This is been a very busy spring for me, with a lot going on that made me feel like I couldn’t be very busy in the studio. And then I had to give up on my last scratchboard, which was supposed to be a pair of swans. I hate to let go of a project and set it to the side, but sometimes it’s for the best. Most artists have a stack of “rejects” sitting in the corner somewhere and I had to add that one to mine. But life has finally settled down a little bit and I’ve been able to focus on getting to work. The happy result is that I have this tiger newly finished. This one was a lot of fun from start to completion and I love how he just stalks into the light.
In the Forests of the Night
Visit my Scratchboard Gallery page to view at full size.
We’re finally crawling out of the deep freeze here in Pennsylvania. And not a moment too soon. It’s still only in the 50’ss most days but that’s a lot better than days on end below freezing. We can hear migrating geese in the air and my daffodils are just starting to break the surface. So, in a few short weeks we’ll be able to enjoy our patio again, hoping all my plants survived the cold.
This little board is in celebration of spring. Hummingbirds were my mother’s favorite bird and I make a point of attracting them to our garden. We always have a feeder and several plants that they like not much time passes that I don’t hear them buzzing around. Not sure how much longer till they arrive hear from their long journey but it doesn’t feel like it will be nearly soon enough.
Ruby Red & Fuschia
This board nearly got thrown in the scrap pile before I set it aside for a couple months. I started it before I began work on the elephant but when I was a little more than half-way done with it, I wasn’t pleased anymore with how it was turning out. Even a small scratchboard represents a significant investment of time and I’m rarely willing to continue if I feel it won’t be successful. The completed image is a combination of many underlying layers, which if not executed perfectly can adversely affect the finished look I don’t consider that to be quitting, but rather a wise determination that something will not ultimately be worthy of public display. But before I give up I hide it from view for a least a few weeks and come back to it when I’m ready. Often, with fresh eyes, mistakes are more easily corrected and I can wind up with something satisfying.
This is a young jaguar, scratchboard, of course and the size is an 8X10.
I started this one over two months ago. Before the holiday season and all its frantic business. Suffice to say, work went slowly over the holidays and only in January have I been able to speed up again. We’ve had a brutal winter so far in PA so I’ve had plenty of days to sequester myself in the studio. With the snow storm that just passed and my husband being home to help with our son, I’ve finally completed this one. It’s been a long process.
Elephants are hard animals to put in art. They are imposing and a little impersonal for being so very different from us. Big cats are easy, we feel like they already know them because we recognize the house cat in the behavior of a lion. We don’t have a similar relationship with elephants. But I wanted to create something more personal than just a picture of a large animal so I choose a composition that would de-emphasize the elephant’s size and allow some focus on it’s face. And so this subject is making eye contact with the viewer.
Elephant herds are mult-generational, matriarchal family units. Lead by an older female whose knowledge was passed down to her by her mother and her grandmother. That knowledge can mean the difference between life and death for every individual in the herd. And so this piece is titled “Wisdom of the Ages” as a nod to the shared life experience and complexity of these creatures.
Introducing my most ambitious project to date. This one is a 16X20, which is huge for a scratchboard, which requires meticulous removal of ink mostly done with a scalpel. Zebras are notorious for a dispostion that lends them to being easily spooked with a strong instinct to panic and flee. One of the reasons why they are such poor candidates for domestication. Yet, that works well for them in the wild, as scientists believe a purpose for their bold stripes could be to prevent a predator from singling out an individual in the midst of a stampeding herd. I can attest myself there are several spots in this piece where I am not sure which animal the stripes actually belong too. It is quite likely these animals are fleeing from a crocidile lunging at them from just outside the picture plane, yet equally likely they are spooking at nothing at all. I hope the image captures the sense of chaos and fear and so I have titled it “Panic”.
And some closeups.
It looks like it takes me about a month to crank one of these out. Not exactly the rate of production I would prefer, but I do have a little guy at home with me all day. This is a 14X11 of an African cheetah, preparing for the hunt in the early morning or evening hours, when the sun is still low on the horizon. Perhaps a mother with hungry cubs to feed. Cheetahs may be the world’s faster land animal, able to accelerate faster than a sports car, but they hang on the precipice of extinction.
The tools used were a scalpel, fiberglass brush, and tattoo needles. Yes, I have tattoo needles in my tool kit now. They look like this:
I have them in 3,5,7, & 9 flats and rounds. The number indicates how many needles are soldered together on the post. They are rather long and unhandy to work with, and the other end looks like an inoculation loop. I cut them down to the last half inch of the pointy end and fit them into a pin vice, so I have a little tool that looks like this:
They are ferociously sharp so it’s really easy to stick yourself and not realize it until you see the blood. But they are great for smooth and soft textures and for removing a lot of ink, quickly and without gouging the clay. I used them for the tongue and eyes on this piece.
Here’s a closeup of the cat’s eyes, scratch by scratch. You can click the image for a high res view.
Just finished this little fox and I can say that I fully understand why so many wildlife artists eschew landscape elements in their work. Rendering this bark in scratchboard was a headache indeed.
We went on vacation at the end of January, which really threw me off schedule. But it was a wonderful excuse to not be in the studio. It was nine days on a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea and it was glorious. No, we were not on the Carnival ship that got stranded, thank God. This piece was started before we left but got shelved over the last few weeks from traveling and all the business that follows after returning home. It’s finally finished and though it took forever I’m really enjoying pushing my limits with what I can do with color on these boards. It’s still a learning process but I feel like I’m getting further each time.
I have a show tomorrow at the Decoys & Wildlife Gallery in Frenchtown, NJ, and much of my new work will be on display there. Sadly, this lion didn’t have enough time to be framed and ready for this show, it will have to wait for later.
In the midst of a creative dry spell, I asked Facebook what manner of animal I should use as my next subject. The choice was overwhelmingly for a bird, an eagle specifically. Though I love eagles, I had a hard time working on an idea for an eagle that did not seem patriotic and cliched. Wildlife art has a reputation for being cliched and though I might be as guilty as the rest, I try to avoid that sentimentality in what I do. Since I needed some more small works in my collection, I settled on hummingbirds, happy little visitors to my garden. I also have one more addition to my butterfly series. These are all 6X6.
I finally jumped right into a major work in color. This is a clouded leopard, 16X12. It has at least six layers of scratching and ink, with a few more in some areas. I’m still learning what NOT to do, but I’m liking the direction these pieces are going.