April 6, 2014

Surrealist Drawing techniques

Read-ahead for a series of seminars taught to design students. A collection of drawing techniques was explored to exercise the mind and the role of the subconcious in art and design

Example frottage from the golden gate

Example frottage work from the Golden Gate Bridge


Frottage from the French frotter, “to rub,” is a surrealist technique developed by Max Ernst. In Frottage the artist takes a pencil or other drawing tool and makes a rubbing over a textured surface. The resulting drawing can be used as-is, or used as a base for further refinement.

A note on surrealism: Artistic, Poetic, and Literary surrealist techniques are characterized by numerous methods and games. These are free of conscious control and utilize the unconscious as a source of inspiration.

The difference between frottage and rubbing (that could be considered a children’s game) has to do with when the artist stops working. When the rubbing process is complete the artist explores the possibilities—finding ways to play with, extend, or highlight the rubbing.

Paper is most commonly used for rubbings. Rag and rice papers produce the best results. The thinner the paper the more details will be transferred.

In Chinese incised stone rubbing, dampened rice paper is used. The damp paper is tamped down on to the surface resulting in very crisp lines.

Pastels, crayons, rubbing wax, or graphite are soft mediums and will work best in this process. Spray fixative may be useful with certain materials.

What To Rub
Many natural surfaces have 3-dimentional qualities, though some might be fragile. Rubbing needs to be a gentle and deliberate process. The artist should make an effort not to disturb the natural environment or call too much attention from onlookers.

You may find items in your home such as coins, wood, shells and carvings.

The urban environment provides plaques, memorials, and textures. As you walk through the city make yourself aware of things that make a good rubbing surface. These items will not only provide visual interest, but also possess historical significance allowing for further artistic exploration. A surrealist exercise for sure!

Note: Use caution when searching frottage on the Internet. The term can also refer to sexual rubbing.