Sorrel Sky Gallery artist Patsy Davis first discovered scratchboard in the 80s but it wasn’t until 2013 that she started to truly focus on this art form. For the last 4-5 years, it has been her medium of choice, and the level of detail she achieves is astounding. In her words, “I can get as fine a detail as I wish … scratchboard is made for fur and feathers.”
Scratchboard, with its roots going back to the 1800s, is a two-dimensional subtractive art form of direct engraving where the artist scratches off dark ink to reveal a white or colored layer beneath. Typical scratchboard consists of a white kaolin clay coated hardboard covered with black India ink. Sharp tools are used to remove, or “scratch,” through the black ink, revealing the white clay underneath. The majority of the values within the artwork are achieved by varying the amount of surface layer that has been removed.
Many artists use sharp tools such as scalpel blades to scratch into the clay, creating work with exceptional detail and realism, but any abrasive implement may be used to create a variety of effects. This unique process has attracted artists for its control in rendering intricate subject matter while remaining highly versatile to those exploring folk art, abstract work, and many other artistic styles. As Pasty shared, “I personally love the razor blade the best, I wanted to master that so that’s what I concentrated on. I spent an entire summer doing clouds … exploring the light.”
Unlike many drawing media, where the artist adds in the mid-tones and shadows, with scratchboard the artist is thinking and working in reverse by adding in the highlights or lighter values. Pieces may be left black and white, or the exposed clay areas can be colored. A variety of transparent mediums may be used for color, including watercolor, ink, and fluid acrylics. After completion, the artwork may be varnished to protect it against damage.
Patsy is proud to be a Signature Member of ISSA (International Society of Scratchboard Artists). “Scratchboard is really dramatic, but it’s also really time-consuming and can be tricky because of the need to get it exactly right,” she states. As an example, she worked on an 18″ x 24″ piece every day for two months with a razor blade, and the largest piece she completed, a 24″ x 36″ took a year to complete.
Come see for yourself the detail and precision used to create these dramatic works!