WHAT IS SCRATCHBOARD?
“Scratchbord art is a form of direct engraving. The panel starts out solid black and then the artist scratches to expose a layer of white clay under black ink. The working surface is a three-layer medium made up of a 1/8” Masonite panel as a support (for ampersand scratchbord). The support is covered with smooth white clay followed by a thin layer of black India ink, leaving a solid black panel to start with. The artist then uses various tools to scratch through the black ink and reveal the white clay below. Every line, dot and dimple is created by hand all with lines and dots and variation in tone and value are based on how many lines are scratched in a particular area or how much of the white clay that your eye sees. Colored inks can be added to the exposed white areas of the work if desired or the board can be left black and white. Large and complex pieces can take hundreds of hours to be completed due to the many layers of tiny scratches that cover the board.
Why have I not heard about Scratchbord Art before? While scratchbord has been around for many years it has never been highly popular. It is considered by many artists to be one of the most difficult of all mediums, as you cannot take an eraser and fix a mistake. It can also be a very time consuming medium, as every line is done by hand and larger works can take hundreds of hours to be completed.
What tools are used for creating scratchbord art? Scratchbord artists use a wide variety of tools to create different textures in the artwork. The primary tool is usually a standard craft knife or scalpel for line work and can be as varied as using sandpaper, steel wool and fiberglass brushes for various other effects. Most artists spend many hours on their work as all textures are created using only scratches!
How do you color scratchbord art? Scratchbord can be left as a dramatic black and white image but it can also be colored after scratching. Because the white layer is clay based and absorbent it will accept color mediums such as colored transparent inks, fluid acrylics and watercolor. Colors can be applied so that they look anywhere from subtle to vibrant. Marietta uses transparent India inks to add color to her work. Once a layer of color is applied the artist can go back and re-scratch those areas to build up layers, but once color is applied they can never go back to just black and white. Coloring boards typically about 1 1/2 times as long as leaving a board black and white.”1
1. Ref. Cathy Sheeter