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  • Joan

I Still Stink at Scratchboard

In college art class, we were given multiple assignments using scratchboard. Back then, when printing in color was so expensive, black & white scratchboard was a good illustration method for reproducing crisp lines. The canvas is a white substance (usually clay) covered with a thin black coating. Artists use various sharp tools to scratch away the black surface and reveal the white underneath. When done right, the results can be breathtaking. I have always admired the clean lines and scenes that emerge from the dark. But my attempts in college always looked messy and not cohesive.

I have a wonderful ex-boss, David Funk (founder of marketing firms Funk & Associates – when I worked for him – and currently bell+funk), who is amazing with pen and ink. His illustrated journals are a treasure, and his sharp, illustrated humor in those journals kept us laughing during staff meetings. I have not seen his scratchboard art, but I imagine it is also quite good. A few weeks ago, he reached out and suggested that I try scratchboard and said that he had some extra supplies he could send my way. Years have passed since college, and I’m now more artistically practiced and patient, so I thought this was a great idea.

Last Monday, my Art Play Day partner, Melissa, and I met to take on scratchboard. I decided to work from a reference photo I had taken above Wallowa Lake at BC Falls. I imagined sparkling water emerging from the dark rocks (see example above). After preparing my sketch that I then transferred onto the scratchboard, I was truly excited to start.

I made attempts at two different sizes, even coming back in with black ink to help when my scratching got away from me. Nothing was coming together. I could not hold on to the dark areas even though I had also done a value sketch (not shown). I was growing frustrated, but I think I spent more time laughing ... while Melissa happily worked on her stylized and lovely rising phoenix.

All joking aside, I realize that starting out with a simpler design and with more practice, I could improve. However, during this artistic journey, just as important to me as finding what excites me is to find what doesn't; then contently moving on.

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