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Scratching the Floor | Artists Community

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As soon as wildlife artist Shalese Sands tried her hand at scratchboard utilizing the fitting supplies, she shortly found there was no restrict to the extent of element she might obtain.

When Shalese Sands first experimented with scratchboard in a highschool artwork class, she was intrigued however unimpressed. She used an X-Acto knife and nibs to mark right into a layer of black ink utilized over shiny cardstock paper, eradicating the ink to disclose lighter traces and areas. “You possibly can solely go to date earlier than you begin scratching the paper itself,” she says. “It’s restricted what you are able to do with supplies of that high quality.” Quick ahead to 2013, when the artist was reintroduced to the medium in an internet artist discussion board. The meticulously made scratchboard artwork being posted caught her consideration. She discovered that almost all of these artists had been utilizing a scratchboard floor by Ampersand—very skinny, 1⁄8-inch-thick onerous boards coated with a skinny layer of kaolin clay. “That’s the white we see within the ultimate picture; it’s principally like porcelain,” she says. “The black layer over that’s India ink.” Sands determined to buy a number of boards to check out and was hooked straight away. “It cuts like butter, and the element I might obtain was superior,” she says. “There’s no paper to scratch via beneath.” Getting the fitting supplies was a recreation changer.

Lunch on the Go by Shalese Sands (scratchboard, 9×12)

Instruments of the Commerce

Sands has completed work and drawings of wildlife utilizing extra conventional media, however she has been capable of obtain a better degree of realism in her scratchboard work.

When engaged on scratchboard, there are a number of totally different instruments one can use to carry ink, together with fiberglass brushes, tattoo needles and craft knives, however Sands works nearly completely with an X-Acto knife. “I’ve tried many instruments however I’ve saved coming again to it,” she says. “I actually like that I can get all of the textures I want, and I’ve discovered the right way to use it to get all the results that I would like.” Sands observes {that a} No. 11 X-Acto blade appears to be the popular instrument for many scratchboard artists.

When it comes to the blade, the artist had been utilizing metallic ones nearly completely earlier than not too long ago investing in ceramic blades, which don’t put on out almost as shortly because the metallic blades. Whereas she would possibly sometimes undergo 4 metallic blades to finish a single work, the identical variety of ceramic blades would possibly final her a whole yr.

One other profit to a ceramic blade is that it has much less “bounce” and a sturdiness that lends itself to Sands’ strategy of utilizing simply the tip of the blade to carry ink from the board. “After I’m attempting to pick a tiny space, if the blade bounces and flings itself a bit too far, it could possibly mess up an space I’m attempting to deal with delicately,” she says. “A ceramic blade provides you extra management—and I’m very a lot a management freak.” Sometimes she’ll use a curved scalpel to extra effectively take away bigger sections of ink when she needs extra white to indicate.

Deciding on a Varnish

Ending her accomplished scratchboards with spray-on varnish is a vital step that protects the delicate floor from unintentional marks as soon as a bit of scratchwork is completed, nevertheless it’s additionally a degree of stress. “Varnishing is the bane of all scratchboard artists,” Sands says. “When it goes properly, it appears to be like nice, however when it doesn’t, all your work and energy could be ruined.”

The selection of end is a vital one. “Matte is problematic as a result of there’s a excessive likelihood of it making a cloudy look that’s onerous to do away with,” Sands says. “Shiny is a bit too shiny for my liking.” Sands’ alternative is Krylon UV-resistant satin varnish, as a result of “it has a pleasant shine to it nevertheless it’s not overbearing,” she says.

Strolling on Water by Shalese Sands (scratchboard with coloured inks, 9×12)

Again to Black

Many artists who haven’t labored with scratchboard earlier than usually assume the medium affords little room for error, however that’s a false impression. “Scratchboard is definitely much more forgiving than one would possibly assume,” Sands says. “The Ampersand scratchboard is a sturdy floor that may deal with corrective strategies. It makes any errors a lot simpler to cowl up.”

Sands makes use of an airbrush to get well areas which have been overscratched, turning into lighter than what she’d supposed. It’s helpful for different changes as properly. “I’ll airbrush over an space that’s too gentle to make it a bit darker, or I’ll simply preserve rebuilding the part after which rescratch these areas,” she says. “If you wish to work solely in black, you should use principally any India ink. I take advantage of Ampersand inks, nevertheless, as a result of that’s the identical ink used on their boards.”

Though Sands works primarily in black, it’s additionally potential so as to add colour to a scratchboard (See her piece, Strolling on Water, reverse). Some artists even use watercolor of their work. For tiny touch-ups, Sands favors Faber-Castell Pitt markers, with brush nibs. “It’s like India ink, however in marker kind,” she explains.

The Gentle Present

In all of Sands’ work, whether or not portray or scratchboard, what she’s actually after is dramatic gentle, notably aspect lighting and backlighting. “Anybody who has traveled with me is aware of how obsessed I’m with capturing it,” she says. “Muted and subtle lighting has softer results that may be simply as highly effective, however I gravttate towards the extra visually dramatic.”

The artist discovered a phrase she’d written down in a sketchbook: “Evoking the chic via the facility of sunshine.” She feels these phrases signify the epitome of her artwork. “Particularly with scratchboard—what you’re doing is displaying gentle. You’re carving out the sunshine in a bit,” she says. “It’s all in regards to the gentle.”

Stefanie Laufersweiler is a contract author and editor dwelling in Cincinnati, who has been writing about artwork and artists for a few years.

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