• Annie Mason

The five senses: smell, hear, taste, see, and feel (touch). These links lead to a resource for writers. These sensory words are descriptive and define how we experience the world, and writers need to bring this to their readers. This is our environment; it is how we react to what is in front of us. Words related to sight indicate colors, shapes, or appearance. For instance, gloomy, dazzling, foggy, gigantic. We smell the bowl of fruit on the table, we hear the birds singing right outside our window, we taste the sweet strawberries, we see the beautiful sunset. I am going to concentrate on feeling; that is touch or a tactile element in art.

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How is touch directly part of the art world? After all, aren't we told "do not touch" in a gallery museum?

The touch that I want to explore is connected to "seeing" the art as something that we "feel" we could "touch." My degree in Art History is going to throw a little "shade" at my readers and discuss how important the "illusion" the artist creates when he/she applies the brush to canvas to let "us" see silk, grass, ice, brick...as if we can touch it.

Let's start with this 1434 painting by Jan van Eyck (National Gallery, London)

Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife. N. Renaissance

Van Eyck was adept at giving "life" to fabric. The green, flowing gown that we see; perhaps if we could touch it we would find a heavy, brocade and fur trim, a show of social status. If we were close we could see Arnolfini's straw cap and velvet cloak. We might notice the wooden clogs on the floor.

The gold chandelier, the tassels on the green gown, and the furry dog, all painted in exquisite detail to engage the sense of touch. And let's not forget the mirror which reflects "the couple" and us (the viewers). There is a lot more symbolism here and you can read this for further study: The Arnolfini Portrait.

The 19th century of "Impressionism" is a resounding era of the artist "touch". The stroke of the brush became loose, fluid, quick, yet studied to the point that light became the focus. In fact, the rise of impressionism is a response to the newly established medium, photography. Kiama Art Gallery.

Three versions of "Haystacks" by Claude Monet

Even something as mundane as a field of haystacks becomes of interest to an artist. Not only is the 19th-century painter Claude Monet intent on showing the itchy, prickly texture of the hay, but he chose to do so with many versions of this subject, as in the morning, noon, and dusk of this same scene, creating light and mood. This gives the viewer a sense of time, air, and perhaps the crunch of feet as the farmer walks across this field of hay.

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh 1889

Jumping ahead to perhaps a more familiar painting, "Starry NIght" by Vincent Van Gogh.

The texture is thick heavy paint that literally is built on the canvas.

No sky looks like this, no moon, no plants nor houses. The colors, the shapes, the brush strokes all contribute to the feeling that the painting can be touched and felt by the viewer. It's why so many people love this painting. It draws you into the swirls, the paint, the color. The thick paint makes you "feel" that you can touch the sky.

It's a sensory reaction: It involves color stimulation, mood, depth, movement, and



Sometimes texture and tactile items are created when the brain realizes what the object is. Then, the brain tells you that it is prickly and will hurt, as in this watercolor painting of an aloe plant by Annie Mason.

Tout Sweet

Another artistic method is to pay attention to detail, and that again lends itself to cause the viewer to think "sweet, juicy" fruit. That element relies on the artist painting a "realistic" impression, as in this watercolor painting by Annie Mason.

Finally, the artist's technique produces texture by using light, shadow, crosshatching, and other methods to simulate roundness on a flat surface.

Many of the texture techniques in the graphics above are used in this watercolor painting of a cat: brushstrokes, light/dark, cross-hatching, stippling are used to give the areas texture. Cat fur, soft blanket, pillow fabric, wood wall. All are different surfaces and need to be treated differently by the artist.

In conclusion, the artist wants to "bring" the viewer into the painting or drawing; whether it's realistic or abstract we want to please, surprise, agitate, set a mood, All of the senses are in play (accept taste, although I am sure that this has been done by contemporary artists. Texture or the tactile quality of paint, drawing, or digital art is something that is foremost in the desire to please the eye.

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  • Annie Mason

A quick tutorial on how to properly mat a photograph or artwork for display or frame.

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Have you ever come across an old photograph of an uncle or grandparent? Excited to have this treasure you decide to put it into a new frame. As you start to remove the backing you discover that there is a lot of fragile pegs or yellowed tape holding the photo in place.

