Frequently Asked Questions | Third Edition | Scratchboard
Updated: Feb 23, 2021
Welcome to the Third Edition of the Frequently Asked Questions series where I answer, in greater depth, all of your burning questions about scratchboard and my wildlife artwork, specifically. Let's dive it!
#1 Where Do I Find the Extra Thin (or Mini) Fiberglass Brush?
My favorite tool is the small fiberglass brush. I use it for EVERY piece that I create. It is the most VERSATILE tool in my kit. The brush can be used to create soft and fluffy fur textures, smooth skin and the surfaces of hard, smooth objects, gritty textures with stippling, and precise, fine lines when used at the correct angle. I don't remember when or how I learned about this particular size of the tool - you can find a larger version in some art supply stores - but I am thankful that I did. It is a lifesaver and has allowed me to create a very distinct style with my scratchboard artwork.
As I've worked with a number of people to help them find the brush as well, I have learned (but not firsthand) that there is a version that is oiled...YOU DO NOT WANT AN OILED FIBERGLASS BRUSH. Oil is the enemy of scratchboards. So here is a link to the same fiberglass brush that I use and the refills that you will eventually need.
You can find the kit of Ampersand scratchboard tools, including the larger fiberglass brush that I use, but not as frequently, as well as several other of the more specialized tools.
#2 How Do You Do It?
What a broad question, right? I get this one thrown at me all the time. How do you create such realistic looking scratchboard wildlife artwork? How do you create the three-dimensional looking textures on a two-dimensional board? How do you do it?
I always chuckle a little to myself when I hear this question because, obviously, I can't answer that question in a satisfying way in just a few minutes. If the patrons at art festivals had about an hour, maybe, but they usually don't. I don't think I've ever come up with a satisfactory answer, other than 'Very Carefully' (because I think I'm clever), so here is my attempt to at least give a little insight into the answer.
First of all, I have had over 15 years of training in fundamental drawing techniques and experience with multiple mediums - drawing, painting, sculpture, photography. I spent years studying light and shadow, shape and form, textures and patterns...all of which you need to understand to create realistic and/or representational artwork. The biggest lesson that I learned in an art class was to 'draw what you see...not what you think you see'.
My first experience with the professional grade scratchboards was in 2014, so I've spent the last six years learning how to use it, experimenting with new tools, trying different techniques, and messing it up a lot. Scratchboard came very naturally to me because I am already very detail oriented and scratchboard is perfect for super detailed work. The process is very time-consuming and can feel a little tedious if you're not patient enough or in the right head-space.
I think scratchboard is so fun and so unlike most other mediums, but I also know that it is not for everyone. The strokes are fine, must be planned exactly, and executed precisely. You won't get it right the first time, or even the second time. It takes time to master, but is incredibly rewarding if you stick with it!
#3 Do You Use Reference Images?
Yes! If you're here on my blog, you undoubtedly have seen my work either online or in person. I create pieces of many different species, in many different poses, and it is detailed! Reference images are an amazing tool to help me get all of those details exactly right. The directions in which hair grows on an animals face, or the precise shape of their eyes, or how their joints change directions are all incredibly important to creating realistic artwork. I can't possibly keep all of that information in my head about five species, let alone 20 or more.
If you haven't spent time studying the hair growth patterns of your dog or cat, I encourage you do that. Notice how the hair changes directions around the eyes or curves in unexpected directions as it moves down the face. Cat hair makes no sense most of the time. BUT if you don't get these things right, the piece will look off - maybe not entirely wrong, but something will be off and you won't necessarily be able to pinpoint it. It will, however, affect how it is received by the viewer.
Fact: If I'm playing with your animal, no matter the species, I am 100% studying the hair on it's face and noticing where it switches directions and how it contours their skull. I can't even help it anymore.
#4 Where Can I Buy Scratchboard?
Unfortunately, unless you are in a major city (in the US, at least) you probably won't find it in your local art supply store. There is not a big demand for professional grade scratchboard so they don't keep it in stock. You will probably have to order it online.
I purchase my boards from Blick Art Supply, both in-store (in the Twin Cities) and online. You can also go directly to the Ampersand website to find if there is a retailer near you.
#5 Do You Teach Classes?
Not yet. I've been focusing most of my time on creating artwork to share and sell at art festivals and that takes a lot of my time. Now, in the midst of this global pandemic, I have had more time to explore different business ventures - including offering workshops and/or private lessons. I do not have anything set-up, but am considering it for the future. If you would be interested in attending an in-person scratchboard workshop or lesson, please let me know. I will continue to explore the option and narrow down exactly what to offer in a workshop that would be most beneficial.
Thanks so much for sticking with me! I hope this was helpful and answered some of your questions about scratchboard. If you missed the first two editions be sure to check those out too...
Find Your Joy!
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