Scratchboard Power Point

Friday, March 16, 2018

In late 2016, I put together a Power Point presentation for a talk I was going to give about scratchboard. The talk never happened, but I thought the PP turned out pretty well, so I've been pondering making it available. As is often the case, it took a while to get around to it, and then I was challenged by the process of converting the PP to video. Normally not too complicated, but this PP had video clips in it that caused some headache and frustration. In the end, I was victorious and I think the video turned out ok. Take a look on my YouTube channel. Click on this link or either image below: https://youtu.be/mVjM0laXXsk


https://youtu.be/mVjM0laXXsk

https://youtu.be/mVjM0laXXsk




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Typical Conversations . . .

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Interesting that my last blog post was about the Loomis Loop event and I'm finally getting around to blogging the thoughts that ran through my head after wrapping up that weekend.  I'm grateful now that I typed up all those thoughts way back when . . .  I'm able to copy/paste, edit a little, add some  photos (which I had already noted when I initially put this all together) and, zip, zoom, done! Ok, not exactly that fast, but certainly quicker than if I'd had to write this entire thing from scratch.

My Display at the 2017 Loomis Loop
The poster in the upper left corner shows drawings in progress, with my hand holding a knife. You'll see a larger version of the poster as you read along.

I regularly participate in Open Studio events, and often an Art Walk or other event where I show my scratchboard drawings. I also have art on display at a co-op gallery (Auburn Old Town Gallery), where I work two shifts a month and often pop in.

As a scratchboard artist, I find that I spend at least two-thirds of my talking time at any venue explaining what scratchboard is. Because it's an uncommon medium, very few people (including some artists) have no idea what it is. For artists working in other media (i.e. oil, watercolor, acrylic), the public is familiar with the media, so the artist can explain their personal techniques, favorite tools, inspiration, etc.; for me, I have to explain the basics.

When someone steps into my show booth, or sees my art on the wall, the conversations typically include the following in some combination:

Me: "This is my work. The framed pieces are original drawings, the shiny ones are reproductions on metal."

Visitor: "Scratchboard? What's that?" or "Wait, the "originals". . .?" or "Those aren't photos?" or "How do you etch on the metal?"

Me: "They're original drawings on scratchboard, a specially prepared board. We scratch it with a knife." "I don't etch the metal, those are reproductions (prints) of my scratchboards, I have them made on metal instead of paper."

Visitor: "Oh, they look like photos." or "Wow, you drew that?"

Me: "They're scratchboard drawings, drawn with a knife." "Yes."

Visitor: "Scratchboard . . . I've never heard of it."

Me: "Most people haven't. That's why we formed a Society in 2011 to promote scratchboard as a fine art. We have an amazing annual show of nothing but scratchboard and the artists get together and geek out over scratchboard."

Visitor: "How do you get the color on there?"

Me: "I paint it on, after the scratching. The white areas are the clay that accepts the color. I use either watercolor or colored ink."

Visitor: "How long does a drawing take?"

Me: "At least 10 hours on a 5 x 7. But every drawing is different. It depends on the subject matter, how much of the board is covered with scratching, the textures that need to be rendered..."

"K9 Ronin"
As a point of reference, the pad under Ronin's feet took almost as much time as the dog did. Smooth surfaces take longer to draw than textured surfaces, such as hair and fur.

Visitor: "So, it's kinda like etching."

Me: "It's similar. Except a scratchboard is the final drawing, it doesn't have to be inked and printed on paper." (Technically, it's more like engraving, but if someone offers up "etching", I give them credit for making a reasonable connection and move on.)

Me: "Here, let me show you, I have a drawing in progress  . . ."

Visitor, after watching me scratch a little bit: "Wow, that's amazing" and often, "That's tedious."

Me: "Thank you." "I enjoy it, I have a degree in biology. I love animals and detail. It's actually very Zen. I sit on the couch to draw, with my dog next to me and the tv on."

I could go on with variations of the discussion, and I've probably missed a few things. . . but you get the idea.

