I am a chunky peanut butter/pulpy orange juice kind of person. What does that have to do with anything, you ask? Valid question. The answer is texture.
I use medium-grade cotton or linen canvas for most painting commissions, but lately I've been itching to try some different painting surfaces. As beautiful as the glossy ground of glass or board can be, I am personally pulled toward super nubby surfaces with a high tooth. When used well, these surfaces add depth and evoke the artist who once worked on them.
Diego Velázquez is a prime example of a painter who preferred a highly textured work surface. He used incredible economy in his paint placement because of the difficultly of blending paint on this type of canvas. (Think rolling a ball across a pebbled beach vs. across an ice rink.) Pieces of paint float one on top of the other, rather than forming seamless transitions in his work. The resulting paintings have a rich texture which draw the viewer's attention back to the painting surface, and in so doing, reminds her of the artist who brushed his paint across it so many years before.
Have you ever been in a museum or gallery and had the overwhelming desire to reach out and touch a painting (scary-looking security guard be damned)? If so, then you know what I mean. We want to (literally) feel the connection between ourselves and art, and texture is one of the tools an artist can use to get us there.