Thoughts on Learning Scratchboard

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

This is an easy post to make, since I had already written it for our Scratchboard Artists' group on Facebook. The group is a great one, full of inspiration and advice. If you have any interest in scratchboard, as an artist or an admirer, please check it out. Scratchers of all skill levels post work in there and I was recently pondering some of the beginner's works.

Thoughts from the shower, where I get some good contemplatin’ done. . .

It’s not about the scratching, it’s about the drawing!

Allow me to generalize a bit, this is based on my own observations: Those that seem to come naturally to scratchboard have most likely already gained experience with drawing in other mediums. Having a previous understanding of how to render tone, contrast & texture helps immensely with scratchboard.

Scratchboard is unique in that it’s not a medium that is commonly taught or accessible to artists (of course, we’re all trying to change that). There are plenty of opportunities for aspiring artists to learn watercolor, oil, acrylic, pencil, pen & ink . . . and build skills.

For those who choose scratchboard as an entry to art, or may not have much experience in other mediums, you’re learning to draw at the same time you're learning the scratching techniques.

Think about *drawing* with your knife, not just scratching. Look at the surface of your subject. Is it smooth or textured? Look at the contours, how do they define the structure and in what direction do they go? Find the different tones: light (white), medium, dark (black), and the continuum in between. How do different types of scratches (long, short, stippled, feathered, hatched, soft, heavy, wide, thin) help you render these components? Make judgement calls, use your artistic license, create your own composition from your reference photo. Leave things out that don't make sense, make your own contrasts where needed.

Figuring all this out comes from practice, learning to see, and the wonderful advice that so many of our members (in the Facebook group mentioned above) are happy to give.

Remember too, that it’s all an illusion. We’re not creating dogs, cats, buildings, etc. We’re making the right kind of scratches on a board that resemble these things. It’s our interpretation of what we see in our reference photo.

The last paragraph comes from an earlier "light bulb moment" regarding the illusion that you can read about in this post.


New Exhibition for "Sleeping Patterns"

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I'm thrilled and honored to announce that "Sleeping Patterns", my scratchboard drawing of a pair of Sumatran Tigers, has been accepted in the Society of Animal Artists' 56th Annual Exhibition. The Exhibition runs September 23, 2016 through January 1, 2017 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. After the Exhibition ends in Houston, there will be a touring exhibition of select works. It's a possibility that these tigers could do some traveling.

Read more about the process and see in-progress stages in this blog post I wrote just after completing the drawing.

 Click here to see a "zoomable" version of the drawing.


My "New" Shop

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Over the years, I've had a number of on-line sales venues & shops, including eBay, Etsy, Bonanza, Fine Art America, Zazzle, and CafePress. Earlier this year, I decided to take the plunge and create my own shop with Shopify. With this set-up, I can consolidate all my merchandise into one location, and include links to my print on demand shops on Fine Art America, Zazzle, and CafePress. Shopify uses the WordPress platform, so it's familiar to me and easy to navigate.

I still have plenty of art & merchandise to add, but I've made a decent start. Shopify just introduced the "Buy Now" button, which is a nice option to add available art on my website or blog. See the example below with my latest mini scratchboard.

I also list all currently available originals in an album on my Facebook business page. If an original is in my shop, there will be a link along with the image.


K9 Ronin

Monday, September 14, 2015

Quite a bit more has happened since my last post, and I was lamenting to my Facebook friends how I haven't been keeping up with my blog. It's time consuming, but I really enjoy posting. So I headed over here to take care of some business!

I'll limit this post to the story surrounding this drawing of Ronin, a handsome and impressive K9 with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department K9 Division.

I had wanted to create a drawing of a working K9 for quite some time and the ball started rolling at the 2014 Kaleo Fun Run, a fundraising event. K9 Ronin was there with his handler for a meet & greet with the public. I was able to take some great photos of Ronin, and this one became the reference for the drawing. It was exactly what I had in mind.

