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Nature Journaling


Rubbing Demonstration
by Charla Puryear

Also see her Artist/Naturalist page

Navigate Rubbing & Frottage
Frottage and Chance
Charla Puryear


Painter and sculptor Charla Puryear offers below a step-by-step demonstration of frottage applied to tree bark. Her paintings often originate from frottage on large rocks.

Below are a few examples of her frottage paintings:

(click to enlarge)
The Spot
At Night
From the Sky
Ancient 2
Autumn Leaf
Water Stories



1)Gather Supplies: drawing paper, pastels or crayons, paper towels or soft cloths, pushpins or duct tape, spray fixative, brush to clean surface.
2) Select your surface. Choose surfaces with distinct, intact patterns. I've rubbed the surface of many kinds of trees, tree roots, and rocks.

3) Visualize your Composition and Secure your Paper: Look at the surface texture. Is there a composition that strikes you? Is there a feature of the texture such as a swirl or crack, that you would like to capture? Position your paper and secure it with pushpins or duct tape.
4) Choose Your Colors: There are many reasons for choosing colors. I can be influenced by the color of the surface I'm running, or a color close by. Sometimes I am drawn to a color based on what's going on inside me emotionally,or it can be an intentional selection based on an idea or feeling I'd like to express.
Perform the Rubbing: hold your pastel or crayon so the long side is against the paper. Lightly drag it over the surface so that the raised areas of the texture become marked. You can rub the whole sheet, or, based on the underlying composition, rub just a portion of the paper.
6) If you want to soften lines, rub with a dry paper towel or soft rag/
7) Add colors: You can add colors to either the raised (already colored) or to the recessed areas (uncolored). Then blend according to your inspiration. Here, I add orange to a section of raised texture.
8) Here I'm adding white to sections of recessed texture.
9) Finishing. When you feel the rubbing is done, spray it with an acrylic fixative (if you don't, the pastels will rub off.) Usully my rubbings are frottage, a foundation or sketch. I take the rubbing to my studio, study for imagery and composition, and complete the piece over time.
Here is the finished piece I created from the rubbing. I titled it, "Things of Which We Do Not Know."

Charla's Tips and Ideas

Write about your experience. Why did you choose the object you did? How did you select your colors? What kind of relationship developed between you and the tree or rock or root? What images were revealed in your rubbing? How does the piece make you feel?

Every rubbing you do will be different, of course. Use varied textures. Go with the flow. Some of my most successful work has come when I pushed past my "mistakes." Experiment! Play! See what a rock or tree reveals to you through rubbings.

Morning Earth's Suggestions For the Classroom

Caution: Many rubbings (pastels, cray pas, charcoal, need to be protected, or "fixed". These days. this is done with an aerosol spray, either a matte fixative or a clear acrylic spray. We live in a society of increasing respiratory problems.Do not spray in the classroom. Read labels carefully. Spray in a spray booth with fan, if possible. If not, the teacher should spray out doors, with a mask made for the purpose--a dust mak will not protect you. We suggest that you stick to kid-safe materials, such as pencil, wax crayons, and rubbing wax.

With primary grades, make small rubbings only, coins, leaves, cameos. With all elementary grades, stick to 8.5 x 11 paper to minimize frustration.

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