Many visitors recall the elementary school art project of putting crayon on paper, covering that with black ink and then scratching. Fewer recall using the thin pre-made scratch paper or card-stock weight scratchboards in high school or college. I recall all of these methods. When those with the crayon/ink experience say, "I remember doing something like that in school", I reply, "It's similar to that, but this is the grown up, fine art version". Others wonder how I know where to scratch to get the color. And once, someone thought I was working on a "kit" project that had an image underneath, and I was simply scratching away the top layer to reveal it.

Note that I have a sign and poster whenever I have a booth set-up, but most people still can't wrap their head around the process without a verbal explanation/demo.


My standard phrase to explain the basic concept has long been: "I draw white with a knife." Recently, I added "It's not about the scratching, it's about the drawing." to my bag of verbal tricks. A knife is my tool, the board is my substrate. This is no different than other 2D art forms, it's just a lot less common. Here are some thoughts in this vein, from an earlier post.

One final thought, and it's a personal hackle-raiser: while I take the comment in the spirit it's intended (as a compliment), I'll admit that I'm annoyed by the frequently uttered phrase: "they look like photos". My scratchboard drawings do not really look like photos, they're my interpretation of a photo, and if folks took the time to look, they'd see that. I crop and scale and adjust the contrast on my reference photos, to create the version I want for a drawing. There's generally a good deal of work before I even put the first scratch on the board. For example, this is a drawing of a plate of burritos, with one of the greyscale versions of the reference photo, cropped from a larger photo. I used a second greyscale photo that was lighter than this one, along with the color version to work out the composition and the tones I needed to come up with my vision for this piece. Click here to learn more about this drawing, "Cathy's Burrito Bouquet".

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Loomis Art Loop - Open Studios Tour - May 13th & 14th

Sunday, April 30, 2017



If you're going to be near Loomis CA on Mother's Day weekend (May 13th & 14th), please stop by!

The Loop is free, click on the map image below to go to the tour web site and download a printable map.

Visit 17 artists in 6 locations. All locations are within 10 minutes of each other, an easy drive and a great way to spend a day or the weekend! Hours are 10 am - 5 pm each day.

I'll be at the Horton Iris Garden with Doug Horton, Paula Amerine & Janet Paehlig (numbers 4 - 7 on the map). I'll have original scratchboard drawings and reproductions as prints & note cards; a few photos too. Also see scratchboard drawings in progress; I'll explain my process.

"No Tricks", mixed media on Claybord, will debut at the Loop

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"Safety" Wins Silver

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I'm very grateful to Avril Thomas, the judge for the Master's Division of the 6th Annual International Society of Scratchboard Artists' Exhibition in South Australia. She chose "Safety" to receive the "Silver Award" (Second Place). I'm also grateful to the buyer of "Safety" who purchased it during the Exhibition. The drawing will remain in Australia. I have to admit, I fully expected the drawing to come home, so I didn't really get a chance to say goodbye. I create my work with the intention of selling it, but it can still be a little bit sad when a piece goes off to a new home.

To learn more about this drawing, please click on the image to go to my web site.

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Plenty Has Happened . . .

Sunday, November 20, 2016

. . . since my last blog post . . . but the most exciting news is that I'm now a Master member (MSA) of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists (ISSA)! It’s an incredible honor to be recognized for my achievements in scratchboard and my dedication to this medium that I love so much! For more information, please read my press release.

In other news (old news), a quick recap: lots of scratching, a 3-artist collaborative art show with my friend & brother, an open studio tour, a booth at the City of Trees Art & Ink Expo, regular postings on my Instagram, and a scratchboard workshop (2 more scheduled for 2017).

. . . and new news:



Tell Me More About 'Sheep' will be in the new "Art Journey Animals" book due out soon. This is North Light's compilation book featuring animal art, and it can be pre-ordered now. Expected in-stock date is 12-15-16.  



Safety will be on its way to Australia in January for our 6th annual ISSA Exhibition

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

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