Inspired by the amazing Terry Maker, who has an installation at the Longmont Museum right now, I’ve been exploring making rubbings the last few weeks. Now, before you start thinking “That’s just for kindergartners,” it is actually an honest-to-goodness art technique, going by the name frottage, and used most famously by surrealist painter Max Ernst.
If you’d like to try it along with me, here’s a tutorial!
MATERIALS: paper. Preferably blank and lightweight, but be creative; use the “this page intentionally left blank” page from something, or a brown paper lunch sack! pencil or crayons. Softer pencil lead (B or 2B) gives a darker impression than HB, but they all work. Kids’ crayons can be fun. Colored pencils work nicely. Any of the above should be sharp, so you have a large flat surface along the side of the point. (mechanical pencil won’t work.) textures to rub over. This can be anything with a hard textured surface. (Fabric doesn’t work well unless you can stretch it taught over a hard surface.) Once you start looking for textures, you will start seeing them in unexpected places! Experiment! Use scratch paper to test things for suitability. Or make your own texture plates; see below. Optional: watercolor paints. These don’t need to be artists’ grade (although they could be.) The kids’ pan sets that you can buy anywhere for a couple bucks will work. lightweight card-stock and a glue stick, if you want to make your own rubbing plates. Junk mail postcards are perfect for this, and the cardboard from a cereal or cracker box for the backing.
PROCESS: There are two styles of rubbings; over “found” texture, or over “created” texture. Let’s start with found texture; things around the house to make rubbings of. Find something you want to make a rubbing of, tape or hold your paper over it, and start rubbing with the flat side of the tip of your pencil or crayon. The angle at which you hold the mark-making tool will change the character of the marks!
Now, let’s look at how to make your OWN textures to use for rubbings! It doesn’t take a very big difference in the height of the surface to show up on a rubbing. My favorite way to do this is to cut or tear up a postcard from the junk mail, and glue the pieces down to a backing like the cardboard from a cereal box.
Thanks for reading! I hope you will try this at home, because it’s lots of fun!
I’ve been looking for low-tech home-made alternatives to gel-printing plates for print-making. I happen to have two Gelli Arts plates, and half a dozen poured silicone ones for teaching, but lots of people could have fun playing with monoprinting but don’t want to spend the money. I tried doing it with aluminum foil, and that was not very satisfactory. But this week when I went to recycle a cereal box, I decided to try that instead. Here’s how it went.
So, what to do with all these printed papers? Here’s one of many things I do with them:
After doing a whole bunch of “stitching” with dashed pen lines on various pieces the last few weeks (see The Pen is Mightier than the Needle, and Coming Home, below) I was craving some actual hand-stitching. The fabric is from the bodice of a dress that didn’t fit right, which I cut apart to make a skirt out of the lower part, and the thread is vintage crochet thread I found at a thrift store. It was originally off-white, and these bits were dyed with left-over dye from when I mix up a cup to use to tint paper. This marvelous smooth wooden embroidery hoop dates back to at least the 1960’s; I’m not sure they make them like that any more!
One of things I’ve been doing as an artist for a few years now is making kaleidoscopic mandalas, or “Creation Crosses.” (and sometimes Stars of David.) Usually I carefully pick the photographs I use. In fact, mostly I take pictures especially for that purpose. But the other day I was at my computer scrolling through the photos on the SD card from my camera, and clicked on something that I couldn’t remember what it was from the little thumbnail. Here’s what I clicked on: (it’s only about 23 seconds long.)
I couldn’t make a kaleidoscopic photograph from the video, but fortunately I had taken some still photos at the same time. Here is what I made.
I checked out a copy of this marvelous old book from 1959 called Creative Paper Craft by Ernst Rottger. Had to get it on inter-library loan, as it’s now kind of hard to come by. (and then all the libraries shut down, so I’ve gotten to keep it for a nice long time!) Among other things, it has some fun exercises for cutting and expanding one sheet of paper, either by moving the cut pieces farther away from each other, or flipping them out from the edges. Below is one of my experiments in cutting and flipping.
Being stuck at home, like we pretty much all are, I decided to do something I’ve always wanted to try; a design exercise called The Journey, from an artist named Kim Thitachai, who lives on the west coast of County Clare, Ireland. She wrote about this exercise in her book Experimental Textiles, which I have checked out from the library a couple times, and has a short online course about it.
Here is my first attempt at the process, with an explanation below each photo:
I just started working on technique experiments for my next big piece, which will be called And Then She Set it on Fire. Here is what I did yesterday and today:
I grabbed a small piece of plywood, and a box of joint compound, and started spreading some texture on the board.
While the joint compound dried, I sorted through a big bag of crayons, (which I got for a penny apiece at Art Parts in Boulder,) and chose some colors to melt on the hot-plate I use for encaustic. Then I let the joint compound dry overnight.
I was afraid the joint compound would be too absorbent to put the wax straight onto it, so I coated it with a light coat of clear wood stain, then when that dried, a layer of clear encaustic medium. Then I went to town painting flame shapes with my melted crayons.
Here, I’ve fused the crayon layer with the encaustic medium below with a heat gun.
Now, I’m dabbing on some color in the form of OLD stamp-pad ink; so old that the red has turned to dark brown, and the price-tag on the top says 65 cents. I’ve also mixed some of the ink into my clear shellac, and cover the whole thing with shellac, spreading out the dark brown ink, which sinks a little bit into the texture made by the plaster.
Lastly, after the coat of shellac and ink has dried for a while, I go at the surface with a propane torch. The shellac melts back to form very interesting patterns, and the wax underneath softens and moves around, too.
Here is how it turned out:
Getting ready for a Play-Shop titled “Playing with Crayons,” not surprisingly, I’m… playing with crayons! This was an experiment in coloring on a rough ceramic tile that had been warmed in the oven. I really
liked the way some of the colors bled into each other, especially the dark red and light green up the center.