1. Painting texture with the brush

'My first subject is a clutch of twisted branches I found under a big tree outside the studio,' says Hazel Soan.

'I piled them on the table in the fashion I had found them and made a brief sketch followed by a wash of yellow ochre, Prussian blue, burnt sienna and Winsor violet to establish the rounded form of each branch and how they overlapped.

'I worked on a sheet of Arches paper with a Rough surface, which helped add to the texture.'

'The sable brush holds lots of pigment in the body of the hairs but only releases it onto the paper as you apply downward pressure on the brush. This means you can control the appearance of your washes.

'For broken texture, apply light pressure, so the pigment skips over the paper, for solid texture press down to release an even flow of paint.

'I kept wet washes alive on most of the branches throughout the painting so that I could add dense pigment into damp paint where I wanted controlled bleeding for the dark splits, hollows and shadows on the wood.

'The right amount of pigment in the paint mixes and on the brush is as important as the brushwork.'

Step one
By varying the pressure on the brush even in the earliest washes, I began to create the textural effects.
Light pressure means effectively stroking it across the surface so minimal pigment is released.

Step two

Paint tree branches

Almost neat pigment was dropped into wet or damp washes for the deep dark tones.
I used the individual colours I saw in the wood and let them blend on the paper.

Step three

As the brush skips over the tooth of the paper it only touches the upper grain, leaving white paper in the hollows and a lovely textural effect.

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2. Enhancing texture with the paper

'Khadi paper is a handmade long fibre cotton paper with an even rougher surface than Arches.

'Its irregular grain creates exciting textural effects and was a perfect choice for the varied texture of the autumn leaves.

'I love to paint onto the white background of this amazing paper so I laid my small collection of yellow and red leaves on a white background so the relative tones would be the same.'

Step one

Painting leaves on textured paper

Load the brush with plenty of pigment, press down on the paper to release colour for the mid and dark tones and just graze the paper for the light tones.
The gaps left in the wash create a rough textured effect.

Step two

Painting leaves on textured paper - stage 2

To create texture and form in the stem use a dryish mixture of colours from your palette.
As the narrow brushstroke sweeps across the paper, flickers of untouched white paper will break up the line and bring it life.

3. Creating variety with brushwork

'The sable brush is capable of making a whole variety of textural effects even if the paper is not textured.'


'My next inspiration comes from a gathering of vegetables for the pot and I used Saunders Waterford paper with a Not surface to show just what the brush can do even if the paper was smooth.

'The vegetables all have different textures: the capiscums are shiny, the avocados rough, and the leak has streaky lines, so each subject is painted with different brushwork.

'Always look at the tone, therein lies the clue to painting the texture. A shiny item will have hard-edged tones and a bright edged highlight. A grainy shape will have a softer highlight and require a broken brushstroke to create the sparkles of light on the surface.

'To create the streaky lines on a leek (or grain of wood) use a flat or round brush, load it with paint, then physically separate the hairs before you paint. Each hair will lay a separate line and create the linear effect.'

Step one

The early washes of the painting establish both the forms and the indication of texture.
Always make sure your forms make sense before applying textural effects to their surfaces.

Step two
Painting fruit and  vegetables
Here you can see the variation of textures on the different vegetables and fruit.

4. Using a sponge

'Watercolour can be applied with a variety of materials.

'The patina of a natural sponge is ideal for creating speckled texture similar to that of sparse foliage or granite rock.

'Pine trees are the perfect inspiration for creating texture with a sponge. The sponge is greedy so you will need lots of paint in your palette.

'Start with the lighter tones. I used aureolin for the leaves that catch the lights on the top of the tree.

'Load the sponge in the palette then pat it on the paper, twisting, turning and squeezing it so that it makes an irregular pattern.

'Build the clumps of foliage with increasingly darker tones, pressing the sponge down hard for the masses and lightly for the leafy edges.'

Step one

Work from light to dark, building the foliage masses with ever darkening tones.

Step two

Painting trees using a sponge

I added Prussian blue to raw umber and to burnt umber to make the darker tones, allowing wet areas to dry before patting on the next tone.

Step three

Using an old toothbrush dipped in paint, I spattered extra speckles onto the dark areas by pulling across the bristles and releasing paint onto the paper.

This creates a more directional or random spatter than the sponge.

I was careful to protect areas I did not wish to affect.

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