Pine Beetle Rubbings



Last week I posted photos of Pine Beetle Art. In a nutshell, they are photos of tree trunks showing the paths taken by pine beetle grubs as they tunnel around under the tree bark – and slowly kill the trees. Oddball inspiration? Yes. But inspiration nonetheless.

Today, I have photos of Pine Beetle Rubbings. No, not rubbings made from actual beetles or pine beetle grubs. (That could get really gross!) Instead, I hauled Paintstiks and fabric out to a dead tree in the middle of the ranch and set up shop for a couple of hours

.[Tweet ” Capture nature’s destructive “art” with Paintstik rubbings on fabric.”]



Peeled Paintstiks and sticky spray, ready to go!

First things first. I peeled the film from the Paintstiks and sprayed the trunk of the tree with 404 sticky spray.

I was going to say that no one minds if you spray a dead tree, but that’s not quite what happened. A wasp hanging out under the tree bark minded quite a lot – and stung me on the thumb to show his displeasure!



Fabric “stuck” to tree with sticky spray

After making sure I had not parked myself over a wasp nest, I decided to proceed. To start, I simply picked one area of the tree trunk to make the initial rubbing.



The first sample of Pine Beetle Rubbings

I experimented on a small piece of fabric to figure out how to make the rubbings. I decided that I liked using one color for a base and adding a second layer as an accent.



Process step 1: Make the rubbing

It was difficult to get a clean rubbing with the Paintstiks, so I decided to see if I could smooth out the image a bit.



Process step 2: Smooth the paint with my fingers

I used a bit of paper towel at first, but gave up on that and simply used my hands. The paper towel left too much lint, and when you’re out in the middle of a ranch, you just make do!



Finger painting is fun!

Yes, my hands turned all sorts of color before I was done. But you know what? I’m happiest when I’m up to my elbows in paint. It’s all good!



A multi-color rubbing using iridescent red, watermelon, yellow, lime green, leaf green

I had a very limited supply of paints, so I did my best to choose color combinations that worked. (I certainly wasn’t planning for Pine Beetle Rubbings when I packed!)



A “brush rubbing” in iridescent turquoise and blue

After a couple of hours, my back was tired from bending over and my enthusiasm was dwindling. I did, however, think to make a “brush rubbing” using a stiff stencil brush. It’s a much softer look, but still quite interesting.



The dead tree with the amazing textures

I’m ever so grateful that I found this tree during one of my hikes…



The results of my afternoon experiment

… and I’m quite happy with the pieces of fabric I painted. I’ve made rubbings from lots of textured surfaces, but I may never have a better story than making Pine Beetle Rubbings!

[Tweet “When nature offers a fabulous texture, stop and make some art!”]


Your Turn

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever made rubbing from? Leave a comment below. I’m quite sure I’m not the only one making art from oddball encounters with textures!



  1. Patty Adams on October 13, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I love it! Thank you for sharing!

    • ShellyStokes on October 13, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Me too, Patty. It was fun. 🙂

  2. Debby on October 13, 2016 at 10:50 am

    I’ve made rubbings from headstones in a cemetery. Also man hole covers or water covers while in Europe, they have some interesting unusual designs.

    • ShellyStokes on October 13, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      There’s a good story about manhole covers, Debby. When we brought the Paintstiks to Houston the first time (way back in 2005), several adventurous quilters decided to make a rubbing from a manhole cover in the street outside the convention center. Let’s just say that the police officers directing traffic were not impressed… 😉

  3. Debbie on October 13, 2016 at 11:49 am

    I love the texture you’ve created.

    • ShellyStokes on October 13, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      Thanks, Debbie! I wasn’t so sure as I started, but the rubbings got better as I figured out how to work with the tree trunk. Always an adventure…

  4. Sheila Barnes on October 13, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    They are just fabulous! Proof positive that inspiration (and opportunity) can be found everywhere.

    • ShellyStokes on October 16, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      You’re right, Sheila. The possibilities are pretty much endless.

  5. Sue Szczotka on October 13, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    This has nothing to do with your pine beetle rubbings (which are really fun!) but with oxygen tanks. If you did not know, there are very small, portable oxygen concentrators about the size of a medium purse that run on rechargeable batteries. One of my clients had one of these and it improved her mobility greatly. I know the small tanks are very expensive unless you refill them and they can run out at inconvenient times. A concentrator works continuously as long as it has power. It may be done of my business, but I wanted to be sure that you knew about his possibility to make your husband’s life even more “portable”.

    • ShellyStokes on October 16, 2016 at 1:47 pm

      You’re so right, Sue. The portable units are great if they are sufficient for the patient. When Jack got started on O2 last year, the portable just didn’t cut it. We may try again now that he is in better shape, but the tanks are simply a better option for some folks. But thanks for chiming in with the info. I appreciate it!

  6. Becky A on October 13, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Very cool. Gorgeous, Shelly. Love the texture you’ve captured from our amazing natural resources. Hope to see them some day.

    • ShellyStokes on October 16, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks, Becky. How about at our meeting in a couple of weeks?

  7. Nadine on October 14, 2016 at 8:59 am

    The rubbings are beautiful – I will never took at a fallen tree the same again!

    • ShellyStokes on October 16, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      I am right there with you, Nadine. Had I not noticed the “carvings” when I sat down to catch my breath, I don’t expect they ever would have caught my eye. I’m usually moving too fast — or lost in the busy-ness of my brain — to see things like this.

  8. Merrie Woodward on October 15, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    What a great inspiration for using what is around us in nature to make some truly unique pieces of fabric. Well done!

    • ShellyStokes on October 16, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks, Merrie!

  9. Leanne on October 20, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Absolutely gorgeous! You have always seen the possibility in everything! Glad Jack’s doing so well! In your picture he looks great! Tell him ‘hi’ from me. =)

    • ShellyStokes on October 26, 2016 at 11:23 am

      I’ll do that, Leanne. It’s great to hear from you!