Judicious Texture II 2015

watercolour textures, landscape, debiriley.com

Where does texture and detail belong?   When to stop painting!?  How to avoid fiddling?  It is a matter of simply reminding yourself as you are painting, there are 3 main areas to your composition. Background, Middleground and Foreground.

watercolour textures, landscape, debiriley.com
Salt Pan Lake landscape watercolours debiriley.com

3 Main Textural Areas:  Background, Middleground, Foreground


Each of these areas is to be handled differently in order to achieve to best illusion of depth and perspective. You want to handle the textural effects judiciously. You’re after a nice smooth, seamless, transition. A gliding walk through the painting rather than a stilted jumpy-bumpy, stop and go ride.

That is the goal, anyway!


Backgrounds in a painting

Backgrounds usually, need to be handled so that their textures are the calmest and least ‘busy.’

This means with very little variations, textures, contrasts, etc.  They need to be kept more on the  quiet and subtle side. This can be done with flat washes or even soft graded washes.  Wet into wet will work if they are done with cooler, calmer, not bright colours.

Middlegrounds will be just a bit more detailed,  a little more of the textural effects and contrasts.

Watercolours Wild Floral fast and loose painting debiriley.com
Watercolour Wild Floral fast and loose! debiriley.com

Foregrounds:   Will have More Contrast.  More Detail.

Foregrounds (generally speaking)  are much more textured, brighter coloured, warmer colours, deeper darks, much sharper edges,  i.e. “louder.”

The above painting, Watercolour Wild Floral fast and loose!   is a good sample of the foreground grabbing the attention with its sharp edges, brightness and contrasting textures.

They grab your attention more than the background… usually. There are exceptions,  depending on where the artist/creator wants the viewers’ eyes to go.

The star of the show, the focal point,  will of course, have the most texture and detail and contrast of the entire painting,  this is in order for it to be the clear and evident Star.


In the below image, you can see how the background area is diffused with less detail, whereas the foreground has more texture, detail, sharper edges and contrast.   This is the theory of what you’d normally want to do in your paintings to create improved depth.

textural techniques, splatter wet/dry debiriley.com
splatter wet/dry debiriley.com



This image below, may be just a bit trickier.

In the photo below, if you look closely you will see the 3 divisions – far background,  the mid ground and  the foreground.

These are relatively clear and follow the guidelines of softer in the back. The edges are sharper in front with nice crisp detailing along the paper’s front edge in foreground.

division of space debiriley.com
Divisions of Space debiriley.com



Ways to avoid the Curse of Fiddling

Sometimes,   restraint is challenging when you are having so much fun playing with all the colours, textures and techniques.

But, Restraint – is exactly what we need in order to obtain what we desire.  Improved paintings.  Paintings we ourselves are pleased with.

Judicious use of texture and detail will go a long way to help you create the illusion of depth and perspective you’re aiming for.

Perhaps  reminding yourself of 3, 5, 7  ‘rule’  ………   could be a method to help you stop fiddling.

Deliberately count 3 strokes of that fun textural effect, stop.  Do 2 more if needed. Stop.  and repeat.  Less is more.

Also I find by having 2-3 papers/canvas  right in front of me “Waiting” to be Painted!  Helps me avoid fiddling and overworking the one painting.

Counting and setting timers, seem to assist in curbing this Un-helpful habit that ruins my paintings.


  • mentally divide painting into the 3 areas back, mid, foreground
  • remind yourself often, of the 3 areas, while you are painting
  • befriend the word,  ‘Restraint’
  • make sure you have just one, lone Star of the show
  • judiciously  count  3, 5, 7   to prevent over doing it
  • These suggestions work for most general types of painting, there are some styles,  illustrative, graphic design, zentangles, etc.  that will naturally follow their own flow.




This is an overhaul updated version of my Dec. 3,  2014 post.

I felt the subjects of texture, backgrounds, restraint, fiddling to be well worth reposting with some serious revisions and additions to the original post.  Enjoy!


Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at society6.com/debiriley and, redbubble.com/people/debijriley/shop

8 thoughts on “Judicious Texture II 2015

  1. Hi Leslie, Glad you posted, thanks! Been working recently on this site with updates.
    I’d like to post more regularly this upcoming year. Teaching has kept me very busy.
    I’ve not gotten your other posts/emails though. Debi


    1. hi Laura, thank you! glad you liked this! also, I’m glad to see this post has had a viewer or 2 now!! I actually think it has some really good points and isn’t one of the ‘oh, no! posts lol 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I should go back and read your whole blog and take notes! I googled your name and some keywords to find this! I’m looking for a good book on composition, Debi. Can you suggest anything? Particularly for abstract work, but anything on comp., I think I could put to good use.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Frank Webb, Nita Leland….. plus have a look at Stephen Quiller’s paintings too. Tony Smibert’s book is good. you can type in my search box “design, focal point, centre of interest, edges, lead ins, aerial perspective” and then specific design posts should come up.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks, Debi. I love Nita Leland! Frank Webb wrote a book specifically about composition,but none of our libraries in the state have it. He wrote another “Webb on Watercolor” that another library has, and so I’ve requested it. If you think his other one is worth buying, I’d definitely consider it. Here’s a link on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Strengthen-Your-Paintings-Dynamic-Composition/dp/1626540403?ie=UTF8&keywords=Frank%20Webb&qid=1465301373&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I’d get the one on composition. but, you can save yourself some $$. use the library. use internet. use my blog. as much as you can. key words: focal point, placements, lead ins, line, directional movements, aerial perspective, soft and hard edges

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