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Learning how to work with a new and different medium

As a kid, I remember spending all my pocket money on small scratch-board images. They came with a plastic tool and a piece of black board, the faint grey outlines of an animal printed on it. The plastic tool, which resembled a small spear with a slightly sharpened tip, could be used to scrape away the grey outlines, revealing the silver or gold below. I would spend hours scratching away at the board, slowly revealing the animal in shades of bright gold or shimmering silver. In time, I left the school and soon forgot all about the little scratch-board images I had loves so much. Recently, to my delight, I discovered that scratch board is much more than just a children’s’ art project, but much like drawing and coloring, can be mastered and enjoyed into adulthood. I bought blank scratch-board and a single tool which resembled a small knife. Even with the familiar memories of my childhood, I still had no idea how to approach the scratch-board…

I had to adjust my style, knowing full well that comic art and character design may be the wrong approach, given the dark black surface I’d be working on. In my sketchbook I began planning a patterned dragon, one I could use to experiment with the scratch-board. At first, I was nervous about using pencil to sketch on the board, as the sharp tip may scratch away the layer of black and thus deceive the purpose of planning the drawing. I bought a pencil with a softer and darker lead and took care not to press into the scratch-board. This worked well, as I could use my kneaded eraser to erase the pencil when needed and see the outlines of the drawing taking shape. I still remained cautious though, if I pressed too hard with the pencil, I could leave scratches by mistake. I would recommend working in a well-lit area, as this makes the graphite much easier to see.

Note how the graphite is easier to see in the well lit area of the photo above.

Next, after I was happy with my initial pencil sketch, I began the process of scraping away the black. The black coating on scratch-board is either a type of ink, or a black clay. The Essdee Scraper-board I used for this project is coated in black ink. The ink is relatively easy to remove, but it takes time and patience. The under layer of the scratch-board can differ depending on the personal tastes of the artist. Some are plain white, and is the type of scratch-board used in most artworks you’d see online. Other scratch-board can have a rainbow under layer, or holographic like the board I used. The tool I bought had a diamond shaped blade at the end, and is relatively sharp. It could easily take off the layer of ink to reveal the colorful holographic under layer. I was able to get a variety of different line-widths and styles, all with just the one tool.

When working with scratch-board, I found that the trick is to work slowly. Precision is important, as once you’ve scratched the layer of black ink, the marks are permanent.  Protecting the artwork is very important, and between drawing sessions it is important to place the artwork safely out of the way.

Scraper-board (or scratch-board) art is a fun medium to try and I would recommend it to artists of all ages.

The final artwork!