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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