Texture Composition

The third layer of composition is color, which we will save for another time. Thus, we proceed to the fourth compositional layer-texture. In this context texture refers to visual patterns as well as the physical, tactile texture of an object's surface. A field of rocks is both a visual and a tactile texture, whereas a sky full of small clouds is a purely visual texture, since clouds simply feel like air. A checkered tablecloth is another example of a purely visual texture.

Using texture in composition involves handling the balance of texture and no texture; degrees of textural complexity, both visual and physical; and patterns that convey the nature of specific surfaces, for example, using lines for grass, dots for gravel, diamonds for a checkered tablecloth.

What we seek is interesting variation in the shapes of textured areas, their patterns, and placement in the composition. Areas of complex visual texture will attract the eye; the more complex the texture, the stronger the attraction. However, placing most of the texture in an awkward area of the composition creates an imbalance that can direct the eye away from the picture. If all the texture is on one side and the weight of the negative space does not balance it (it usually takes a lot of empty negative space to offset a complex visual texture), the viewer's eye will travel away from the picture. Generally, though, texture placed at the bottom of the composition is less likely to lead the viewer out of the picture; for example, a hillside full of wildflowers (a complex visual texture) placed at the bottom of a composition is easily balanced by a cloudless blue sky above. A composition with a craggy vertical cliff face on one side and a cloudless sky on the other is a more difficult situation.

The fourth compositional layer is texture. In this context, texture refers to visual patterns as well as actual surface textures. Here, the rocks are both a tactile texture and a visual texture, while the clouds are a purely visual texture.

Complex textures hold the eye longer than simple textures. For that reason, in this composition we spend more time looking at the rocks than the water.

A checkered tablecloth is another example of a visual texture.

In this example all the visual texture is on one side of the picture, resulting in an imbalance--our eye is drawn to the left side of the composition with no reason to go back. Can you see how the eye is locked in the corner?

The cliff face on the left side of this composition is a complex texture; the right side of the composition is a blank sky with no texture. Balance in this situation is more difficult to achieve than in the previous example. Is this composition balanced?

It is usually awkward to have aff the texture in one part of the composition. An exception to this is when the texture is at the bottom. In this case the complex texture of the flowers does not direct our eye away from the picture, but holds our attention.

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