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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Scratching the Surface - scraperboard art

Painting with blades is my kind of art. When looking for illustrations for  One Sixth of a Gill, I rediscovered the scraperboards (also known as scratchboards) that I created years ago.  I liked them but I didn’t expect that anyone else would. My Editor, an avid art collector, thought differently, so I let her be the judge. I also revisited the important things in life, as I once saw them when I envisaged

The Human Condition

Romantic Love

and my teddy bear, Angela



(I still have no idea why I called a male teddy-bear Angela when I was 7. I do remember that I knew he was a boy and that Angela was his name. These truths were self-evident. Of course I still have him.)

Making the book and receiving comments from readers who found the etchings ‘intriguing’ and ‘thought-provoking’ made me want to pick up a blade again. After all these years, I wanted a practice board (and the conventional scratch tool) so I put some pre-designed boards on my wish-list and this was my birthday present – a kit scratch-board ‘suitable for 8+ year olds’. Perfect.

Then I remembered Michaelangelo. One of my favourite stories is how he acquired a block of marble that was cheaper because some other sculptor had started work on it and screwed up. Michaelangelo took someone else’s failure and created David. That’s how I feel about some of the children I taught, about adopted dogs, about so many things – see the potential and try to bring it out.

So, what would you have turned this into? Rainbow-coloured butterflies is your starting point…


I’m no Michaelangelo but I wanted to personalize my practice-board for my own pleasure so I took a photo of the design, turned it upside down, looked at it and saw it differently. I used layers in Photoshop to cover up the bits of design I didn’t want and keep those I did. Incidentally, Picasso used layers to create Guernica – the physical sheets he placed one over the other can still be seen in Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia.

Then I painted over the unwanted design elements with Indian ink (encre de Chine in French, an interesting switch in country of origin, and which makes perfect sense as it’s used for calligraphy). I scratched away like a nesting mouse, moving from painted design to my variations. Unfortunately, once exposed, the rainbow background looked nothing whatsoever like the beautiful graduated shades on the packet front. My design did not work in stark rainbow stripes.


Back to Photoshop, a monochrome conversion, some tinkering with brightness and here it is. I’m not saying it’s art but I like it and it was fun to make. Now I’m foraging round the house for scratch tools – I’ve already stolen the wire wool from the kitchen.

Selfie in Couple Portrait  


You’ll see the teddy-bear again in the book trailer for One Sixth of a Gill


available from amazon

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