O'Reilly logo

Fearless Drawing by Kerry Lemon

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Drawing as
Frottage
Frottage is essentially a posh way of saying
rubbing”—its taking a textured surface, placing a
sheet of paper on the top, and using a soft pencil,
crayon, charcoal, or pastel to color over the paper and
reproduce the texture below. It is a great introduction
to printmaking as its quick, clean(ish!), and requires
only basic materials.
Theres a long history of using this technique (check
out the master Max Ernst), and in our pursuit of
a full toolbox of ways to create drawings, this is a
fun and inventive tool. Frottage offers a chance to
gain a real sense of place that particularly appeals
to those, like me, who are attracted to texture and
pattern. When traveling, I always like to include
frottage in my sketchbooks as it enables me to take
home a real piece of the place visited: the textured
concrete pavements in Barcelona, Spain, the trees
in New Hampshire, United States, and the railings
on bridges in Paris, France. These rubbings bring me
straight back to the place, far more powerfully than a
photograph or purchased souvenir.
Frottage is more than a little addictive; you quickly
begin to assess your surroundings based on texture
alone, seeing with your sense of touch and analyzing
each object for the print it can offer. Its a good idea
to have a file folder in which to store all your rubbings
as you never know when your drawing may cry
out for just that texture you captured in an earlier
frottage. An even better idea is to be diligent about
taking notes. On the back of each frottage, write
down where the rubbing was made and the subject
so you will be able to re-create it when needed.
29
Soft graphite pencil
Soft graphite pencils (6B–9B will give you the
best results) offer a really good, clear print.
Again, I find the drawing point on pencils to be
a little small for rubbing, so I tend to favor the
short, chubby woodless pencils or bars. Visit an
art supply shop (or look online) to see the range
available. Colored pencils are too hard for large
rubbings, but perfect for small items like coins.
Wax crayon
Wax crayons are perfect for creating rubbings.
Usually made from dyed paraffin wax, crayons
provide a clean, stable print of your surface.
I find the drawing point on crayons to be a little
small for large areas of frottage, so I tend to peel
off the paper wrapper and use the side of the
crayon instead.
Wax crayon rubbing
Graphite pencil rubbing
30 > Fearless Drawing
MATERIALS
Drawing as Frottage > 31
Charcoal
Charcoal is created from slow burning wood,
which creates a drawing medium of carbon
and ash. It is soft, brittle, and VERY smudgy—
whenever I use charcoal I get completely covered
in the stuff. I favor vine charcoal, which is usually
made from willow or linden. I like the skinny
wobbly black sticks of varying thicknesses, and
just embrace the mess that comes with it. You
can also get compressed charcoal, which includes
a binder to make it less crumbly, or a charcoal
pencil where the compressed charcoal is encased
in wood—take your pick!
Charcoal rubbing
Soft (chalk) pastel
Soft pastels—sticks of pure powdered pigment
with a binder—are basically the artists version
of pavement chalk and come in a beautiful,
dizzying array of shades.
Soft pastel rubbing
Oil pastel rubbing
Oil pastel
Oil pastels come in stick form and use the same
pigments as soft pastels, but with an oil binder
to create a rich, buttery crayon. Pastels are softer
in texture and richer in color than wax crayons.
32 > Fearless Drawing
FROTTAGE AROUND THE HOUSE
Take the opportunity now to explore your home. Grab a stack of printer paper and a selection of different drawing tools
and take rubbings wherever your eyes land. Textured wallpaper, kitchen surfaces, wood, tiles, ceilings, radiators, draining
boards, furniture, and carvings all create fantastic textures. Open the cupboards and empty your pockets—try colanders,
forks, keys, and coins.
Now select your favorite pieces, cut them out, and stick them here. Make a note of what drawing tools you used (crayon,
pastel, pencil, etc.) and what you used to create each texture (coins, tile floor, cloth-bound books, etc.).

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required