How to Use Rubbings in Your Art Journals

There are many ways to use rubbings.  Play!  Let your ingenuity run wild!

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Rubbings can illustrate your journal — do rubbings of everything as you travel. Try rubbing:

  • Brass plaques and historical markers
  • texturing on benches
  • braille plaques in many public buildings
  • chair backs
  • cobblestones
  • coins and tokens
  • doorknobs and related hardware–remember to rub your hotel room key if it’s not a card
  • floor or sidewalk art – particularly brass art/plaques embedded in some airport walls and floors
  • interesting wall texturing–created to reduce noise–in subways and other public settings
  • numbers on houses/buildings
  • part of a drain cover (manhole cover)
  • raised designs on walls
  • seat number tags, if you go to the theatre, ballet or opera
  • and, textured wallpaper, ceilings, and door & window trim.

Many food packages have an embossed quality, especially tins.

With very thin paper and soft pastels, you can do a rubbing of the texture that remains in the sand after the tide goes out. Using different colors, you can overlap the wavy lines by moving the paper.

(The paper will be fragile when it’s wet, so handle very carefully. If the sand is moist, you can put plastic wrap or a cheap plastic poncho between the sand and your paper.)

You can use them for text. Get a Dymo (raised letters imprinted on tape) label tool (less than $10 at Wal-Mart, in the stationery section) and print words on the tape. Use them for rubbings. (Save them–mounted on dominoes or other small, flat surfaces–to use again later, or to share in a class.)

If a rubbing would be backwards–for example, if you do a rubbing of a rubber stamp–you can rub with a very dark color on tracing vellum, and then display it “upside down” (looking through the vellum) with a white or very light background as contrast for the rubbing.

Small rubbings, particularly of three-dimensional art, can be ideal for use in shrines.

You can scan your rubbings and manipulate them, adding more images with your computer graphics program. On the right in the example above, I placed Edgar Allen Poe’s face over a gravestone ornament rubbing.

Or, you could put a rubbing of an historical marker in the center of a collage with photos from that site.

The ways that you use rubbings are limited only by your ingenuity. Try rubbings today, and see what great ideas you discover!

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