Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Crafters' Way 85 - Scratchboard

Here is this week's Messenger column.


What exactly is Scratchboard? I asked Eliza Leahy from Eliza’s Art that same question.
Scratchboard is an art medium. Eliza refers to it as the "art of taking away" because instead of putting marks onto a white surface, you remove black ink from the surface to expose the white chalk underneath. Then you can either leave it black and white, or colour the white chalk with inks or paints.

The surface of a scratchboard is smooth black indian ink. Under that is a layer of fine white chalk. Under that is either a wood base or a cardboard base, depending on the maker and quality of the board. With a fine pointed metal tool you etch the ink away from, exposing the white chalk, one line at a time. You can use anything to make a mark, from tools as fine as a pin, to wider blades such as craft knives. You can even scratch wider sections out with pieces of metal - or rub off the ink for a textured look with steel wool. The white clay takes colour very well, giving very vibrant and realistic results. A typical piece of my scratchboard will have millions of lines making up the picture and will take between 30 and 40 hours work.

Eliza has always been an artist but not always in scratchboard. It took her a long time to find the right medium. Eliza worked through coloured pencil, watercolour, gouache, pastels and oil paints before she settled on scratchboard. Eliza can’t remember what first piqued her interest but the fascination has continued for almost 6 years.

Eliza exhibits and sells her art internationally, with an exhibition in Indiana, America coming up at the beginning of this year. Her work for this show has been inspired by masks, showing how people hide behind masks, not showing "themselves".

If you’d like to see more of Eliza’s art please visit her website or visit her new Etsy shop,

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