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.

Abstract Art Slide Show 

Another post you might be interested in: Abstract Art - Go Big or Go Home

Patricia Gray writes about 'WHAT'S HOT 'in the world of Interior Design, new and emerging trends, modern design,
architecture, and travel, as well as how your surroundings can influence the world around you.
© Patricia Gray Interior Design Blog, 2009


  1. I love to get out a little sketch pad that I keep in my purse. If I have a few minutes I work on furniture ideas. I would love to take a painting or mixed media class.

  2. wait - is that TOP canvas yours? omg Patricia - that is so fabulous!!!! that one is my favorite and the second one is wonderful too. Wow. I am SOOOOO impressed! you NEVER cease to amaze me with your brilliant talents.

  3. I found work with mixed media always liberating, it frees you of the need to have a subject, abstract work needs no explanation, it lets you create from the belly so to speak, makes you relaxed and concentrate on playing with colors and material. It is fun and one does not have to take it totally serious.

  4. To hear that your are always looking to learn something new is inspiring. I have recently be doing abstract art with different venetian plaster mediums on large 3' * 3' wood canvases. So far I have only had time to create one and already want to take it to the next level and make it more detailed. This is a pic of the one I did recently http://www.twitpic.com/5o1gh. Will we soon see you enter into the world fine arts ??

    Have a great weekend


  5. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Patricita,

    I am so proud of you and look a those yuminess you are creating. Amazing! I will start organize the international fan club for Patricia Gray :)

  7. Are these all yours? So amazing! I love the last few with the brighter colours. So so great--can't wait to see you tomorrow!!

  8. Fantastic post. Loving art and now knowing the how is making my eye much sharper and my perceptions deeper. Thanks so much.

  9. They look so great! Doesn't surprise me that your talent follows you to the canvas :)

  10. what a wonderful thing to be doing.......i love to paint and have gotten away from it lately because my last piece frustrated me horribly.
    you are great, a natural.

  11. what a worthed dirty hands !! cool classes ! love it ,

  12. Lanell19/6/09

    Any time you get in to doing something involving your hands and your brain, whether it is art or building for "habitat", you are enriching your life....Go for it! Your interior design work can be as tedious as portrait painting, but I am sure it is an obsession, and not something that can be let go of easily....it's good to get into an environment where you can swing free....Have fun!

    In central Texas, when I was a young woman, I had the privilege of seeing the country home of a woman who kept it with a vengeance! She was of Czech heritage and obsessed with cleanliness...so much so that I think her poor husband spent much of his time sitting against the chicken house under the shade of an Oak tree. This home was of the double front door persuasion, entered from a front porch and also a side porch. It was two rooms...large ones, a parlor/ bedroom and a kitchen/dining room. It was unpainted and had weathered to a gray. There was a full bath in a separate shed. The walls were white-washed, but the floors were scrubbed so that one could see the graining in them, looked and felt as soft as a baby's butt and the color was a beautiful bluish grey....a color that my mother said came only from continuous scrubbing with lye soap. It was a bright, clean home of a most calming color...no artifice, nothing superfluous.

    It's one of the few 'real' homes that have never left my mind's eye. I'm glad I saw it early on. I felt like it was living art.

    Sincerely, Lanell

  13. Anonymous19/6/09

    I was an artist before I had my family, and now that my children are older I have gotten out my art supplies and I am letting them explore with mixed media painting techniques.

  14. Jason19/6/09

    Thanks for your explanation of Frottage. I alway wondered what it was.

  15. Chriss19/6/09

    Grattage, Frattage...it all sounds so exotic. You have inspired me to seek out a mixed medial painting class. I live just outside of London.

  16. Patricia, you are amazing and your talent will be soon on walls around town and beyond! You should really join me at the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver (www.casv.ca)a wonderful not for profit organization that expanded my horizon on art and gave me the opportunity to meet so many talented people, artists, gallery owners, collectors... Congratulations...now I am off to check Michelle's blog on the same subject. See you tonight!

