Saturday, September 23, 2006
Something I'm still trying to master. Scraperboard is a type of card, about the same weight as mounting board, but with a smooth clay surface. The technique involves inking this clay surface and then working into it with a scraperboard tool - scratching away the black ink with a blade, in order that a white underlayer shows through. The blades are available in various shapes. Scraperboard usually comes ready-coated with a black surface, but I prefer to use white board and apply the ink myself. This means that I can paint in the general framework of the illustration and there will be less ink to scrape away.
I get quite nervous before beginning a piece of scraperboard work. It's pretty unforgiving, in that once you've scratched a line into the surface some of the clay has been removed and can't then be replaced. This means that if you make a mistake there's not much you can do about it. It's similar to wood cut, or lino-cut, in this respect. Hours of painstaking work can easily be ruined by a slip of concentration. Sometimes you might get away with repainting the surface and trying to scratch through it again, but really once it's gone it's gone.
A far more effective 'cheat' is Photoshop. I still like to produce artwork by hand, but I then usually scan it into Photoshop. Here I can rectify minor mistakes, adjust the composition, put in extra bits, or take 'em away again...and of course add colour. It's a great facility. I feel fortunate in having had a proper grounding in traditional drawing and painting techniques - four years at art college in the sixties - but I'm also grateful for the modern technologies.
Sometimes I think that things have gone a little too far the other way. I occasionally lecture in colleges, and find there's such a heavy reliance on computer technology that I wonder if straightforward drawing skills are being lost. During one module that I was teaching, some firemen accidentally cut through the optic cables and all the computers were down. "Right then folks," I said to my students, "get your pencils out." Pencils? They all looked at me like I'd gone nuts. Was I kidding?
The little picture of a squirrel that I'm posting here is actually a reject. I'd originally intended that it would be one of the interior illustrations for The Various, but it didn't make it. My editor felt that the style was a bit too tight and formal compared with the rest of the pictures that I'd done. I still quite like it, and it's nice to be able to give it an airing.
UPDATE: You can see some of Joseph Mendes work HERE.