The Art Inquirer is your source of news for the artist and the Art appreciator
Established in 2008

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Scratchboard Art - International Show

Taking place at the Dean Jonhson Gallery in Indianapolis(IN), "Scratching The Surface" is the first known international show of scratchboard art.
The event will feature between 75 to 100 works of art from 25 world artists coming from USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
The president of Ampersand will be flying out to the show opening along with one of the original creators of ampersand scratchboard and author, Charles Ewing.
At the opening, featuring live music, there will be 12 artists attending and willing to answer to your curiosity about the medium.
"Sratching The Surface" will run from March 6th through March 26th and is sponsored by Ampersand Art and Heartland Printworks.

Scratchboard Art is still a not well known medium to the majority of the public.
To show its characteristics and possibilities to our readers, The Art Inquirer presents an interview with Cathy Sheeter, one of the artists present at the show.

Q :Scratchboard is a somewhat unforgiving medium, how important is a preliminary drawing and good draftsmanship? Tell us about your approach on this subject.

A. While good drawing skills are very important to scratchboard and you can not erase large areas or make major changes it is perhaps not as unforgiving as many people believe. If you make a small mistake you can re-ink an area with black ink and ‘start over’ in that area. Nevertheless I always do my initial drawings on regular paper first with pencil (where I can erase) and then transfer my drawings to the board with transfer paper. I prefer not to try and make major changes once I have the drawing on the board, though often do make minor changes.

Q: Besides the preferred tools that can be found on your website's tutorial, have you made up some using day by day objects ?

A. I do try out a lot of different tools, and am constantly experimenting. Things such as erasers, sandpaper, solvents, wire, needle, or anything that will take the ink off can be used for different effects. I keep a scrap board handy for trying things out to see how they will work before I try them on a piece of art. Sometimes they work just as I had hoped… other times, not so much! Also certain things seem to make it so that if you are going to re-ink or color that the color does not stick as well.

Q : What precautions should one take while working on scratchboard in order to avoid less positive results?

A. As pointed out before, a good preliminary drawing is very important, as major changes to proportions and composition are not possible. I map out value changes on my initial drawing. High contrast images are also the best to use. Creating images that are flat in value are really difficult to make look good. My favorite type of images to work from are high contrast photos with dramatic lighting and shadows.

Q : As this can be a time consuming medium, does it demand a lot of discipline and concentration from the artist?

A. It can be time consuming, but most artists actually find the repetitive scratching motion soothing. Also most scratch artists I talk to actually listen to the radio or ‘watch’ TV while scratching. Once you are familiar with the process it does not take as much concentration as you might guess and many artists can converse while working on artwork. I personally find that time goes by very quickly when I am working on my art.

Q: Do you think that artists working with pen and ink are half-way in terms of ability to work with this medium due to their used techniques and vice-versa?

A. Most artists that are comfortable working in a highly detailed style in other mediums take to scratchboard with ease, especially mediums that are drawn (rather than painted). I have noticed that artists that work in realism with either graphite pencil or pen and ink are very natural at scratchboard technique, as they are also familiar with seeing values.

Q : You mention on your website that you convert photos to black and white since that's usually the way that your art is represented. However for those wishing to colour their works, do you advise to do the same, namely to better distinguish values (darks and lights)?

A. Since in order to color black scratchboard you first have to scratch in your image, I do find that working from both black and white image initially and later a color image is quite useful. Often times you have to scratch lighter if you are going to color than if you were going to leave it black and white. If your values are correct with the initial scratching of black and white the color part is really easy! I always encourage people who are working in color (no matter what medium) to convert their finished work to black and white to see the values… often they are missing either the darkest darks or lightest lights (sometimes both!) and once those are added in they help the image look more 3-dimensional.

Q : In your tutorial you mention the fixative from Ampersand, but what other alternatives can you recommend besides glazing ?

A. At the present date Ampersand is not making their spray anymore, much to my sadness. In the US other brands that are safe to use on scratchboard work are Krylon and Golden. I have tried Krylon Kamar (which leaves a glossy finish), Krylon Matte, and Golden Satin. I really like the Golden brand, but it is somewhat harder to find in the US (though I have heard more available in Canada). Whatever spray you use usually requires four to eight layers to make it so that the ink on the board will not scratch easily. Once sprayed you will not be able to go back and add any more ink, color, or more scratching, so make sure you are really done! I am not sure about brands outside of the US so if you pick up something new I recommend trying it on a test board before spraying your art. Also all aerosol sprays should be sprayed in a well ventilated area and in temperatures above 70 degrees F (21 degrees C).

Q : How do you prefer to have your works framed ?

A. Because scratchboard tends to be very detailed I personally prefer simple black frames and slightly warm white matting so that all attention is on the artwork. Whether it is behind non-glare glass or sprayed with multiple coats of fixative and left without glass is personal choice. I would still prefer to have my work behind protection if it is going to be displayed in a high traffic area, but I think it looks best without anything between the art and viewer.

Q : Scratchboard is not a so well known medium although the sgraffito technique is centuries old, probably more. How has the public and galleries acknowledge of this technique been evolving in the last years and what do you foresee for the future?

A. I believe at this time that the general public finds scratchboard more fascinating than major collectors, but I also feel that realism is more appreciated by the general public than collectors. Overall I do feel that the medium is becoming more accepted and scratchboard works are appearing in more and more art shows. Some of my work has won top awards in art shows that were judged by museum curators, so to me that is encouraging! Some galleries do recognize scratchboard as a fine art form, others are still not as receptive. The majority of the public still does not know what it is or how it is done, but those of us that work in the medium continue to try and educate and spread the word! There are a few artists that are making a living off of their scratchboard work, but it is indeed a tough road with a non-traditional medium. I believe that this show, believed to be the first ever exclusive scratchboard show, is a great leap forward for the medium and I hope that we are able to hold more shows in the future as well.

Cathy Sheeter is an artist and photographer residing in Colorado.
Working mostly on scratchboard, her preferred theme is animal portraiture.
The artist's works have been recognized through several important art awards.

You may find several books about art, namely scratchboard, at the Hushcolours Bookstore.

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