Seeing Texture in Nature—Seeing God in Texture

Texture Collection
In the past weeks I have been writing about how God has used the seven design elements (line, shape, form, value, texture, space, and color) to visually create everything that we can see. Additionally, as He told us in Romans 1:20 that He has made the visible world so that His invisible qualities might be discerned.

Therefore, we should be able to study the design elements and gain spiritual insights. Who better to do this than the artist who is trained to see and capture the visual elements? Perhaps that alone is a sufficient justification for keeping art as part of a Christian education.

This week we are going to consider the element of TEXTURE which refers to the tactile quality of an object. That is, it refers to the way things feel. Things may be bumpy, fluffy, spiky, slippery, or smooth. All objects that you can hold have a texture.

I find, as an art educator, that the more interesting the TEXTURE of an object is, the more problematic it becomes. Along with the surface color of an object, a student becomes so fixated on the texture that they have trouble seeing beyond it. As a result, the FORM and VALUE of an object get overlooked even though it is FORM and VALUE that establish the “realness” or the “substance” of an object.

Let’s look at the works in this week’s collection. All of them have handled texture beautifully. Notice that the lovely landscape of the fields, which is a quilt I believe, makes no effort to present a realistic rendering of the fields. While color, texture, and shape are of primary importance in that piece, value and form are not used. On the other hand, in the Van Gogh and the painting of the pomegranate, value establishes dark and light areas within the texture so that we see a suggestion of the form or substance of the objects.

When my students try to capture the image of an object with a lot of texture, something like a woven basket, they usually work so hard on the texture that their rendering looks less and less believable. When I instruct them to ignore the TEXTURE at first and use their shading skills to capture the FORM, then go back and add the TEXTURE primarily in the light areas they are much more successful. Additionally I caution them to look at the texture as a result of VALUES. Because of the TEXTURE, the lights and darks are broken up in a unique pattern. Seeing TEXTURE is after all the result of light and dark.

My spiritual insights about TEXTURE come to me from the struggle of my students to manage it. It seems to me that TEXTURE represents all of the interesting, attractive, busy things that make up life—the buying, selling, cooking, and cleaning—the educating, communicating, and entertaining. We can get so busy with all of those things that our lives lose a sense of substance and reality. Ecclesiastes tells us that it is all emptiness—a blowing in the wind.

There is a remedy, however, and it is revealed to us through art as well. Remember that FORM is the result of the light source. As each object reacts to and responds to the light source we see its FORM and substance. It seems real. It has depth. Scripture tells us that God is Light. As we see our lives as a response to God’s Light, they will take on substance and form. They will feel real—eternally real, and all of the busy activities that we engage in will be seen as lovely texture that adds richness to life.

Next week we will be looking at SPACE in art.

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