Chevy - Latest Portrait Commission

Friday, May 09, 2008

ink on scratchboard portrait of Chevy by Ann Ranlett
I just delivered this portrait of Chevy the golden retriever yesterday. I did it in ink on scratchboard (Paris brand, white) and it's 8" x 10". I scanned it a few times during the process to try to show how I work on this type of portrait. There's a lot of detail on this portrait, unfortunately, it won't show all that well here, but I think you'll get the idea.

I took many, many photos of Chevy and then chose 4 or 5 of my favorites and e-mailed those to Chevy's owners. They chose their favorite photo from that set and I sized and cropped it as shown below. I also created a greyscale version for tonal reference.

photo of Chevy by Ann Ranlett
greyscale version of the same photo
This image shows "phase one" or the inking phase. I've already transferred the image to the scratchboard (using transfer paper) - being careful to block in the pertinent details and tonal areas. I look for my darkest darks, mediums and lightest lights. I use a rapidograph pen with India ink to put in the areas that I want black - parts of the eyes, nose, & mouth. I'll also do some stippling (dot pattern in some of the really dark, but not solid black areas). Then, in a plastic palette, I mix 3 shades of India ink wash (India ink and water): dark, medium and light. I use a paintbrush to lay in those areas. This gives me a "road map" for the next stages of the drawing. I think of this process as refining and defining the road map as I go along.
Phase one of Chevy's portrait - inked
The ink wash is pretty streaky, but that's ok, I'll soften all that up with the next step: scratching with an X-acto knife. The image below is a close up of the image above.
close up of above image

Here I've gone over the whole portrait with a #16 X-acto knife. The #16 has a more angled tip than the standard #10 - less likely to gouge the surface. Hmmm, maybe it's a "less angled" tip, well, it's sharp but not quite as "pointy" as the #10 - that's what I'm getting at. I don't scratch in every single hair, but I do define the fur texture and direction at this stage. Scratching also softens the transitions between tones. The fur ends up a lot lighter and I think you can see how the effect is softer than the image above this one. Having darks or mediums "under" the lights is critical - that's how I define the layers and depth. There has to be a darker tone to scratch into in order to show a wisp of hair.

entire portrait scratched

Now I've gone back over the portrait and re-inked it, again using washes of India ink (dark, medium, light and very light). The cool thing is that now this new layer of ink fills in the scratches made previously and adds another layer of texture and tone.

portrait re-inked
It's still a bit streaky, but better blended than when I put that first layer of ink down on the unscratched surface. You can also see the detail starting to show up - especially in his ear and mouth.


In the final stages, I scratch to soften the transitions and blend areas together and add ink where needed to pull the whole thing together. This also where I define those last little bits, like the extension of his eyelashes, whiskers/hairs around his mouth and tidy up the highlight in the eye. I'll also use a bit of graphite pencil to define the tips of the hairs and fill in small areas - just a line here and a line there. Here's a close up of the final portrait.
close-up of finished portrait


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

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