Textures: Pixels Vs. Paint

Pixels can never truly reproduce the tactile quality of real textures created by paint; textures so delicious you want to reach out and touch them.

Scarlet in a Tube: Cadmium Red LightThere is however, visual texture, such as in all the fine detail in an old Alice in Wonderland illustration.
Detailed ink drawing of Alice meeting the hookah-smoking caterpillar in WonderlandAn example of tactile texture, or at least it would be if the wall was right in front of me instead of a photo on a screen. But if I was to run my fingers across this ‘texture’ in reality I would probably get slivers.Peeling paint on an old wooden building in La Conner, WashingtonA comment from Susan Rushton on this photo: I love these textures. It’s interesting to be able to experience a ‘feel’ effect using just your eyes.

It’s an interesting comment. As an artist as well as a photographer I have been dealing for awhile with the concept of ‘pixels vs. paint’. My latest paintings are heavily textured in ‘reality’ (as opposed to ‘visually textured’) but I realize that they have been influenced by the photos I’ve been taking. Weed PaintingLately I have been trying to combine my photos and paintings – this is much easier to do on the computer – but then worry that when printed the results will never have that true tactile texture. Cliffs of Moher rock texture overlaid with folded paintingOr will they? Lately I have seen reproductions that have a brushy texture underneath. At the moment this only works with paintings with lots of small brush strokes. But with three-D printing coming on board I can see that in the future you might be able to print swoops of paint with the brush strokes peeping through.

And, on the plus side of pixels, there is an undo button, something you don’t get with painting where I often make an experimental stroke and then go, “No, no, no, undo, undo.”

Now I’m thinking that it could be better to print the images and add textures/paint AFTER. I found these gimmicky paintings which I think are printed photos with a shiny rubbery stuff outlining the petals. I’m not sure how this was done; possibly some poor person in a third-world country spending all their time outlining petals with some no-doubt toxic chemical on the photos. A different photo of an ocean shoreline has a swash of the rubbery stuff, this time filled with sparkles that made the water glint under the lights. Gimmicky Photo/Painting Detail of Gimmicky Photo/PaintingBut printing quality large photos can get expensive! It’s probably cheaper to paint the whole thing.

Anyone have any thoughts about the pixels vs paint debate?

More of Jennifer Nichole Wells’ One Word Challenge: Paint.

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2 responses to “Textures: Pixels Vs. Paint

  1. Pixels in a picture like the distressed wood seem to touch our imaginations. An oil painting printed with a 3D technique might be interesting, but there’s something about the idea of a brush stroke being unique that appeals to me too.

    • It’s true that it’s going to be hard for 3D printing to match a brush swoop of real paint across a painting; with each hair of the brush visible in a subtle 3D… The future is going to be interesting!

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