  17. How wonderful of you to share your art class and your creations with us. I really admire the "life long learning" idea. It keeps us young and creative, yes? Your artwork is as interesting and energetic as your interior design work.

  18. Patricia these are amazing
    Love the first 2 pictures.
    So, now we discover another layer of your artistry :)

  19. This looks like such fun! Your paintings are terrific and I hope to see more. I always regretted not talking art courses in college (was very "business" focused), but it's great that there are so many places to take various classes now. Deborah.

  20. Patricia,
    You are blessed beyond measure. Great art and how much fun new techniques. I told Michelle that I would love to be in your class! Have fun!

  21. I took a full-year art course at McGill and loved every minute of it. So much fun! Maybe you can start selling your masterpieces?! ; )

    This summer, apart from gardening, I am teaching myself Photoshop and trying to lose 20 lbs. Now that doesn't sound nearly as much fun as an art class!

  22. Ooh, I love the last # 2 and 3? The are amazing. I have only taken a on night course in mixed media and have used it some, would love to try new techniques

  23. Patricia,

    You are now entering the field of reniassance woman (one of many talents). Giving yourself a chance to express, you will find that you are validating the creative process. You have a new skill to bust through creative blocks.

    Plans for summer include busting through soil for a backyard redesign. No experience with mixed medium painting. It is color therapy and liberating all the same. Great post!


  24. Just found your blog...WONDERFUL! Janell

  25. You inspired me!I used to take the easel and experiment with watercolor and now, just visit art galleries (I have been known to take my kids and drive 800miles each way, while in Spain, just to visit the Cuenca museum of Modern Art!)One of your gesso work reminds me of my ultimate favorite spanish artist Tapies. Keep up the great work, you have talent

  26. Interesting technique. Very similar I think to a technique I've been using to paint on wood. I coat the surface with my gesso-type paste, consisting of glue and zinc pwdr beaten to smooth creamy texture, using a spatula. I usually need to lay on 3-4 layers depending on work to be done. Each layer has to dry before the next unless you want cracks to appear, which can smtms be attractive anyway! I use a pyrograph to apply my design and then use acrylics to cover and varnish to finish. You can see some of my work here: http://interiordesigners.gr/?page_id=403
    Thanks for sharing Patricia :)

  27. Hi Patricia, long time no write:)
    I can't believe its already been a year since you went to Italy!!!
    A little over a year ago I also took a painting class for the first time. Even though it was about abstract painting, it wasn't easy! I left w/ a lot more respect for painters.

  28. That's a wonderful summer class! I have always been involved in different art classes growing up and in design school- it's a favorite. I am also pulling out the paints and pastels this summer- I had an itch to create some art to offer at Zuniga Interiors and just for fun too! My kids have me inspired- they are starting art class too!

    Thanks for sharing with us! Hope you recv'd my e mail! Take Care!


  29. “There’s a beauty to wisdom and experience that cannot be faked. It is impossible to be mature without having lived.”
    Patricia, this is what i think of when i see your work here. You should be so proud of yourself for having tried something new! They are wonderful. Are they for sale, or will you display them at home?
    Fondly, Lisa

  30. Anonymous26/6/09

    I love your pictures of Mixed Media Painting, Grattage and Frottage Painting. Well Done for just starting your mixed media painting classes. I will look forward to seeing how your painting progresses.

  31. Nicollette26/6/09

    I have not had any experience with mixed media painting, but after reading this post you have inspired me to try it.

  32. wow, you're very talented!

  33. Sebastin from Spain28/6/09

    I had never heard of Grattage Painting and Frottage Painting before. I like the concept of Mixed Media Painting......!!!!!!///

  34. Marta29/6/09

    Hi Patricia,
    I just wanted to let you know that I started up a blogspot a couple weeks ago....in case you want to check out what I have been up to and some of my processes. Also I was really happy to see your recent post with your Mixed Media paintings...which I really liked a lot. My 2 favorites are frottage 1 & frottage 2.
    So you are very multi-talented!!!

