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 What is Scratchboard?

Scratchboard art is a form of direct engraving on a specially prepared board. The boards consists of three layers of material. The base is  a treated hardboard that has a layer of white porcelain (kaolin) clay applied to it. The clay is then sanded smooth and a layer of black ink is applied over top. The image is etched out one “scratch” at a time using an extremely fine tool such as a scalpel or x-acto blade. The black ink is carefully removed in this manner  to reveal the white clay beneath.

These clayboard engravings are considered by many artists to be one of the most difficult of mediums to master.  Mistakes are not easily corrected and elements cannot be repositioned once the work is underway. It is one of the only forms of two dimensional media that is subtractive, as material is removed rather than added. Artists must work in reverse of classical artistic training in that they are rendering highlighted areas only. Tonal variations are achieved by the depth of etching as well as how much surface area is removed. It takes a very steady hand to maintain the correct pressure required to etch each fine line to a particular depth.

Many hours are spent on each scratchboard artwork and they may take weeks or months to complete. Lori Dunn uses professional grade clayboards that are completely archival, of museum quality and lightfast. These panels are humidity and warp resistant. Finished works are sprayed with 4 -6 coats of a UV resistant varnish to further protect the image. In addition, all works are framed using high quality moldings.

Many scratchboards are exhibited as a fine art medium in galleries and museum exhibitions worldwide. They are incredibly unique and sought after by  collectors. Achromatic (black and white) images can particularly enhance an art collection through balance and design.

Photo courtesy of Stewart Stick
 Work in progress