Scratchboard. What a fun medium! This art form isn’t seen as much as it used to be, but once in a while I get in the mood to create something with it. It’s always a treat when a student asks for a scratchboard demo, so s/he can learn the technique. It feels like an old friend.
Creating scratchboard art is similar to the methods used for pen and ink. With pen and ink, you apply black ink to white paper, using a variety of dots, strokes and hatching. With scratchboard, you use a white board that’s covered with black ink and use a small scratch tool or knife to etch into it, revealing the white. It’s like like drawing in reverse.
How many of you remember creating similar works of art using crayons as a child? First, we covered a piece of paper with an application of different colors. Then, we would cover up all those colors with a heavier application of pure black. I remember using a toothpick or straight pin to scratch through the black, revealing wild designs. Obviously, many of my favorite art techniques started way back when I was a child. Today, I love passing them down. The example shown here is a demonstration I did for my grandkids, for I think it’s important that they learn art the way I did: hands on! I’m pretty sure my granddaughter, Cayla, is going to follow in my artistic footsteps, so I expose her to as many art techniques as I possibly can. Being a mentor is a wonderful feeling, and I’m sure I will leave quite a legacy.
Now that I’m a professional artist, I have upgraded my tools and supplies. My scratchboard of choice is now Claybord by Ampersand. This is by far the best-quality scratchboard that has ever been made. It’s a durable board made out of masonite. It’s covered with a fine layer of a clay-like substance, and then coated with black india ink. The clay coating under the ink makes the scratching smooth and delicate. I like to use a small, retractable pen knife (such as Excaliber by X-Acto) for the scratching techniques. The raccoon image shows how you can create small and thin the lines with this product. I used quick strokes to make the lines taper at the ends. To create the gray areas around the muzzle and top of the head, I used dotting, or stippling. With scratchboard, the amount of scratches or dots removed creates your gray tones. The bottom line is, fewer scratches = darker areas. More scratches equals a lighter look. Create bright white by completely removing the ink.
This tiger example is from on of my students. It’s her first piece–she had never even heard of scratchboard until she came into my studio. As you can see, she did a great job of creating the various shades of gray and bright white. They look fabulous agains the stark black background.
While you can really create anything on scratchboard, I like to create things that are high in contrast. Animals such as zebras, tigers and other cats make great subjects. Portraits are fun, too, if they have a good sense of lighting and high key contrast.
That said, scratchboard isn’t always black. You can purchase a white board, and ink in an area yourself. This gives you a white background, instead of black. There are products that have copper, silver and gold underneath as well. The drawing of the crystal decanter is actually on silver, but it’s hard to see that in the photo. In real life, it gives this piece a unique, shiny appearance.
Stay tuned … in a future blog post, I’ll show you how to add color to your scratchboard.
Have a creative week!
Edited by Cherie Haas, online editor of ArtistsNetwork.com
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!
• Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond