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All Things Ampersand

Featured Artist: Ann Ranlett

“Boston Style” on Claybord with India Ink


Ann Ranlett is an illustrator and artist, specializing in pet and animal artworks.  She uses a variety of mediums, including pen and ink, colored pencil, watercolors and Ampersand Scratchbord™.  Working from photos that she takes herself, Ann gets to know her subjects personally so that she can create portraits emphasizing the nuances of each subject.
With a degree in biology, a background in scientific illustration and a lifelong interest in nature, conservancy and animal rescue, Ann is at home painting animal portraits.  Her portfolio and clientele list are extensive as seen on her website, but her persona and presence with animals is down to earth.  
Ann’s work in scratchboard began back in 1999, when she discovered working on boards at a Guild of Natural Science Illustrator’s conference.  Before that she had been working with pen and ink on paper for years, but she particularly loved the forgiving nature of the scratchboard medium which gave her flexible options for her work in black and white. 

“Rommel” on Scratchbord tinted with Derwent Inktense


In particular, Ann began working on Ampersand’s Scratchbord™ because she was familiar with the Aquabord™ for her mixed media pet portraits.  She actually began using the white Claybords™ first for her scratch work because she was familiar using the white grounds, but found inspiration using Scratchbord™ from other artists’ success.

Ann is drawn to her range of mediums depending on her subject matter, some of which call for color and others that need to be grayscale, “some looser in style and others in tight details,” Ann explains.  “In the case of a commission, it’s what the client prefers.”  She likes using a range of mediums as an artist because it gives her a chance to stretch her style; creating in watercolor, colored pencil, pencil, mixed media and scratchboard helps Ann push her work to new levels.

I’m really in my element when working  on Scratchbord™; it’s quite forgiving and I like the challenge of creating intricate detail and texture with black, white and shades of grey. I also enjoy working in graphite pencil for the same reasons,” says Ann.  Ann encourages beginners to try Scratchbord™ because it is so much more forgiving than traditional scratchboard paper.  “People seem to think that it’s really difficult, but they don’t realize that good quality boards can be re-worked quite a bit and that a mistake is not permanent.  It’s a portable medium, too; all you need is a board and a knife to get going.”

“Baby Cottontail” on Stampbord with ink, watercolor and colored pencil


To see more of Ann’s work or learn about her events and her process, check out her blog at:  http://annran.blogspot.com/ or her website:  http://www.annran.com

To learn more about other artists using Scratchbord, check out the newly formed International Society of Scratchboard Artists and the WetCanvas! Scratchboard Forum.  


Aquabord™ 2.0


Aquabord™ has undergone a number of important changes over the past few months due to a change in one of the raw materials we use to produce this unique surface for watercolors. We saw this challenge as an opportunity to make Aquabord even better than before. While the new Aquabord is in essence, the very same, it does have a few differences: 


Left: Previous version
Right: New flatter version

1. The new Aquabord™ surface has a flatter, more even texture. It’s less pebbly and feels more like a cold press watercolor paper.

2.  The new surface is slightly softer. You need to use less pressure when wet-lifting paint just like you would on paper.
3.  The new surface is more absorbent and emphatically more like watercolor paper (see helpful tips below).
4.  The new surface requires less water for washes and blends. It behaves more like a cold press watercolor paper now, so you don’t need as much water for wicking the paint across the surface – the paint moves more freely and blends beautifully.
5.  The vibrant color you’re accustomed to still applies.
6.  The lovely eggshell color of the natural clay you’re accustomed to is still around.
7.  You can still seal your watercolors and frame them without glass.

Top: New version
Bottom: Old version


Some helpful tips: The new Aquabord surface is very porous. You may see some air bubbles come up when you apply very wet washes of color. To prevent this, flush the surface first before you start painting. Take a flat brush and apply big washes of water across the surface. Allow all the air bubbles to release. When the surface reaches a damp stage, then you can start applying watercolor to the surface. By allowing the air to escape first, you are basically opening up your surface to accept the pigment. This process will prevent those tiny air bubbles from affecting the consistency of the smooth transitions in your washes. 

Top: Washes on Aquabord
Bottom: Washes on Watercolor Paper


More than a dozen professional watercolor painters and avid Aquabord users repeatedly tested our trial runs until we had the surface they felt worked best. As a result, we think you will love this new version of Aquabord. Either way, you are welcome share your feedback with us. We make Aquabord for you and it matters to us that you have a successful experience with our products.

We greatly appreciate your patience over the last few months during this reformulation. We think the new Aquabord is well worth the wait and we hope you do too. Now it’s time to do what you love and get back to painting watercolors on Aquabord!

Poetic Spaces – Watercolors on Aquabord by Ali Cavanaugh

I discovered Ampersand’s Aquabord with the 2˝ Deep Cradle about a year ago and it has been such a wonderful surface for my watercolors. Previously, I worked on paper, but always struggled with its limitations in presentation. The flawless pebbly surface of Aquabord takes layers and layers of pigment without wearing down. The paint is amazingly workable and removable on this surface. Also, it is so nice that I am able to display my watercolors without glass and that they are already framed when done. Continue Reading >>