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What Is Frottage?

Frottage is the act of rubbing to create a texture. So, if you rub your pencil over paper when you have an object beneath the paper, you end up with some fairly interesting shapes and textures.

Frottage Drawing Coin

A simple example of this would be to place a coin under your paper and then rub over it with a pencil. I did my experiment with an Australian 20 cent coin (see image on the left).

Due to the action used, it stands to reason that this art form is also known as "rubbings."

Some people refer to frottage as an embossing technique because you can create a 3D design on a 2D surface.

This is an interesting exercise to perform so please make sure you take some time to do it, you'll soon see it's very worthwhile.

To start, collect various items with different textures so that would be things like bits of wood, leaves or a piece of lace -- anything will do, so long as it sits reasonably flat under your paper.

Frottage Trees

"B" grade pencils have a soft lead so they are the best pencil to ensure good results.

I tried a piece of wood for my first test because I think it has the most interesting texture of all.

Rub the side of your pencil over the paper, where the wood is sitting beneath it.

Watch the pattern emerging on your paper.

I used the wood on an old church pew to create this drawing.

I don't know about you, but I can see a grove of trees! That was apparent as soon as I finished rubbing.

Ok, now let's try rubbing the same piece of wood, only move the pencil in the opposite direction -- that is, if you used horizontal strokes before, now try vertical ones. Do you notice that you end up with a different pattern?

Clouds Drawing

I think it looks like a great drawing of cirrus clouds but my friend saw water ebbing onto the beach. There can be so many interpretations from the same piece, isn't it fascinating?

Testing Different Surfaces

Do a little test and first feel the object you are about to rub and try to imagine what pattern will emerge. Then, once you rub over it, you see it looks nothing like you first thought, does it? I think the lights and darks look just fabulous and that really grabs my attention.

For the next step, try testing every different grade of pencil using different directions.

Plain photo copying paper is probably the best paper to use because images won't turn out very well if the paper is too thick.

Look at your paper where you've rubbed across all the different items and you'll see all sorts of images and formations -- you get the same sensation when you gaze at clouds for a while.

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Push Those Boundaries!

I went a bit overboard and tried all sorts of things to scribble over. Some turned out great and others were pretty ordinary but I was enthralled with the process the whole time. I tried a great variety of things and I know I was learning something new every step of the way.

Frottage Drawing from Laminate

The example on the right is obtained from the laminate on my kitchen bench. I look at it and think it would be good to use as the ground in a nature drawing.

In your next landscape sketch, you can try using the frottage effect to give different objects a unique texture (providing you use fine paper, of course).

Even if you rub a bit of wood to add into a drawing of a tree trunk, the effect would be awesome.

Once you get the hang of it, you don't have to limit yourself to tree trunks. Allow your imagination to take over and suddenly you'll have many alternatives to create interesting images.

Frottage Penguins

This rubbing is from a ceramic spoon rest where the end was shaped like radish leaves.

At first glance, I couldn't see what it represented until my husband pointed out that he could see penguins. Ah yes, now I notice the penguins, can you?

If it does nothing else, the act of frottage gives you inspiration for creating unusual drawings. Happy experimenting!

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