I'll post some of the in-progress images here, but there are more that you can see in this Facebook album, along with explanations of the various steps. My concept for this drawing was to add color to Ronin only. Because I knew I could get the dog right in this drawing (since animals are my subjects of choice), I worked on the car first. I didn't want to put all the work into the dog and then not have the car & concept work out the way I wanted. When I was happy with the way the car turned out, I went to work on Ronin. The only "color" on the car is where I took a grey art marker to knock back the lines at the edges of the car and the lettering on the door panel. I used my go-to #16 X-Acto blade for everything except in a few places (the STAY AWAY lettering and a few other parts of the car), where I used a tattoo needle to knock things back a bit.

The "all scratched" stage, ready for color on Ronin

This is a detail of the section under the dog's feet. That area took a long time to do. It's a process of scratching, re-inking with stipples & scribbles, re-scratching, re-stippling, etc., until I achieve the smooth transition that I want. A section of fur that size would take less time to do. There's not much need for re-working, if I get the fur right on the first pass, with some refining, that's it!

For a "zoomable" version of the finished drawing, click here.

When the drawing was finished, I contacted Ronin's handler to give him a print. I found out he had been promoted and Ronin has a new handler, so the two of them worked things out so I could meet them, Ronin, and nearly the entire K9 Division. It was a great experience and an honor. Ronin's former handler was presented with a shadowbox commemorating his time with the division and I presented him with the print of the drawing. It was a fantastic way to spend a few hours, and they brought out many of the dogs for me to photograph. You can see some of those photos in this Facebook album.

Me with Sergeant Gregory, Ronin's former handler

Me with Ronin

And finally, I sent this drawing to the International Society of Scratchboard Artists' 4th Annual Juried Exhibition  in Frederick, MD in July and am thrilled to announce that it received an Award of Excellence in the Open division. It didn't sell there, so it's back here in my studio where it will be on display for our annual Newcastle Art Studios Tour in October.


"Jackpot!" - Tufted Titmouse Drawing

Monday, April 13, 2015

Plenty of artsy things have happened since my last post (long ago in November!), but for now, I'll share a drawing I finished earlier today. This is one of the two scratchboard drawings I've submitted to the International Society of Scratchboard Artists' 2015 exhibition. I'll find out next month if my entries are accepted. Update: the drawing was accepted and has since traveled to Frederick MD and back.

This 5" x 7" illustration of a Tufted Titmouse is titled "Jackpot!" I ran across the reference photo in a Facebook group: The Great Backyard Bird Count, where members post their photos. It's not that I don't have plenty of my own reference photos, but this particular photo really caught my eye - the bird on the jar with a mealworm made for a great composition. I also knew the jar would be an interesting subject to scratch. The photographer, Heather Sinon, graciously allowed me to use her photo. Heather feeds birds at her place in CT and sets out jars of mealworms for them. The birder in me feels compelled to point out that we have a Titmouse species here in CA, but not the Tufted, ours is the Oak Titmouse.

I scanned the drawing a couple of times during the process, below are those scans, along with Heather's photo (I cropped the background out), and 3 details of the final drawing.

This is the "all scratched" version, just before I added color.

Roughly 3X actual size

Roughly 3X actual size

Roughly 2.5X actual size


Sandhill Cranes

Monday, November 10, 2014

This weekend was the annual Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival - a celebration of the annual return of the impressive and beautiful Cranes to Lodi and other areas of the central valley of California for the winter. An art show is part of the Festival and I entered 3 pieces this year, 2 photos and a scratchboard drawing. I'm happy to report that the drawing won a 3rd place in the Fine Art - Crane division and it also sold! I didn't scan many stages in the process of this drawing, but what I did scan is shown below. "Grassland Grace" is 5" x 5", colored with ink. I will eventually make prints on metal of this drawing, but I have to do a thorough job of cleaning up the scan before that happens.

While in Lodi, I took a couple of trips to the Woodbridge Ecological Preserve, which is about 20 minutes away from the center where the Festival is held. The cranes were plentiful and I took some photos and video.

- - - All art and images ©Ann Ranlett, unless otherwise credited. All rights reserved. - - -

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