I was looking at a Hunt Slonem painting and was just curious: does he use some type of screen to scratch the paint? How do artists create texture in a painting?
Scratching my head
You are not alone in asking this question, as it is one we hear a lot. You might be surprised to hear that Hunt Slonem creates that effect by hand one stroke at a time. He has mastered this technique after decades. Slonem is best known for his paintings of tropical birds, a category he describes as “exotica.” He began this technique for his paintings of birds and butterflies.
His fascination with nature goes back to his experiences living in Nicaragua as a teenager, the son of a Navy officer. For as long as well have known him (since the 1990s) he has kept birds – often rescued or no longer wanted birds – in his studio aviary. Many of the birds are more than 60 years old and have been with him for decades. They often roam freely and perch on top of paintings or in the rafters of his loft-like studio.
While you walk through his studio you will often hear a “hello” coming from a bird or two in an elegant and giant antique birdcage – one of dozens in his studio.
Slonem has been painting since the 70s, and he remains incredibly prolific. Slonem perfected a technique of painting wet onto wet. He then makes sweeping crosshatches with a paint brush handle that he has sharpened to a point. His crosshatching on the painted canvas is used to mimic, he says, the effect of viewing birds or butterflies through a cage, as he often does when he paints. You can see Hunt Slonem’s newest work at his solo exhibition at Harmon-Meek Gallery January 24 through February 12 at 599 9th Street North in the Capital Bank Building.
You might also be interested in seeing the work of Tobi Kahn which also utilizes rich texture to convey his spiritual, metaphorical and abstract depictions of subjects that can range from aerial landscapes to biological or molecular. Kahn uses a time consuming and laborious process of layering acrylic paint over gesso. Tobi Kahn will be in Naples on Thursday, February 18 from 6 -8 p.m. at Harmon-Meek|modern and his feature will be hanging until March 12 at 382 12th Avenue South, in the Third Street South shopping district.
Another artist known for using rich texture is Bob Kane. He used thick oil paint heavily slathered onto his treated, linen canvas. You almost feel the urge to touch his work. Children can touch his technique at the Loos Gallery at the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples where a large Kane painting of a horse is on display behind Opium Plexiglas and next to a small sample of his technique, which he created especially for the museum to use as an example that kids could touch.