Texture is one of the seven elements of art. (Texture refers the way an object feels to the touch or looks as it may feel if it were touched.) Therefore, it is important that art students are taught the importance of texture in the creation of their artworks. Unfortunately, a lot of teachers are at a loss as how to teach this important element to their students in an effective, engaging, and memorable way. I’d like to share with you one way that I introduce students to texture. It is a fun and engaging exercise that most students don’t soon forget. But first, let’s review the basics of texture.
Texture refers mostly to tactility. It is mostly measured in three dimensions. However, it can be experienced as an illusion when it is drawn or painted. The trick to teaching students texture lies in helping them make the connection between the physical texture and the illusion that can be created through value. So, texture can technically be 3D or 2D. 3D texture is the physically experienced texture, while 2D texture (visual texture) is an illusion. We can break down visual texture a bit further by determining if the texture is simulated or invented texture. Simulated texture is the actual texture of the surface, while invented texture is purely synthetic or manufactured, perhaps like a pattern. (The bottom tread of your shoes is a good example of invented texture.) When I explain texture to my students, I show them that visual texture is reliant on value for translation. It is easy to do this by showing them a color painting that has great simulated texture, then show them a black and white version of the painting. It is obvious that the illusion of texture remains, even though the color is removed. Therefore, the key to the illusion of texture is value.
Now for the exercise. I take 12 brown paper bags and put objects with interesting textures in them. These objects may be seashells, wrinkled paper, and so on. Pick objects that you think will have some interesting textures. Number each bag with a marker. Put each bag on a table throughout the classroom. Students will then reach inside of the bag without looking, and then draw the texture of the object that they feel. Even if they figure out what the object is, they should try to draw the texture, NOT the object. Each student should should have the opportunity to draw the textures from each bag in the room. At the end of the exercise, you can reveal what was in each of the bags. This exercise will provide a memorable experience that bridges the connection between creating the illusion of texture and the physical texture of the object. Plus, it’s pretty fun.