Scratchboard and Watercolor Illustration Demo by Beth Krommes

With scratchboard and watercolor, Beth Krommes creates award-winning illustrations that evoke vintage wood carvings. The following is a free excerpt from the article “Scratching the Surface” by Louise B. Hafesh in the November 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

Winter's Night Pop-Up Advent Calendar by Beth Krommes | scratchboard watercolor demonstration wildlife illustrations

Winter’s Night Pop-Up Advent Calendar (scratchboard and watercolor, 12×12)

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Winter's Night Pop-Up Advent Calendar by Beth Krommes | scratchboard watercolor demonstration wildlife illustrations

1. Having traced my sketch onto the scratchboard, I scratch out some major areas of the picture—the edge of the squirrel’s tail, the texture on the tree branch and the beginning of the background landscape. My shovel knife tip is placed in a plastic penholder, and I hold it as I would a pencil.

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Winter's Night Pop-Up Advent Calendar by Beth Krommes | scratchboard watercolor demonstration wildlife illustrations

2. I work a little at a time on all areas of the picture. We’re all used to drawing black lines on a white piece of paper. It takes some mental effort to draw in the opposite way—white lines on a black surface. I leave plenty of black space at the top for the title.

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Winter's Night Pop-Up Advent Calendar by Beth Krommes | scratchboard watercolor demonstration wildlife illustrations

3. The drawing is becoming brighter and brighter as I draw the details of trees, buildings and animals. I’m thinking about balancing the tones throughout the picture, and I save the hardest bits, such as the faces, for last.

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Winter's Night Pop-Up Advent Calendar by Beth Krommes | scratchboard watercolor demonstration wildlife illustrations

4. After finishing the tricky parts, I go back and lighten several areas. I want to brighten the art as much as possible because adding watercolor darkens the picture considerably, especially in areas such as an animal’s fur. This is a detail of the final scratchboard drawing.

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Winter's Night Pop-Up Advent Calendar by Beth Krommes | scratchboard watercolor demonstration wildlife illustrations

5. I make several photocopies of the scratchboard drawing on inexpensive paper so I can test different color schemes. I also photocopy the drawing onto acid-free paper and then mount that paper onto an acid-free bristol board. Once I’m confident about my color choices, I complete the illustration by painting in watercolor on this surface. Here you see the actual cover (scratchboard and watercolor, 12×12) of Winter’s Night Pop-Up Advent Calendar (Chronicle Books, 2011).

Read the full story in the November 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.


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