Frottage is a French term and it means to take an impression by rubbing. We have probably all done some frottage at some point or other. Have you ever taken a rubbing from a coin when you were little? Then that was a work of frottage. Brass rubbing is another form of frottage.
As a drawing technique and process we can expand and use frottage as a tool to express our ideas and it has been used by many artists particularly in the twentieth century for this very purpose. No less an artist than Max Ernst used this process to great effect in the early part of the last century.
We make frottage very simply. You need some cheap, thin newsprint paper, some compressed charcoal, some fixative, and an open experimental attitude to your resource material. This being any form of surface that has a texture that you find interesting.
We are going to create a drawing from frottage. Our subject is a landscape because landscape lends itself very much to this process. Firstly, you need to collect a number of rubbings (frottage) from a variety of textures that you can find in the environment around you. Do this by simply putting the paper over the chosen texture and then place the compressed charcoal on to the paper and rub it firmly over the top. By doing this you will recreate the texture underneath. Do this many times over many different types of texture as this forms your resource material for making the drawing that will take the form of a collage (collage is a picture which is built up wholly or partly from pieces of paper or other materials). These surface textures you are creating can be regular and geometric or from nature. Ensure you fix the impression as soon as you have made it to preserve it. Now you have collected your source material you can now think about the next step in this process.
The landscape we are going to produce needs to be researched. For this, you need to make some basic sketches of the view you have chosen. It would be useful to do about half dozen drawings from different viewpoints, giving you a greater choice of subject matter when you come to do the finished work at home or in the studio.
To start, you need to transfer one of your sketches to a larger piece of paper, preferably A1. The sketch you choose should have a good sense of depth to it. For example it should have a composition that contains a clear foreground, middle ground, and identifiable horizon. Do this in a linear way, drawing around the shapes of the areas that occupy the landscape, creating what appear to be silhouettes around the objects.
You will need to fill in these shapes with textures from your research, to give an impression of the landscape you created in your original sketches. You also might find that you have to make more frottage for particular areas in your picture.
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