    I hope you are doing great and enjoying your summer!!!
    Best wishes,
    oh ya....my blog is www.martabaricsa.blogspot.com

  35. Nice work!

    I have taken an oil painting class (thought I would follow in my grandmother's artist footsteps), but was horrible. It really takes a good hand and patience. The masters make it look effortless.

    My oldest daughter says she is an artist and wants to live in Paris when she grows up. She is only 6, so we'll see :-)

    cristin at simplified bee

  36. Wow, you have a natural ability with this style of art. This summer I'm reworking my garden, and I'm also taking sewing classes. I always wanted to learn how to sew!

  37. I agree. Patricia, you should really frame the work, and feature it. Maybe a white, modern room?


  38. Carol2/7/09

    Hi Patricia!

    I have been reading and enjoying your blog for quite some time now. You have been a daily read for me and I always find myself waiting for your newest post waiting to read your latest take and thoughts on design.


  39. Hi!
    I'm glad to visit a great blog. Smart posts and beautiful photos. I like to contact people, all over the world, by his blogs.Would you follow me,because I'm afraid to lost your blog?I'm waiting your visit. Thank's

  40. My favorite is Frottage #2, but the texture in Study #2 is fantastic. My favorite thing about art is the process and I really love to hear an artist tell how they create a piece, so thank you. Can you do frottage on canvas or is it too thick. I killed my creative spirit two years ago with a really difficult, and not fun, job! Your post is inspiring, so thanks, again.

  41. Hi Glamourshoes
    No canvas would be too thick to do a Frottage as it is basically a rubbing that comes through to the surface.

  42. Charles Audin7/7/09

    Thank-you for the introduction of mixed media painting techniques.

  43. i like the mixed media painting, looks quite cool!

    love the blog btw

  44. Hi Patricia,

    so great to watch your happy face while creating. That goes for a true inspiration!

    Enjoy your class....


  45. Hi Patricia,

    great to watch your happy face while creating.
    Such a true inspiration!

    Enjoy class....


  46. You might be interested in the work of North Carolina artist Page Laughlin who takes works from home magazines, paint them and does God knows what to achieve an amazing multimedia melt down of original beauty.

  47. Hi HBD
    I just looked at Page Lauglin's work online and it is pretty amazing. Thanks.

  48. Thank-you all for your wonderful comments, support and encouragement!!

  49. awesome stuff, patricia. i hope you had number one framed and it's hanging in your home. if you haven't, please send it to me, and i'll hang it in mine! ;-)

  50. HI Patricia,
    I Love your paintings. That is the kind of art I want to play around with more and Love all the diff. things you can do in mixed media. I am focused on baby & child decor/art right now since I have been in the baby mode for some time (5 daughters):) so That has been my focus. However, I would just Love to Create without thinking. Like large paintings like yours ~ & using my Gesso!!

    I have GESSO on my table at all times. It is one thing that I use almost daily. I use it in so many diff. ways too. I LOVE it!
    Thank You again for all your inspiration, ideas, tips, everything! ~ Joelle XOXO

  51. Anonymous26/9/09

    I have just started a mixed media painting class. Thanks for your inspiration.

  52. SHERRY2/10/09

    re: study 2 , (on glass). i tried painting directly on glass mirror with acrylic paints and could not get the paint to adhere. i wold love to know how to resolve this problem. sasdebosque@yahoo.com

  53. Good Post. Thanks for sharing it here. I like watercolor painting very much.

  54. those look really amazing! i would love try that style of painting someday... =)

  55. These painting styles are really very unique! Thanks for publication. interior painting

  56. I love the history of the layers and textures. I paricularly love the old textures behind the new ones. Beautiful and amazing work.


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