One of the ways in which we engage with physical objects in our world is by holding them, touching them, feeling them – that is, by physical contact. So to begin this chapter we will explore the sense of touch, and the art element we call texture.
We are constantly experiencing the world through our sense of touch. We notice this whenever we choose clothes to wear, stroke a kitten, walk barefoot outside on gravel, beach sand or grass, or hold hands with a loved one.
We began to explore texture in Book 2, by becoming aware of the textures on our own faces. In this chapter, our sense of touch will be our main focus – what objects feel like, and how we can represent those textures in art. Texture concerns what the surface of things looks like to the eye, and feels like to the touch. A very spiky cactus will announce its spikes to you (that is, you can see them!) before you try to touch it. A smooth piece of silky fabric will invite you to stroke it because it looks so soft, shiny and slippery.
But in paintings and drawings, we see only the illusion of texture. The way the artist has used colours, lines and tones gives you the impression of spikiness or silkiness, although the actual texture is the flat surface of a page or canvas.
How is this done?
First, let’s enlarge our “texture vocabulary”. Too often we seem limited to saying either “rough” or “smooth”. Here is a list of words in English and Sotho that describe a few textures:
mossy, olele, crumbly, yafoforeha,
Talk about these words. Add others. Do some of these words sound like what they describe? (This characteristic of certain words – expressing their meaning in the way they sound – is called onomatopoeia.)
How would a “sticky” voice sound? Or a “scratchy” voice? Or a “feathery” voice?
Say these words aloud, using your voice to convey their meanings. Use words in various languages, not only in English. Which words sound like their meaning?
In small groups
Collect words describing textures from various languages. Then present them to the other groups, in “textured” voices, and with movements, gestures and even short sound-pieces to go with these words.
Can you find words to describe these textures?
There are textures all around us – a cement floor, the sole of a shoe, the surface of a wooden desk, the bark of a tree.