Representing texture

The foreground in the photo detail below has a lot of texture in the rocks and dirt that I want to capture in my painting.  Is there a better way than painting each pit and pebble?  Suggestions, please.


  • Paint a dark base coat and then spatter it with various colors that are in the correct value range.  Then you can add some refined rock shapes in various places.  Just an idea.  Someone else will probably have better methods.  @tassieguy is the best rock painter I know of.  Maybe he can give you some suggestions.
  • That’s a very cool reference photo.  Is that an automobile muffler under the water?
    @oilpainter1950 ‘s suggestion sounds like a good approach for the rocky parts.
  • edited April 2022
    My 2 cents. Noting that you are wanting to avoid intricate detail work, my suggestion is that you do that section using tonal painting approach. This is the way I normally do hair, for instance. People sometimes think I've painted every hair - whereas I can count how many I painted, but those few and the brush strokes suggest the rest for me:
    * Begin by reducing it to tonal shapes: Not objects. Half close your eyes and paint the larger tonal shapes in relation to each other. Just the average value for each section. That really dark piece in the broken concrete. The larger shaded sections of soil. Block them in until you can half close your eyes and they look the same as your source.
    * Edges: Soft edges, hard edges, lost edges.
    * Paint the next biggest difference: Don't get lost in minute details, just the bits that most stand out - things in the light, the deepest shadows that suggest the stick, etc. More suggested than described, if that makes sense. Some suggestion will just happen with brush texture also.
    * Allow things to be lost: Suggesting some details suggests others. Particularly things that disappear into the dark. The imagination fills in the shadows for us based on the clues we leave.
    This, sorry, is just a really quick version in photoshop of what I'm suggesting. I also darkened foreground slightly.

  • What @oilpainter1950 and @Abstraction said above.

    It's a great photo.
  • GTO -

    I thought the object was a log under water, but it might be an old muffler.  I'll paint it as a log.  The image is just part of a larger picture where the bird is surrounded by more foreground conifer branches.

  • Thanks for your suggestion.  I decided to bite the bullet and paint the detail.  What you recommend is just what I decided I had to do; it's similar to the way I painted the hair in my recent posting of my granddaughter's portrait.  Good to see that I'm on the right track.  I'll post this results when I finish.
  • @ASCooperband I wonder if you should eliminate the muffler altogether.  That and the spruce branch touching the beak may be taking attention away from the heron.
  •  GTO -
    Branches near bill and back never got onto the canvas.  I think you are right about the muffler/log: it doesn't add anything to the composition.  Thanks for the suggestion.
  • Simplify, simplify.  Suggest, don't explain. And remember the Ten-foot Rule.
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