For this exercise, I began by looking around my home, workplace and pretty much every place I visited. I began the exercise by wiping some water across a page in my sketchbook in a swirling motion and dropped ink on top of it. I was surprised to see that the ink seemed to find the water and almost infect it – taking control of the water and merging together with it. Parts of this reminded me of the dense, heavy weight of petrol, whilst others (where the ink and water were quite light in their tone) reminded me of a soft and delicate velvet.
Below this experiment, I inverted the exercise, dropping ink onto the page and then using the drawing pen to create swirls with the ink. I then dropped some water onto the ink and was surprised to see the water was not so eager to merge with the ink. It appeared to have a will of its own. The ink slowly took hold of the water again, but there remained a large portion of the ink areas which stayed solely ink. These areas reminded me of a spider’s cobweb, whilst the mixed areas again reminded me of velvet.
When I had finished, I found the ink had run onto the table in several places, so I got a couple of wet-wipes and wiped the ink up. Bizarrely, I was much more impressed with the results on the wet-wipes than I was the ink in my sketchbook! This got me thinking as to just how differently media can result when on different surfaces. The end result reminded me of my chenille curtains or a marbled pillar somewhat and I just love how the ink has dispersed.
I then decided to focus on four different items which I felt represented very different textures and the potential to use very different media to represent them. I finally decided on the following textures and media:
- Plastered artexed ceiling using oil pastel: I chose this item due to its apparently random design. I chose to use oil pastels because I thought that due to the ceiling’s texture appearing quite soft, somewhat powdery but also slightly oily. There was no very fine detail, which I also thought corresponded well with the oil pastels.
- Chenille curtains: The texture of this, whilst appearing quite fluffy and glossy at first glance, was actually rather fine and sharp in the lines it held in its stitching. I really liked the shininess of the fabric and the way it reflected the light. I decided to use a calligraphy pen and ink to represent this texture as I thought I would be able to recreate the sharp, fine lines of the stitching, but also the glossiness of the fabric due to the glossiness of the ink.
- Polyester school bag: I found this texture quite intriguing. It was very fine in its detail and appeared almost bubble-like in its formation. I decided I would use a HB pencil for this piece due to it being so delicate and feeling it would best represent the fine stitching.
- Polypropylene door mat: I was drawn to this texture purely for its pattern of three lines horizontal, three lines vertical and so on. I decided that this was very similar to the chenille curtains, but that I would use a black biro pen due to not requiring the glossy effect of the curtains. This material was also rather rough and I enjoy working rather quickly and roughly with pen, so thought this a great media to work in.
When I actually began carrying out creating the pieces, I realised rather quickly that I had made the correct choices in some areas, but not in others. I was really pleased with the outcome of the chenille; however, I was rather angry with the calligraphy pen. When I started creating the lines, I found the ink didn’t really flow very well and that it appeared almost brown instead of the desired black. In my frustration, I took the pen apart, squeezed the ink onto the page directly from the cartridge and moved in a crosshatch motion across the space. I actually really liked the outcome and continued until I thought it was done. I really enjoyed the horizontal and vertical line drawing in rapid succession for the mat too. This is definitely something I would like to explore further down the line. I expected to find the fine detail of the polyester bag rather infuriating to draw, but it was actually rather relaxing so, going back to my previous
exercise and the likeness to the ‘calm’ mood, the pencil suited the piece perfectly.
My immediate thoughts when reflecting on this exercise is that I think I could have chosen better media to work with. The chenille, I think, would have looked much better in printing ink or even black oil pastel due to their density and shine, however, I do really like the outcome of this piece. I think it is because of the contrast between the light and the dark, the positive and the negative. I think the artexed ceiling should have been replicated in chalk or soft pastels as I think they would have suited the texture better and could have created a more realistic feel. Looking back, I almost feel as though I have repeated the expressive lines and marks task again as each piece seemed to invoke a different emotion in me; the chenille invoked frustration, anger, disappointment and then surprise when it actually seemed to work out somehow; the polyester bag filled me with a sense of calm, but also relief when I had finally finished the piece; the polypropylene door mat filled me with a sense of giddiness of working in such short, sharp bursts in a media I seemed to just connect with instantly; the artexed ceiling caused disappointment and sadness due to it just not turning out how I had imagined and hoped, but then also acceptance when I admitted to myself that it was an experiment and I would learn from it.
