Scratchboard and the art of Patrick Arrasmith

I use to do quite a bit of work on scratchboard--a layer of clay is laid down on paper or board, and then a layer of ink is laid over that.  You use an exacto knife or other pointed instrument to scratch lines in the ink. 

It's fairly spendy, hard to find, and if you aren't careful (which I never am, lol) you get ink dust in your eyes, leaving them gritty.  But I love the look you get from the medium. 

Lately, I've been reading "The Last Apprentice" series.  It's a young adult fantasy series (a genre that I enjoy), but it's the illustrations that attracted me.  Patrick Arrasmith works on scratchboard, and I just love his art.  It's been an influence of late.  Even though it isn't zentangle, the very nature of medium gives it a similar feel, so I thought a lot of you might enjoy checking out his site.

I couldn't stand it and dug up one of the claybord (the clay and ink are laid over board, rather than paper) panels I had, and tangled it.  Hadn't done a humgriffin for a while so I decided to add one of those.  *sigh*  You do lose the technique if you don't use it.  For one thing, you have to remember to draw the highlights rather than the shadows.  I'd also lost the ability to carve a good curve or circle.  And my poor wrists ached afterward, as well as my gritty eyes.  You aren't supposed to blow away the ink dust but I always forget, and then regret it.

The panel was too big to fit flat on my scanner so this jpg is a bit blurry, but you get the idea.


  1. Thank you I do like the scratchboard work. Great Post.

  2. Always a wow.

  3. That´s awesome! I really like the effect which sometimes reminds me of x-ray images…
    The humgriffin is wonderful – even if you felt out of practice :-) .

  4. Ummm what we papercrafts buy as stampboard, naked clay. On you awesome piece here I see a winged wolf who has been stalking peacocks but is now trotting upstream for advantures new. XOXO Zoe

  5. Beautiful work! You could be an illustraitor yourself.

    And I see why you like Patrick's work.

  6. i truly love this piece and young adult fantasy is also one of my favorite genres! :D

  7. Hi there, I love that! I work primarily in scratchbord, in fact I teach workshops for Ampersand who produce the panels. I have not had the experience of getting gritty dust in my eyes..ever! I use the canned spray dust remover, or tap the edge of the board on the table. If your readers are interested, I have licensed 6 of my designs to Ampersand for 'kits' that have the board, tool and step by step instructions. They are available at most art supply stores. If they want to know when these workshops are being taught they can check the Ampersand website/blog or follow me on my blog at Thanks! Linda


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