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Scratchboard PROCESS | Start to Finish

Today, I want to share with you a little bit more about the actual PROCESS of starting, working on, and completing a scratchboard piece. I'm frequently asked how I do these pieces, but have never shared an in-depth explanation. SO here it is...Start to Finish!

Step one is deciding what reference image to use (this part really is more difficult than you'd think, even with a whole library to chose from!)

Step two is determining the best size board to use for the I want it to be large or small (composition oriented vs detail oriented), square or rectangle...

*I use Ampersand Museum Series Panel scratchbords made with white kaolin clay coated with black india ink on masonite board.

Step three is drawing the basic outline of the animal (in most cases) on the board. This is, in my opinion, the most important part of the scratching process. WHY? This is the time to place the most important features (eyes, mouth, nose, ears, etc) and it is much easier moving forward if you get it right in this step. They can be adjusted once scratching has begun, but it's always easier when adjustments can be avoided. I also focus on laying down the basic shapes and values at this point - they are the guidelines for the scratching later.

*I use a graphite pencil and freehand draw the image on the board. Other scratchboard artists, however, may use white chalk or white carbon paper to trace the image onto the board. It is all a matter of preference and level of comfort with drawing freehand.

Step four is making the first scratch! I pretty exclusively start with the LEFT EYE of a subject. The eye makes a great point from which I can build the scratching around and out from, usually finishing the detail to the left of the eye and then moving up, around, and to the right...then down.

Step five - I work outward from the eye by first putting in the brightest highlights in the image (or particular section of the image) that will be used as reference points moving forward.

Step six - I continue to work on the section by putting in the middle tones (greys).

Step seven - Once the first layer of scratching is placed, I will then go back in and adjust areas that are 'off' from the reference image, need more dimension, or need more detailed work applied. Often times, this means I switch tools to create different textures or go back in with an ink wash to push the whites back (to grey) and re-scratch.

*In the Aplaca piece above, I started with a small fiberglass brush to put in all the initial details and then switched to an x-acto blade that allowed me to make fine adjustments to the greys. I then also placed contrasting lines and stray hairs that required a fine tool to achieve.

Step eight - Once steps five through seven are completed in all sections of the board, I then do an overall survey of the piece to make sure everything is coherent and balanced. Further adjustments may be made at this point - this is often where I notice if features are unbalanced or uneven.

Step nine is signing the board (back and front), with either an x-acto blade or india ink pen.

Step ten is crucial for ensuring the life of the piece...spraying the fixative, which provides a protective finish that seals the piece from dirt, dust, and moisture and helps protect against scratches and UV damage.

*I use Golden Varnishes brand Archival Varnish Mineral Spirit Acrylic Aerosol w/UVLS - matte finish.

Start to finish....there you have it!!

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