramatic darkness of the art piece. Mirrors also work well in this scheme by reflecting the light and shadow seen in the wall art.

Trompe l’oeil pieces are often colorful, and the rich textures can be busy. But these types of wall art pieces allow a lot of room for error. You can decorate the space with complementary colors and patterns to bring the texture of the art to the entire room.

Bold plants like orchids and ferns or quirky accessories (i.e. the bevy of hands below) can take this sense of hyperreality even further.

Odessa Wall Panel

Bring Your Space to Life With Wall Art 

Designing your space and seeing it come to life with art is a way to let your personality shine. Choosing the type of wall art that speaks to you truly makes your space personal. 

Submaterial offers a wide selection of wall art and decor featuring a range of textures and colors to suit any aesthetic. We offer ready-to-ship pieces and we can create custom designs featuring different textures in art to fit your space.

Contact us today or visit our website to browse our designs. We can’t wait to help you bring more art into your life. 

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