Artist, Designer, Traveler, Writer, Photographer

Threads-Embossing, Sgrafitto, and Frottage

My definitions of drawing began to expand as I experimented with using thread as subject and medium. Among the methods I used, some were in my “repertoire” for years and now were put to new possibilities.


The surface of paper is really what these investigations were all about. Not only was I interested in what image could be made by applying a tool or medium to the surface- pencil, pastel,  crayon-I also wanted to work with the intrinsic nature and characteristics of the paper. I used frottage or rubbing, a simple idea that could make the invisible visible by carefully rubbing a colored pencil, in my case, Prismacolor, onto the paper as I searched to find the thread beneath the paper, actually feeling the fine thread beneath and rubbing along the length of it. Sometimes with a single color, sometimes several. Varying the pressure. Moving the thread to create a composition.

 Frottage , or rubbing is similar to brass rubbing or tombstone rubbing. An image is obtained by placing paper over a surface with a relief and then using a crayon or pencil to rub the surface, revealing what is underneath. This technique is used in many cultures to record not only tombstones but many types of relief surfaces of metal or carved stone, for example.

By using paper that is the right weight and strength, very delicate and sensitive images can be captured, including single strands of thread as I have done in this work.

Frottage Suite-One 2002

Colored pencil on paper with frottage and erasing    2002   11.5 x 8 inches       


Another way to create linear imagery is by erasing an already present color or image. In PAGES II (RED)  2002 I combined erasing with embossing into the paper to use a reductive method as well as the actual tactile surface of the paper by pressing into it. The indented lines remain white as the colored pencil is worked on the paper’s surface. Minimal but strong impressions of threads are done with frottage.

PAGES II (RED)  2002   Colored pencil on paper, with embossing, erasing, frottage    20 x 20 inches

Reverse Embossing

Again, finding ways to work with the surface of the paper, its structural potential as part of the process of making imagery, I noticed that if I flipped over a sheet used to press into the surface, I could use the raised quality of the surface as well by lightly using the pencil over the surface.

WEB DRAWING V  2004  Color pencil, ballpoint on reverse, frottage, on lined notebook paper  8.25 x 14 inches



 “Incised” is the result of a spontaneous meeting of paint and paper. A brush end served to “incise” into the fresh splash of paint. The motif developed from the triangular “thread-stitch” in the textile work where thread was used as drawing. This method is also known as “sgrafitto” from the Italian word “sgrafirre”, to scratch. Using this method, a layer of paint or clay or other material is scratched with a tool to reveal a layer beneath. (Ceramic artists also often use this method.)


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One response

  1. Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

    July 16, 2020 at 9:30 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s