Hello all -
Indy Arts magazine released its' premiere issue the night of the Scratching The Surface opening. There was an article featuring RodMan and scratchboard art. I have cut and pasted the article:
SCRATCH THE SURFACE WITH ARTIST ROD-MAN
By Clair Weidman
Looking for an interesting art form that adds fine detail to any subject and has a beginning with no end? Try scratchboard art. The technique of scratchboard may not be as complex as it looks.
Indianapolis scratchboard artist RodMan shares the art and his process.
RodMan has an abundance of patience, as well as knowledge and passion for the art. He often challenges himself by choosing difficult subject matter to test his skills and motivate himself. At times he puts over 100 hours into a piece. But he says the basic skills can be learned quickly, and they are probably never completely mastered.
"Iím having a good time," says RodMan. "I enjoy working on these boards and am drawing what I want. It fills my need to be a working artist. I find it very relaxing and a nice calm time for me. I guess Iím kind of a high-energy type person, and friends are surprised that someone like me can sit and lay the hours into a piece like I do. But itís my time--everything slows down, time is lost, my heart rate drops, my thoughts clear, itís a great place to get to go."
An Indiana native, RodMan learned pipefitting from his father, but art has always been a part of himófrom artsy Christmas gifts to racecar lettering to custom-painted helmets, Harleys and cars. It was between paint jobs that he stumbled onto scratchboards."I stopped into a Hobby Lobby and noticed an end cap with these scratchboard kits, an 8 by 10 board with a tool to remove the ink. The kit included a picture that you could transfer to the board and scratch out, and the image on the cover was interesting. It looked like fun." When he tried it he said the feel of the board was great--a nice connection between the artist and the surface. If he could say one thing about these boards, it would have to be line quality.
"There is something to be said for doing art from the heart," says RodMan, "rather than painting ĎBudís Wrecker Serviceí down the side of a car that will get tore up next weekend. Itís all a path. All of that is part of what Iím doing now, who I have become as an artist. About everyone sees the industrial aspects and influence in my pieces. Many of my works end up with items from my day job included into the design. Pipes, tubing, air cylinders, gears, clamps--the list goes on and on."
History of scratching
Scratchboarding has been around awhile. It began in 1864 with Karl Angerer, an Austrian who developed the first scratchboard by etching on white clay or chalk that was covered in ink. The ink was scratched off and allowed the clay to show through and the subject matter to take form. Before the use of etching on white clay, there was another technique with metal, used in photographic and print publications such as newspapers. The metal was covered in wax and it was scraped off to reveal the metal. The metal was then dipped into an acid substance that allowed the lines to be etched into the plate itself. Both of these techniques are similar to the scratchboard art today.
Todayís boards have their roots in the Claybord, developed by Colorado artist Charles Ewing. He wrote "The New Scratchboard, Clay-Surface Techniques and Materials for Todayís Artist," published by Watson-Guptill, 2001. Thereís a strong possibility that heíll be in Indianapolis on March 6 for the "Scratching the Surface" show.
Scratchboarding typically begins with a high-quality scratchboard from Ampersand, headquartered in Texas, and available in many local art stores. The company has trademarked the name "Scrathbord." RodMan recommends spending a bit more on a quality board to avoid frustration. There are different types and styles along with quality of boards, so it comes down to the preference of the artist and the subject matter. If you are going to be using a lot of fine detail, a heavy weight board may be more desirable. He noted that all the scratchboard artists on wetcanvas.com use Ampersand--itís one of the first things that the members tell newcomers. In his opinion, itís the only board to use.
You will also need different types of tools for etching, including one that is sharp and pointed for the fine details. Some artists prefer the X-Acto blade, says RodMan, but anything will work. Most artists work with layers of scratches across the entire board; this adds very fine detail. But you can also scratch deeper and add bolder lines. Fine lines attract light to the details and add dimension.
RodMan describes the scratchboard as a piece of sealed Masonite. The board is covered in a thin layer of white clay. The clay is spray painted with black India ink. The artist scratches off the black exposing the white clay, using anything from a single-point tool to sandpaper to remove the ink. The line quality is probably what draws most artists to scratchboarding, because fine detail is possible.
He uses a handful of tools for his etching, some made for scratchboarding, some "found." Artists have been known to make tools out of household and industrial items. He has a tip from a welder that is sharpened to a fine point that works well. He also uses an assortment of fiberglass brushes. His favorite is a small mechanical pencil-like tool with stiff little fiberglass hairs. This allows for "sanding" the ink off with almost airbrush quality. Another is a detail sanding pen that body shops use to prep the paint around door locks and such. Steel wool, sandpaper--really anything that will scratch the surface can be used. Coloring the boards is also an optionówatercolor, ink washes and airbrush all work well.
Advice for new scratchboarders
A common mistake for the new scratchboard artist is that they tend to want to draw a white outline leaving a negative image, says RodMan. Thatís fine if thatís what youíre going after, but to get a much better result and a more natural figurative image, try not thinking in reverse. You will be etching several white marks instead of black, he says. If you make a mistake, not to worry. Small mistakes can be easily fixed, but try not to damage the surface of the clay. You can put ink over the mistake, but it must be done with extra care. And if you have oily hands you might want to invest in a pair of gloves to avoid stains on your board.
Care needs to be taken with the delicate scratchboards. When completed, the artist sprays a thin protective coating and often they are framed. As with any art, direct sunlight should be avoided. Hanging the board with a light directed at the image, however, is very interesting, adding depth.
The subject matter can be anything. "I have found that itís a medium that has no set destination," says RodMan. Several scratchboard artists, however, use nature and animals as their subjects. He invites you to experience the scratchboard technique for yourself by visiting the Wet Canvas Web site, where artists share their ideas and techniques.
Itís show time
RodMan put together the first international show featuring scratchboard artists, after a challenge was made to Wet Canvas members. Each artist etched a scratchboard and e-mailed a photo to a point person who posted them all, along with the list of participating artists. Then it became pin-the-name-on-the-scratchboard time. This could be a show, he thought, if he could get the artists to ship their work and find a venue. He did.
International scratchboard artists at Dean Johnson
By, Terri Mote,Texas.
All art is that of many different artists.
What happens when a group of scratchboard artists meet on Wetcanvas.com, share their artwork and techniques, and decide to test their ability to recognize each otherís work? The Recognition Challenge display resulted in one eager artist, Rod of RodManís Visuals, from Indiana saying, "Hey, kids, letís put on a show!"The first international exhibition of scratchboard art, "Scratching the Surface," will be held at Dean Johnson Gallery on Mass. Ave., March 6-26. About 100 artworks created by artists from the United States, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada will show off the rich and dramatic quality of scratchboard art. Ampersand, a manufacturer of the ink-coated clayboards used in this medium, and Heartland Printworks have come together to sponsor the event. Many of the artists will be attending the opening on First Friday, March 6, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and jazz guitarist Steve Newby will play in the background.
Dean Johnson Gallery, 646 Massachusetts Ave., www.deanjohnson.com