I soon realised frottage is something I did quite a lot as a child and have done with my own children without realising there was even a name for it! I quickly learned it was an artist called Max Ernst who actually developed the technique in 1925 (though, personally, I think the concept itself must have been around for a very long time without actually being classed as a method of art or documented etc) and, having done some brief research into who Max Ernst was and what he did, I instantly wanted to have a play at creating a piece of my own quickly in Ernst’s style (I waited, however, until I had an idea as to which surfaces would provide the best results). I was surprised how someone could create work so fantastic and so detailed from a concept so simple and how relatively recently in the history of the world it was that someone discovered and claimed it!
To begin the actual exercise, I wanted to try some experiments with several different textured surfaces in charcoal pencil. I wanted to work in the same media to see just how differently one media could transfer and create different markings, depth and tone.
I decided to work with a paving stone, the outer casing of my cat’s litter box, a wooden door, a tyre, a piece of scrap wood my husband uses for cutting and drilling on, the concrete flooring of our garage, a metal sheet base of our trailer and a leaf I found whilst walking along. I expected some items to have more of an impact than others (notably the concrete floor, the paving stone, the wooden door, the scrap wood, the litter box casing and the metal sheet).
Whilst working on the individual pieces, it became rather apparent that my initial predictions were rather hit and miss. Some were accurate (the scrap wood, litter tray and metal sheet were what I would call a success), whilst others were rather disappointing (the paving, concrete flooring and wooden door opened my eyes – or rather fingers – to the fact that sometimes, just because a surface looks as though it has a lot of texture, does not mean it will transfer well in this method). I was also pleasantly surprised by the leaf, as I did not expect the result of this one to be anywhere near as good or as detailed as it was. It is my favourite by far and definitely something I would like to redo again.
Since I no longer had the leaf and the weather outside meant I wouldn’t be able to find any I could use soon enough, I chose to draw a leaf as though lying on the floor and then added a sky in the background. I decided to use the metal sheet for the leaf, the litter box for the ground and the concrete floor for the sky due to it having an appearance of clouds when used in pencil. I chose to use oil pastels as I thought it quite a contrast to the pencil and would provide a very different result. I decided to use a different colour for each section just to make clear the different parts and separate types of surfaces. The end result was quite juvenile in appearance and something I would actually be ashamed to say I did, so I was rather disappointed, but the process itself was rather fun and definitely a good experiment to try.
Finally, I decided to make a rubbing of my ceiling again, but this time in white oil pastel. I actually draw into the negative space (the parts which had remained brown) with a black oil pastel. I quite like this result too and think it looks a bit more ‘mature’. It reminds me of a maze with no exits and plenty of dead-ends, so this piece intrigues me more than the actual picture. Also, I think if I am struggling to work out how best to draw a surface’s textures, I will use this method and either incorporate it into my work or use the result as a guide when actually drawing the texture myself.
I would definitely like to revisit this method further down the line, especially with leaves and other natural surfaces, however, I would like to attempt it with something like charcoal or conté sticks, as I think these are still close enough to a pencil’s firmness, but have a much darker and bolder end result.
MoMA (unknown) ‘Max Ernst’ [online] At: https://www.moma.org/artists/1752 (Accessed on 15 February 2019)
Moderna Museet (unknown) ‘Collage, Frottage, Grattage…’ [online] At: https://www.modernamuseet.se/stockholm/en/exhibitions/max-ernst/collage-frottage-grattage/ (Accessed on 15 February 2019)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (unknown) ‘Max Ernst’ [online] At: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Max-Ernst (Accessed on 15 February 2019)