A while back I did a pencil sketch of Frankenstein’s monster, based on the the look of the character played by Robert De Niro. I never saw the movie, but I really liked one of the photographs I saw. Here is what I came up with:
It seemed like a great subject for a scratchboard piece. This is done on 8×10 Ampersand scratchboard, using a #16 Xacto blade:
I’ve been wanting to do a portrait of George Washington for a while now. I saw a painting by Gilbert Stuart from 1795 that really caught my eye. I like the more angular, masculine quality of it, as opposed to the smoother look of most Washington portraits.
My first draft wasn’t at all what I had hoped – the tones were uneven, and Washington looked old, overweight, and grumpy. I had tried to get too much done too quickly. I kept working it until I made something I was happier with:
The texture is still very course. I have thought about starting over and using a finer scratch pattern to smooth out the skin. I spent about 10 total hours on the rendering – not nearly enough to get the fine detail. The virtue of patience yields a much better product.
Candy is very close to the finish. There is a dog tag in the reference photograph that I have been puzzling over – whether to render it or leave it out. I think I will render it.
This piece sat idle yesterday. I needed a mental break from rendering dog fur. Today has been going well and my progress is good. With more “landmarks” in place, it gets easier to render the more vague areas and blend them into the whole. It’s been fun to watch it come together.
Here are two different stages:
I started this scratchboard portrait late in the day yesterday. As stated before, this is on an 8×10 board. Mr. Dickinson is one of the main characters from the movie, Dead Man. Robert Mitchum played the part. The bulk of the work was done today.
There is still the possibility of doing more on the hair, but I think I like it where it is – with dramatic shadows. To continue might weaken the impact so I feel more comfortable leaving some to the imagination.
The shadows were more difficult than the highlights. It would have been more dramatic to leave the shadow without detail, but for this portrait I wanted to have a more complete look. I feel good about how it turned out, and I’m ready to start another one.
I learned some things doing this project. When I did one of my Prismacolor portraits I tried using Saral white transfer paper. It’s like graphite paper, but the lines it makes are white instead of black. Anyway, the lines were a bit too heavy, and I spent a lot of time erasing them. I read about using Chaco Paper instead. It’s the same basic concept, but it puts down a much lighter line. I tried it on this scratchboard portrait and really liked the lines. But, I did run into a bit of trouble removing them. You are supposed to be able to use water to remove the lines, so I wet them with a little watercolor brush. That removed quite a bit, but there was still a residue remaining. I found I had to wipe the wet area with an optical cleaning cloth to remove them completely. It doesn’t scratch the surface, but it does add a tiny bit of shine to those areas. I’m hoping that a coating of Krylon clear spray will even out the look of the surface.
I got more done last night and this morning. I was supposed to be doing web programming today, but the portrait kept calling – loudly.
Last night I was using a #11 exacto blade. Making fine scratches requires a needle-sharp point, so after a while the blade will get feeling dull. Today I switched to a larger blade. It has the same shape as the #11, but it’s larger. The handle is larger too. So far I haven’t changed the blade and it’s still working well.
The transition from skin to hair is tricky. I wasn’t sure if I should do the skin first and then add the hairs, or visa versa. Both ways seem to work, but I think i prefer to put the hairs in place first, and then bring the skin texture over the top to blend it.
I’m working on an 8×10 piece of Ampersand Scratchbord. It’s good stuff. The surface is nice, and the backing is durable. For illustration work I have always used Essdee Scraperboard. It’s a great product with a beautiful working surface. It’s excellent for illustrations. But, it’s more susceptible to changes in humidity – it can bow and buckle. For fine art I expect the Ampersand Scratchbord to last longer and stay flatter. When I’m finished I will spray a protective clear coat on it.
The crosshatching on the face is taking quite a bit longer than the type of work I’m used to doing. The tricky part is making the texture even, while still accounting for variations in light and shadow. It’s a fun challenge, so it’s not frustrating. As I get into the shadow side of the face I have to slow down and decide how to render it. To make it darker the marks have to be spaced further apart, which makes them more visible as individual marks. That is fine.
For this portrait I will be doing the changes in light and dark with variations in the scratch pattern. In future pieces I will try diluted ink washes over certain areas (with additional scratches over the top) to create darker areas without loss of detail.
My scratchboard tools have been dormant for too long. There are some amazing artists doing scratchboard these days. After looking at a few of their websites, I decided to push myself to create something a few notches above the previous work I’ve done.
Inertia is my biggest obstacle. Once I get started, I’ll be fine. So, I’d better get started. I’ll post the results at the end of the day, good or bad.
UPDATE July 28:
I didn’t post the results because I was still working on it. This is where I ended up:
I’ve been working on a few portraits, and I thought I would post this one here:
It’s done with Crescent matboard and prismacolor pencils.