Black and white experiments

Scratchboard or scraperboard is a medium I tried many years ago, but haven’t thought about for a long time. Recently I invested in a few sample pieces of scratchbord, which has a smooth black surface on a white clay base, which in turn is built up on a manufactured board. It is easy to use a blade or etching tool to scratch away the black and expose the white below. A little like relief printing, you have to think in reverse, as you are removing the light areas to leave the dark. There are some very proficient artists using this medium, some adding colour for a rich result, but I like the simple contrast of black and white. Last week I was introduced to white scraper board, which just has the white clay on the surface, and shown a simple technique for getting ‘found’ images. Take a feather, dip it in a bottle of Indian ink and swish it randomly across the surface, not trying to control it at all. Next step, once the ink is dry, turn it around until you can see suggestions of an image, then start scratching in till something emerges. You can also draw back in with Indian ink.

As usual, these are miniature images, roughly 7 x 8 cm. The three white-based ones are random images – after scanning I could see different things, so more work may be done on them. The black one is based on the mugshot of a 19th century convict.


Author: anna warren portfolio

I draw, I paint, I am a printmaker. Always searching for the interesting detail in the world around me.

21 thoughts

  1. These are great Anna. Wonderful imagery. I might have to add a scratchbord into my next art order. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Its an odd thing but these seem to me a bit spooky! Like, I could imagine them being illustrations for Edgar Allen Poe stories. Not just the portrait, but the way the birds are drawn. All four drawings have an other-worldliness about them. Are these revealing your shadow side?


    1. I agree, there is a spookiness about them, but that seems to be something that goes with black and white imagery. I like the Edgar Allen Poe allusion! Maybe they are revealing my shadow side … I do like to move away from the pretty into harder ideas sometimes. I have a collection of skulls and bones on my desk that are waiting for an extended drawing session!


  3. These are great… really like the ‘random’ ones. I agree with the Poe-like illustration (Aubrey Beardsley) allusion, but the top left one also makes me think of Ian Miller, an artist who had a huge impact on me as a teenager.


    1. Thanks Chris – I looked at the Ian Miller works, really like them a lot. The Gormenghast trilogy was one of my favourite series of books in my late teens, and Beardsley too was a great favourite, I must dig my books of his work out again. The influences must run deep!


  4. Ooh Anna these are so different ! Love them . Your imagination really ‘Found’ some superb images within the ink there …


    1. Thanks Poppytump! I did enjoy doing them, there is such an element of mystery, I just kept turning them around until something popped out. The odd thing is more objects keep appearing. The one with the chimneys I saw as a dirty mining town, but now it looks like a ship …


  5. I used to enjoy Indian ink painting in school and was always fascinated with what emerged! I like these, anna, especially the birds but also the portrait — fine detailed work.


  6. Wow! This is gorgeous! I just thought about scrape boards the other day, and thought it would be fun to try it again (I used to love them as a child). These are definitely a motivation to find materials and start playing around with it!


    1. Thank you! I really enjoy scraper board, both the black and also the white version that you can add your own ink to – I must do some more too! I hope you do, I’ll look forward to seeing what you do. I think it would be very suited to your beautiful work.


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