Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mixed Media Painting Techniques, Frottage and Grattage

                                                                 Frottage 1 - 24" x 36" Mixed Media Painting: Pastel, Acrylic, Gesso on Glassine

For this summer's program of continuing education (last summer I studied Architecture in Italy), I have embarked on a course in 'Mixed Media Painting Techniques' at Emily Carr University of Art. The course teaches the process of image-making on built surfaces and works with a range of materials such as gesso, plaster, paint, ink, charcoal, and various papers. I am learning to explore 'expression and emotion' through layering, drawing, brushwork, Frottage and Grattage following in the footsteps of the greats in mixed media painting like: Max Ernst, Mark Rothko, and Paul Klee. I particularly like my teacher, Diana Kubicek's style of teaching. She teaches us to explore the various techniques fearlessly and says repeatedly there are "no mistakes"in painting. As a matter of fact "mistakes can be the building block of a great masterpiece". I like that! I have always been interested in drawing and sketching since my days in Design School, but find that I never have the time to take a brush to paper and do larger abstract paintings and works of art. So this course is a perfect opportunity to allow myself the freedom to explore different mixed media painting techniques. The last class we spent exploring the technique of Frottage (from French frotter, "to rub") a surrealist and "automatic" method of creative production. Frottage was developed by Max Ernst.

Frottage 2  - 8
Frottage 2 - 18" x 24" Mixed Media Painting: Ink, Acrylic & Pastel on Paper

In frottage painting the artist takes a pencil or other drawing tool and makes a "rubbing" over a textured surface. The frottage drawing can be left as is or used as the basis for further refinement (which we are supposed to do for homework with the pieces we created in this class). While this technique is superficially similar to brass rubbing and other forms of rubbing intended to reproduce an existing subject, frottage painting differs in being aleatoric and occurring by chance. Frottage was developed by Max Ernst in 1925. Ernst was inspired by an ancient wooden floor where the grain of the planks had been accentuated by many years of scrubbing. The patterns of the graining suggested strange images to him. He captured these by laying sheets of paper on the floor and then rubbing over them with a soft pencil. In my Frottage Paintings 1, 2 and 4 the textured surface that I used to make the Frottage rubbing was a bamboo mat, string, and screen. In Frottage Painting 3, I did the rubbing over a Gessoed canvas that was prepared with the free form focus on the bark of a tree. As I was doing Frottage Painting 3, rubbing on the Gessoed canvas, it slowly evolved to resemble a Japanese mountain landscape with a waterfall collecting into a pool at the base of the mountain. Our teacher guided us in exploring this technique in creating our Frottage paintings which is based on Surrealist automatism*. *Automatism is a surrealist technique in painting, practiced without conscious aesthetic or moral self-censorship. Automatism has taken on many forms: the automatic painting and drawing initially (and still to this day) practiced by surrealists can be compared to similar, or perhaps parallel phenomena, such as the non-idiomatic improvisation of free jazz.

Frottage 3 - 18 

Frottage Painting 3 - 18" x 24" Pastel on tracing paper

Frottage 4 - 12

Frottage Painting 4 - 12" x 18" Mixed Media Painting: Acrylic & Gesso on paper

In the first class we explored the technique of mixed media painting starting with a base of Gesso


Study 1 - 11" x 14" Mixed Media Painting Technique: Gesso, Acrylic and Watercolor on Card Stock

Gesso is an art supply used as surface preparation or primer for painting and sculpting. Gesso is believed to have been developed in Italy, since the word gesso is Italian for 'chalk'. Preparation varies according to intended use, but usually consists of mixing glue with plaster, chalk, or gypsum. (Gesso is the perfect base for starting a mixed media painting.)

Gesso resembles paint, but is thinner and dries hard. Gesso is applied with a brush and must dry before the surface can be painted. This technique of applying Gesso was first created for use in painting, in order to give the surface the right properties to receive paint. In Gothic and Renaissance panel painting, the technique of applying gesso over a panel of wood was used in order to give the paint something to adhere to. It created a slightly rough surface and prevented the paint from seeping into the wood. We were taught to apply the Gesso to our surface of our mixed media painting with a palette knife using broad strokes to building up the surface. Then various tools are used to create the textures. In Study 1 I used a metal clay sculpting tool with a comb like ridge to scrape across the wet Gesso. I then used the edge of my pallet knife to scrape in the diagonal ridges, then finished off with blotting areas with a sponge. I let the piece dry and then applied watercolor and acrylic in layers to the painting, while at the same time using a roller to take off the excess wet color on the surface so that the paint pigment settled into the crevices of the Gesso. I used the side of my palette knife to scrape off the raised portions of the diagonal lines to reveal the white Gesso below - a technique called Grattage*. Also the Gesso doesn't extend to the edge of the paper and gives it an interesting border. *Grattage is a surrealist technique in mixed media painting in which (usually dry) paint is scraped off the canvas. It was employed by Max Ernst and Joan Miró

Detail of  11

Detail of Mixed Media Painting Technique: Study 1 above.


Study 2 - 10" x 10" Mixed Media Painting Technique: Masking Tape, Gesso and Watercolor on Glass


Study 3 - 7" x 10" Mixed Media Painting Technique: Gesso and Watercolor on Paper

Emily Carr University of Art  - Patricia Gray

Have you had any experience with Mixed Media Painting, Frottage or Grattage or other Mixed Media techniques?
Please let me know by leaving a Comment.

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