Monday, August 09, 2010

Scraperboard technique: a masterclass.

This is not a photograph. Amazingly, it has been rendered by hand, a supremely authoritative scraperboard illustration by the late Joseph 'Joe' Mendes.

I've written about scraperboard technique before, and people have been kind about my own efforts, but here's a man who's in a different class entirely. A master class. As we zoom in, you'll see what I mean.

Scraperboard is essentially drawing in reverse. You start with a board coated in solid black, and use a special blade to scrape away that coating. Every white line and dot that you see here is actually a patch of exposed board, where the blade has removed a little of the ink.

These pieces were sent to me by Edward Mendes, Joseph's son, and it's an absolute privilege to be able to display them on my blog. There could hardly have been a finer exponent of the art at the time, and I seriously doubt that anyone could match it now.

In part this will be because the need has vanished. Commercial artists like Joseph Mendes were kept in employment largely by advertising agencies, who needed to be able to show their clients' products in newspapers and magazines.The pin-sharp line of a scraperboard illustration could be reproduced by letterpress far better than a photograph, which would look very dull and grey by comparison. Nowadays we have Photoshop, we have CGI, and the means of printing and reproduction have improved enormously. Human craftsmanship to this degree is no longer required by the industry, at least not in this field, and so it has largely died out.

Try to imagine the level of skill required to produce artwork of this calibre, the hundreds of hours of painstaking effort spent on what's essentially a newspaper ad. It's simply boggling. And yet Edward tells me that this wonderful artist referred to his job as 'scratching for a living'.


TheNote said...

Totally Amazing!
Thank you for sharing.

Steve Augarde said...

Hi Georgy. Yes, I'm in awe. Wonderful work.

Vivian Q said...

You are dope!

Steve Augarde said...

Thanks Vivian - assuming that's a compliment!