Having been a Creative Memories consultant in the 1990s, and also having a background in photographic preservation when I worked on my Art History degree, I know the importance of taking the time to use any products available that will keep the photo or artwork in good shape into the future. Proper hinging is essential. It aligns artwork in the mat and frame, stabilizes and protects it, and adds the final professional touch that art buyers expect. Hinging isn't difficult at all if you follow these simple steps:

1. Secure your artwork

  • Photograph or Artwork: Make sure your work is ready to be mounted, damage-free, and sized of course, so you can select the right-sized mat board.

  • Economy Matboard: This board is best suited for casual hinging and all-purpose framing of amateur photography and less valuable professional photographs, posters, fine art prints, and even craft projects.

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2. Prepare your workspace

An ideal space is a large table: clean, dry, and well lit. Wiping down the area is important as even a small spec of dirt can damage a photograph or scratch artwork.

3. Assume the materials and position the art or photo

For this sample, I am using an 11 x 14 white mat board with a smooth finish. The inner dimension measures 7.5 x 9.5 and is designed to fit 8 x 10 artwork. The backing board measures the same size as the mat board.

The following 5 minute video will walk you through the process:

Remember, the purpose of a mat is to help keep your artwork safe by separating the glass from the art or whatever it is being framed. Having a mat in between your artwork and framing glass is important because any condensation that might develop on the inside of the glass can be transferred to your art causing water damage, mold, or mildew.

The hinge method is shown in this video purposely "moves" within the frame as air circulates in the frame itself. Scotch taping all four corners (which is what I have done in the past) results in yellow tape, which dries over time and contributes to the break-down of the artwork or photo.

Mary Washington House Fredericksburg Virginia

See the story behind my Fredericksburg Series: A change of pace and style.


As I learned more about cutting mats, I invested in a starter Logan product shown here at Amazon. I later upgraded to the

Logan 301-1 cutting board system.

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Thank you for visiting my mat tutorial. Another post to view: Mats for your frames - DIY

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  • Annie Mason

You might know that watercolor painting has many ways to apply paint: wet on wet, layering, dry brush, wash, and more.

The following tutorial will show this simple way of making a textured background with a common household item: table salt, then adding the strength of bold black ink. (0:27 sec)

Zen Elephant - finished artwork

This is a simple way to add texture to your background. I love using watercolor with pen and ink See my blog post: Pen, Ink, and Watercolor.

You can use any form of salt. Experiment with common table salt, sea salt, seasoned salt, or kosher, or any others. Most will act in the same way. Just remember, sprinkle it on in watery areas; then let it dry COMPLETELY before adding any sort of pen or paint.

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for me but will have no cost to you.

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Try out this technique. It’s a lot of fun.

At this writing, this is the first day of 2021. Happy New Year to all my readers. This past year has been difficult for so many people, in many ways. The pandemic is like nothing that I have experienced in my lifetime. At 71 years old, I have seen buildings and lives destroyed by terrorists (9/11 2001), snipers aiming and killing people randomly not far from our own home (D.C. snipers 2002), and children being gunned down in their classrooms ( Sandy Hook (Dec. 2012). To name just a few.

This past year was strange, and horrific in affecting so many: people restricted to their homes for months, stores having to create ways to keep shoppers safe, groups of people who were convinced this was a “hoax", and nurses/doctors who would beg to differ.

I will end here on a lighter note. My spiritual upbringing does me well. My family comes next and luckily we have little to want in material needs. My husband and I are seeing our path to “downsizing“ from our home of 33 years. Whoop. (That will be a story for a later date).

My artwork sustains me. Here is one of my favorite paintings, done years ago, as a tutorial:

This somewhat summarizes the year 2020 for me: warm and cold colors, light and dark, branches reaching for hope and dreams. I named the painting, “Solstice.” I painted this using a tutorial from a book, with my own choice of depth and treatment of colors. Credit: “Watercolor for the absolute beginner” by Mark and Mary Willenbrink. Click the Amazon link to purchase a copy of this very good how-to book:

Thank you to all of my readers and friends for your support of this blog and my artwork. May this new year bring you hope, health, and love.

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