Christopher Leib: The Energy of Texture

Creating texture is one of the most interesting parts of my painting process, one of controlled randomness that draws on imagination and skill. Over the years I?ve used a number of techniques taken from impressionism and trompe l?oeil (literally, “fooling the eye”), synthesizing them into a method that provides me the freedom of a loose painting and the tight finish of more classical methods.

Egg (oil, 12×9)

I begin each new work with simple thumbnail sketches of the subject, paying careful attention to its rhythm and general shapes, and ignoring the details. As I refine the sketch, I adjust the placement of the subject and any related shapes that may enhance the composition. Once I settle on the sketch, I quickly rough it on the canvas as masses of value.

With the basic masses in place, I?m ready to establish the textures that will guide future layers. I lay in muted midtones, using whatever means necessary to convey the texture of the material. For example, to capture the look of concrete, I begin by covering the appropriate area with a thinned mixture of umber and blue. Then I daub the surface with a crumpled plastic bag. This leaves a spotty pattern that I alter by “brushing” some areas with a paper towel. Once dry, this layer becomes a guide for further rendering. Worn, painted wood is another surface that regularly turns up in my work, and I?ve discovered that using a folded piece of paper as a brush is a great way to re-create this effect.

Gathered (oil, 16×20)

When these initial textures dry, I begin darkening the edges of cracks and ridges with thinned, dark tones, allowing some of the darks from the previous layer to show through. Then I turn to thicker paint to build up midtones in the flat areas between cracks and ridges. As I work over these textured areas, I try to modulate the color temperature. Shifting between suggestions of warm and cool color can make all the difference between flat, boring areas and sections that spring to life.

Marie Pinschmidt is an artist and writer living in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

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