If you do, you'll be in for a French rubbing surprise of sorts....erm....but the assignment is about rubbing one thing on top of another though, so how do I find out more about it without getting bombarded with naughty things? Type in FROTTAGE for ART....Oh. Ok. I'll save the other meaning for a rainy day ;)
So remember when you would take a piece of paper and place it on top of a textured surface, like tree bark or coins perhaps, and you'd use the side of a pencil and rub over top of the paper to slowly reveal the image beneath? There is a place at Animal Kingdom in Orlando Flordia where we did this as well, but had no idea it had such an elegant name. It was called Frottage all along, and this week's assignment in the Mixed Media course I'm taking at Emily Carr University is: Frottage, Grattage, and Décalcomanie. It's not all new to me, but knowing the proper names for art methods makes what I've been doing all along in my paintings sound extraordinarily FANCY.
Usually I like to work fairly large on canvas or wood panels, but for this assignment I chose 5 mini canvases that have been kicking around in boxes for many years. I'll confess it was just so that I can get on the bus comfortably without bumping in to every single person with a giant plastic bag full of larger canvases. I don't drive...yet...(I know, I know I am in my 40's and it's embarrassing) and so I must live with the fact I have to go across town to get to school on overcrowded public transportation with a huge pack on my back, and supply bags in both hands, add a coffee to go, a few things picked up for dinner from Granville Island Public Market before class, a bottle of wine balanced on my head for post class painting, and you have a vision of my ensemble for Tuesday nights.
Wee canvases should be easier and faster to finish than one giant one, but I've found out that's a lie I told myself. It was the Gollum in my whispering, "but the bus will be easier, you can buy more wine and art supplies my precious, take the mini-canvases". Simmer down goblin voice! I've started the project though so now you can witness the struggle with many small surfaces.
(By the way I only have a vague idea of what I am doing with this project and the steps are experimental)
Inspired by my true home: The Alberta countryside. 'Landscape' is the theme. I started 5 canvases that I'd like to turn in to prairie pieces, using a combination of the methods mentioned.
I've had this old Casper comic from 1965 kicking about for many years (no I'm not that old yet, but I had a box of old things from relatives passed on, and garage sales) and it made its second debut cut to bits and gelled down as a base layer for 6 canvases. I love the old adverts in comics that promise all sorts of riduculous things to kids. Today's kids would see right through them. There are also other sepia toned scrap materials and metal bits and bobs on there. I'm hoping this will become useful in the Grattage method, when I scratch back to this layer later after paint application. Fun! Fun!
Applying the frottage samples (Rubbings, I made in colored conte, from around the studio). Painting the skies a mint green that's the color of the moment for me. Experimenting with decalcomanie in areas. (pressing various objects in to tacky or slightly wet paint). In this stage I am building layers to be able to sand and scratch through, as well as working loosely with the compositions in the old photos I am using for inspiration.
Starting to try the Grattage (Scratching or sanding back the top layer to reveal a layer underneath)
This photo of an elderly woman holding a bird cage with no bird in it is from the 1920's. It had a story in it that I find interesting, and also the foliage around her is so dense and prickly that it seemed like the perfect setting to try out some of the methods we are exploring in class. I think I will add her, and also have her setting a bird free from the cage. An action that is heartbreaking for the woman but also an act of utter selflessness because the bird has been a close companion but she knows in her mind that it's cruel to keep the bird caged. It's an act of love.
The old lady painting was rubbish in the end I almost lost sleep over the fact that I had hastily posted it, so I painted over her in one giant satisfying stoke of yellow, and created a Bird of Paradise in her place. Now I actually like this little piece.
Afterwards I struggled over a more representational piece that I worked from an old photo I had of a man on a tractor in Alberta. It was such a challenge working small like this, and I found my little brushes kept disappointing me because of the spay and stray hairs that would create a mark that I didn't want. I'm not used to trying to copy light and shadow anymore, and so looking from photo to canvas over and over gave me a headache, and I was longing to get back to creating spontaneously and abstract. I did find this whole project I set for myself highly challenging and somewhat satisfying in the end. Here is another piece from the 5 I started: