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Mary Jane Begin is back with more from the Artist at Work series. This installment focuses on adding texture to your imagery—visual texture that breaks up repetitive strokes and static blocks of color—with pattern, color, light, and a variety of brush strokes. Mary Jane takes an early-stage illustration from her book series Willow Buds and shows how to add variation, contrast, and a tactile quality to trees and grass, water, and the sky. These lessons are useful whether you're working with traditional media like the watercolors Mary Jane uses in this course, or digital formats like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
Mary Jane uses the following materials in this course:
The last thing that I really tried to push here, was, besides the characters, the characters have their own specific kind of patterns that are textural in their own way. But I want the sky to have a little more punch than, than what it has right now. I want it to have a texture, but I had to be really careful, because itt's sky and it's the furthest thing away, so if it's too textural, it's going to pop forward. I use pastel, which I felt could be a smoother texture and I tried to keep it as connected to the textures as I could, but not competing with them. And I often use pastel color for sky because of its softness as a medium.
But you also have to remember, and this is true, you know, when you're mixing any media, the one thing you don't want to do is, and this is, can be a real problem, is have textures that mix but don't meld. If you create a piece and you're using pen and ink, and you're using watercolor, and you're using acryllic. And the person can see every medium that you've used, and they do not mix or meld as a whole, then that's a problem. And the way to avoid that is to try to make the colors and the mark making cohesive.
So what I'm trying to do here is make the pastel still feel like the way I've made patterns in the rest of the piece. It's just, it's textural and it's blended. And it almost feels like the way I've done the trees, but it's just a softer version of that. If I just leave this texture really bright, not only will it pop forward, it'll just look like pastel. It suddenly will pop out of the scene as not being a texture that relates to what's here.
So it's something you have to keep in mind when you're mixing media and materials. I'm just going to pop a little of this color in here, and again, this is a softest texture that I'm trying to create. Trying to make it relate to the rest, and give a nice emphasis to what's happening here. Add a little color to the top. If I just left this this way, these bits of pastel are creating a lot of contrast in the background. They almost look like they're in the same space as this texture, and that's a problem. I'm trying to create a sense of perspective as though the sky is really far away, and the water and the boat and the characters are close to us.
This high contrast texture of pastel, even though it's kind of soft. A, it looks like pastel, it pops out of the world of this picture because it doesn't quite blend in. And B, this texture is relating too much to this. It's flattening out the space, because it's making what's way in the background look like it's close to the foreground. So, if I just, I could cover it up, put my hand over it. This space is fairly believable. If you show it, it breaks the illusion. So I'm just going to pop this back with my finger and soften this mark, so it really sits back in space.
You want your highest level of contrast to always be in the area of focus, your focal point. Or, in the foreground. Or it could be that your focus is in the foreground. In this case, it is. The characters, the grass leads you to the higher contrast, which is what you want to look at. The second area, area of contrast here is, is this character. So you want your textures to lead you around the picture in the way that you orchestrate. So I tend to use high contrast textures in the areas of focus with vibrancy to get your eye to land somewhere.
And in this case, I also used patten as a form of texture. The stripes on the hat, the graphic sort of color of his little sailor suit, I added stripes to this character, for badger, in order to make him more visible. Because there were so many textural marks, I had to make the texture that was graphic, the stripes, etc., as contrasty, as vibrant as I possibly could. So there'll be no question.
We're supposed to look at them first, we're led to them first. We go to the highest level of contrast. If you think of it as kind of a pattern, the eyes, and even tow you back here. I haven't popped the highlights in, but in the final picture, you'll see. His eyes pop, so that you're following patterns of texture that are both graphic, and also realistic and naturalistic. Exploring texture is a really important aspect of my work, and I try to use it as often as possible. But for this book and this image in particular, it was really important.
I use texture, vibrancy, temperature, and contrast of value, to lead your eye around the picture. But the texture in particular was important because it was really the opening image of this book. And I wanted to pull the viewer in with the feel of autumn, and the sense of grass and water and sky, as an inviting way to enter the story. Exploring texture and color, whether graphically, realistically, digitally, or traditionally, can enliven your work with a sense of energy, variation, and depth.
Explore the contrast of textures in your work. The world around us has variation in texture, so why shouldn't the world you create have it, too?
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