In Graphic Design: The New Basics, Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips define texture simply as, “the tactile grain of surfaces and substances” (page 69). The authors go on to explain how texture creates unique details in both physical and virtual environments, enhancing the experience of the viewer.
Linda Barry’s work is a perfect example of an artist’s use of texture to convey mood. Specifically, in her graphic novel, What It Is, she tells the story of her life and evolution as an artist and writer, taking us through the neglect she faced as a child, the inner turmoil she faced growing up trying to be a “good” at art, and questioning her own creative processes.
Barry uses collage techniques to produce thick, rough, rippled textures, as well as line work and watercolor paints to create a variety of textures to physically illustrate the chaos of her mind and the messiness of her life. The various mediums she uses to form texture force us to read all over each page, making us as readers feel like our minds are wandering the way Barry’s has, jumping from one question and revelation to the next. The optical appearance of each page of her book are visually functional, allowing us to understand the context of the story on a deeper level.
Page 126 of Barry’s novel is an example of the line work she uses to imply texture. The denser lines around the octopus illustrate a shadowy, dark space – perhaps of Barry’s mind. These lines dissipate into more crosshatches that are more wide spread, signifying the lighter space of the “real world.” Additionally, the blue and gray watercolor paints Barry uses around the inner border of the page create a smudgy, matted texture, and the paper outer borders of the page create the illusion of a chunky, wrinkled page.