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


The Best Garden Pathways

Boxwood Garden Pathways

This is the time of the year, summer, glorious summer to spend time outdoors. Renew, refresh, get inspired. Visit your favorite garden or park, or dream about making your garden a little more special. I love gardens with pathways that invite exploration. Gardens that make you want to meander, to spend time and to contemplate the finer things of life. I love all the different colors of green in gardens. You don't necessarily have to have color in flowers to make a garden pop. Try different textures, shapes, and colors of greens. A well placed statue or urn gives the eye a place to focus and center on. A water feature can add a cooling element, and a splashing fountain can be a calming and soothing to the soul. Well designed gardens with meandering pathways with well placed plantings and focal points are truly works of art using nature as the canvas.

Garden Pathways
Garden Pathways

Lavender Garden Pathway
Lavender Garden Pathway
Smell the lavender as you walk down the gravel path to the fountain with lily pads awaiting you.
I imagine that this pool is filled with Koi and that there is a bench or comfortable seating on
the other side to sit and contemplate.

  Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway
What a feat of design this elliptical planting between the slate pavers is.
A well placed statue draws you to the end of this pathway.

Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway
Still there are moments when the shadows fall And the low sea of flowers, wave on wave,
spreads to the pathway from the rosy wall Saying in coloured silence,
"Take our all; You gave to us, and back to you we gave.
Vita Sackville-West

This beautiful arbor (above)is supported by a brick wall. It reminds me of the gardens that English poet and novelist, Vita Sackville-West created at Sissinghurst Castle Garden. In April 1930 Vita Sackville-West and her son, Nigel, were looking for an old house where she could make a new garden. Vita fell in love with Sissinghurst Castle and bought it, along with 400 acres of farmland. She spent the next 30 years planting and designing the layout of the garden using the walls & buildings already in place. She was also the first to plant an "all-white garden" because she wanted the color of the flowers and foliage to act as an illuminating factor to prolong the daylight hours and hence to be able to extend the time she could spend in the garden. I spent a delightful summer, several years ago, reading her book: Garden. The gardens at Sissinghurst that Vita so lovingly created, are now part of the National trust and are open for public viewing.

villa san michele Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway Villa San Michele, Capri
The house was small, the rooms were few but there were loggias, terraces, and pergolas all around it to watch the sun,
the sea
and the clouds -- the soul needs more space than the body.

Reading this poem just makes me sigh and relax. It is so true that "the soul needs more space than the body" and how wonderful to recharge by spending time strolling under this pergola and hearing the soft crunch of the pea gravel under your feet - A thing of beauty is a joy forever! Excerpt by Axel Munthe from La Strada della Dolce Vita

 Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway

Garden Pathway Photograph David Duncan Livingston
Garden Pathway Photograph David Duncan Livingston

Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway

Garden Pathway  
Garden Pathway
The best garden pathways can be the simplest, like this cut grass pathway above.

Garden Courtyard Pathway
Garden Courtyard Pathway
Pea Gravel Pathway Bulgari Hotel Milan
Pea Gravel Pathway Bulgari Hotel Milan  
I love the use of old brick for garden pathways. Old brick has a character and charm that is hard to duplicate with new materials.

Garden Pathway michael van valkenburgh associates1
Garden Pathway
Garden on Turtle Creek, Dallas TX, (above and below) was designed by renowned Landscape Architects, Michael van Valkenburgh.
The backbone of the garden is a continuous path of varied walking surfaces and garden pathways that flow from the house down the slope.
The meandering stainless steel planks are hollow underfoot altering the pace of the walk through the garden.
A brilliant juxtaposition of materials!

Garden Pathway michael van valkenburgh associates
Garden Pathway
Garden Pathway Versailles
Garden Pathway Versailles
And who is not in love with the beautiful gardens at Versailles.
The French really take their strolling in garden pathways seriously!
Some of my most memorable and refreshing times have been spent in gardens
walking their beautiful pathways while taking in the sights and smells around me.

What makes a perfect garden pathway for you?
Please leave a
comment and let me know.

PATRICIA GRAY INC is an award winning interior design firm writing about lifestyle and
WHAT'S HOT in the world of interior design, architecture, art and travel.
2011 © Patricia Gray | Interior Design Blog™


25 Top Patio Chairs

Why is well designed outdoor furniture so hard to come by????????? Everywhere I look I am visually assaulted by poorly designed and equally stinky, (as in smell) off-gassing furniture manufactured in China. I have through diligent searching found some truly amazing, beautiful to look at, and environmentally friendly outdoor furniture that is not manufactured in China. FYI Knoll practices Sustainable Design. All Knoll Space seating is GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified® for low-emitting products. First the UGLY........

0080659970375_150X150 0080659908726_500X500 image

Okay that's enough of that, now for the sublime...................


These chairs are so beautiful and sculptural and are appropriately call "The Clover Chair"

knoll bertoria chair & paper clip table

A truly classic and timeless design by Knoll - the Bertoria Chair and the appropriately named Paperclip Table

bertoria chair I am partial to the Bertoria chair in white powder coated finish with a white vinyl chair pad. It also works equally well indoors.

one cafe phillipe starcki This is a design by the prolific Philippe Starck called One Cafe

The One Cafe also comes in black/ivory and a bar stool is available with slip cover options in white cotton.

dr no chair phillipe starck for kartell

Another design by Philippe Starck called Dr No by Kartell is stackable. The Dr Na aluminum table is practical, simple and a perfect companion piece.

lord yo chair

The Lord Yo Chair (above) designed by Philippe Starck, is a take-off on the classic Lloyd Loom chair. I like the cotton slipcover. They also come with Leather Slipcovers so you can take them indoors in the winter for an attractive addition to your kitchen or dining room.

Knoll Noguchi Cyclone Table kissi-kissi table driade designer miki astoria driade one cafe table by philippe starck

Knoll Noguchi Cyclone Table Kissi-Kissi Table One Cafe Table

bo chair miss lacy by philippe starck toy chair phillipe starck

Bo Chair Miss Lacy Chair Toy Chair

Now for a few divine settings to get you in the mood for those lazy, hazy days of summer

Patio Furniture Deluxe martha stewart living gasl outdoor rooms Mary McGee House Beautiful gramercy park hotel Michael Taylor kettal spain kettal spain kettal spain kettal spain kettal spain Tobi Tobin Veranda cecconi simone achchitectural digest


What makes a perfect outdoor setting for you? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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

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