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 thoughtfully, 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.

These textures grab your attention more than the background… as they should, usually. There are exceptions,  depending on where the artist/creator intends 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, the plan of what you’d normally want to do in your paintings to create improved depth through the Judicious use of Textures. 

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 areas are relatively clear and do follow the guidelines of softer calmer textures in the back. The edges are sharper in front with nice crisp textures and 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 just the one painting.

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

Image Below, Watercolour with a Twist,  has lovely soft near flatness of texture in the background.  The middle ground gets progressively more textured.  And the foreground is  grooved and sculpted with heaps a gorgeous textural effects from the moulding paste I’d used.

watercolour with a twist debiriley.com
Watercolour with a Twist debiriley.com
  • 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 overhauled,  updated version of my Dec. 3,  2014 post.

I felt the subjects of texture, backgrounds, restraint and fiddling to be well worth reposting. With  some serious revisions and additions to the original post, here it is.  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

16 thoughts on “Judicious Texture II 2015

    1. hi Jodi, thank You!! I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned! and of course hope others won’t have to waste so much money, time, Frustration! grrrrr….. wish I knew then, what I know now 🙂 lol

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love the ‘stop fiddling – less is more’ advice, my god, so flippin true – I find myself talking out loud – “walk away from the work, walk away, no, no don’t even think about it, for the love of god its finished, can’t you see?!!!”

    Liked by 1 person

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