Monday, December 6, 2010

Dog Portrait - Scratchboard Tutorial pt 4

Welcome back to the 4th and final entry in the BigDumbAnimal Scratchboard Tutorial!  So far we've discussed what makes scratchboard art unique, as well as the recommended materials and tools, the process of transferring a source image to the board itself, and the techniques for mark-making and shading.  If you've been following along and have a scratchboard of your own in the works, you may be ready for some tips for revisions and corrections.  And if you're quite happy with your drawing and just want to show it off, we'll address that too!  Thus, our final entry will cover adjustments, revisions, finishing, and presentation!


The wonderful thing about scratchboard art is that, assuming you haven't dug all the way through the layer of white clay, you can make multiple rounds of revisions.  Made an area overly bright with too many scratches?  Simple pull out a black permanent pen and fill those unwanted white areas.  On claybord and scratchboard I prefer technical pens such as Microns or Alvin Techliners, generally with a .3 to .5 millimeter point, which are smooth and don't skip along the smooth surface.  You could also use black india ink with a fine brush.  If you don't have access to either of those, you could do a lot worse than Uniball Vision Elite pens from your local office supply store.  These have a great flow, super-black marks, and are waterproof and fade-resistant.  In fact, Uniballs are my prefered brand when working on paper, they just don't write as smoothly as I'd like on the scratchboard surface.  In any case, once you've made your revisions, don't worry if the areas that you've re-inked have a sheen or appear to be a different shade of black from the board itself... you can use a finishing spray to unify those tones and protect the board, but more on that in a bit.

Remember in my last post when I introduced the technique of Broken Hatching?  Similar to using crosshatching to make your highlights brighter, you can use a black pen to make perpendicular marks through your scratches.  This will help by breaking up your white lines to introduce some texture and tone down the highlights that may have gotten a little too bright.  In my case (looking at the photo above), I decided that while the board was close to completion, it was overall a bit brighter than I intended.  I also felt the dogs could pop a bit more if I introduced some shadow behind them.  So I took out my black pen and cross-hatched the background to soften up the lines, alternating between pen and scraper tool to find a happy medium.

Detail shot with lots of black correction lines

Above you'll see a detail scan of Gizmo's ear.  Here you can see where I re-introduced black lines to tweak the shading and add shadow.  Note the strong outline along the right side and the black hatching lines just above the bottom edge highlight.  Funny isn't it, how much a mess it is up close?  But from a distance, you'd never know!

At this point in the drawing, I recommend standing a good 5 feet away to help identify any areas that may need some final touch-ups.  Again, it's easy to get overly hung-up on the finer details when your face is a foot away, but most people are going to see your drawing from a distance--and you should too!

If you still have any of those graphite transfer paper marks showing on your board, now is a great time to grab an eraser and gently remove them.  For this, I recommend Magic Rub vinyl erasers or a Sanford Design kneaded eraser.  Both will be available by the box-load at your art or craft store.

One last word on corrections: 
If you have, in fact, dug so deep that you've reached the end of the clay layer and still need it whiter, don't worry!  You can paint it back in with some White Opaque ink from the local art supply store.  While not as flexible as alternating between scraper and black pen, you should be able to carefully brush those trouble areas back to good health.

Finally, here's my finished portrait of Gizmo and Snoopy!


Now that you're happy with your scratchboard and psyched to show it off, you can have fun deciding how to present it!  Scratchboards look great in black frames, especially those without glass.  If you do decide to present it this way, it's a good idea to use some spray finisher to protect the surface and help even out the tones.  Ampersand recommends Krylon Matte Finish #1311 on their website, and that's precisely what I use on my boards. It's available at any art store and does a nice job of deepening the blacks while removing the shine or scuffs that may have accumulated from my hands or eraser.  It also protects the board from dust, moisture, etc.  If you prefer a glossy finish, you can buy the glossy formula instead.  Just give it a coat or two, let it dry, and plop it in that frame!


And that brings us to the end!  If you've read this far, thanks for following along and I hope you've been encouraged to try scratchboard for yourself!  It's a very unique process, and an even more unique aesthetic.  It does take some practice, but I promise you'll be happy you tried!  And of course, if once you get started you need any help, I'm always available to lend a helping hand, eye, or ear.  

Stay tuned for less typing and more drawing.  Have a great week everyone!

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