Colored inks on Scratchbord with Sally Maxwell

Scratchbord's rigid structure and the quality of ink on the surface allows me to produce super-sized artwork in magnificent full color. Using several grades of steel wool and the Ampersand Fiber Brush, I’m able to achieve the smooth value changes in black and white as shown in the exercise below. Try this exercise and see why I’ve chosen Scratchbord as my medium of choice for full color scratchboard work.


I do my preliminary drawing directly on the Scratchbord with pastel chalks. It can also be done the old fashioned way by drawing a study on paper and chalking the back to transfer the drawing to the scratchboard.


To start, using the Fiber Brush, I indicate all the edges, shadows, highlight areas, plus I scratch in directional lines, which give the piece its volume.


Following the directional lines, I sculpt the petals using gentle pressure on the Fiber Brush. I vary the pressure on each stroke, removing more at the top of the stroke and gradually removing less as I’m moving down the stroke. I blend and eliminate the brush stroke look by using the finest grade oil-free steel wool. When the drawing is completed, I clean off the black ink residue with a soft cloth or the clean dry palm of my hand.


I prefer using colored India (waterproof) inks to add color. In this case, I applied a wash of (50% scarlet/50% water) following the directional lines. To eliminate brush strokes, I apply an additional coat of ink with a dry brush. An airbrush can also be used to apply very even color. Some inks will leave residue on the black edges of the subject matter and can be difficult to cut if not wiped off quickly. For the final touch up, I apply black ink around the edges of the subject matter which will cover any left over residue and over-painting.


Once all my color is in, I remove the highlights where the sunlight is hitting the rose petals. This gives them volume and dimension. In this step I also lighten areas which are going to receive washes of shadow color. For example, a light wash of yellow will make one of the petals appear more transparent.

When I finish the removing process, I apply a wash of a shadow color (ultramarine blue + sepia thinned down to 25% ink/75% water) over the lower petal. I used a very pale yellow (10% ink/90% water) to wash over the bottom of the upper petal creating a luminescent glow. Last, I check the piece for any accidental over painting, and any scuffs in the black ink. Then, I clean the piece once more with a soft cloth and spray on 2-3 coats of spray fixative. The fixative seals and protects the artwork and allows me to frame without glass.


Artist Bio:

A native of Illinois, artist Sally Maxwell has been working with scratchboard for close to 53 years. Shown in galleries throughout the United States, her work is renowned by private and corporate collectors for its ability to capture the beauty and emotion of the wildlife and the natural world.

Since childhood, Sally has found inspiration in animals and her own colorful garden; each piece is like a snapshot of the intensity that nature can possess in its quiet moments. Sally’s work tells stories and suggests relationships through subtle details such as the way two creatures lock eyes or snuggle next to each other.

Sally has helped to define scratchboard as a fine art medium; using similar techniques to etching or engraving, scratchboard originally was used for magazine illustration and for products in catalogs. Working with scratchboard allows Sally to layer up rich, deep colors and capture minute details, and her innovation and experimentation with new tools has given her the ability to produce a softer, less linear technique.

Sally was selected by the International Society of Scratchboard Artists to be designated as one of now 12 in the world with the status Master Scratchboard Artist. She is already a Signature member in the Society of Animal Artists, and a Silver Signature member of Artists Changing Tomorrow, plus a Master Signature member of American Women Artists.

Sally has created over 30 scratchboard kits for Ampersand Art Materials and authored 3 books on scratchboard technique, including How To Draw Pets and How to Draw Zoo Animals. Plus a full one hour video on many techniques. In 2007, Sally was honored to have one of her pieces chosen as the label for Ampersand Art Materials’s Scratchbord product.

Sally works from her studio in the countryside of La Grange, Texas, where she lives with her husband, George. She takes frequent trips with friends and family, always with a digital camera to capture interesting flora and wildlife she finds on her adventures. Sally has won many awards and shows her work around the country at upper tier Art Galleries and her own Gallery in Round Top, Texas. To see more of Sally's work, visit her website and Facebook.


Go back


Add a comment

What is the sum of 6 and 2?