Scratchboard Illustration

The scratchboard (scraper board) technique requires very precise strokes applied from a precision carving blade (knife) whereby the artist works in a negative fashion by scraping away the black ink to reveal the white clay board underneath. It’s almost like reverse psychology. You have to think the opposite of what you normally think. You’re adding light and taking away the darkness one stroke at a time. Scratchboard is merely a medium and not a style. It can be translated into a variety of styles and treatments such as woodcut, pen and ink, engraving and steel engraving styles, as well as a variety of other stylized scratchboard techniques including very fine traditional “18th -19th century” vintage engravings.

See scratchboard styles: www.stevennoble.com

The Woodcut style is defined by simulating the old fashioned woodblock carvings of the 18th century and often re-creating a retro modern version to fit today’s needs for advertising,  packaging design, publishing and logo identity purposes. The technique requires the use of the scratchboard medium which works most effectively to accomplish this end result. Furthermore, the style is mostly associated with “bold” , less detailed, line strokes along with loose uncleaned cuts along the outer edge of the illustration. This is a clear distinction from the other scratchboard styles such engraving, and steel engraving styles.

See woodcut samples: http://www.stevennoble.com/v/Woodcuts/

The scratchboard engraving style is more closely associated with the old traditional engravings of the 19th century with some slight variation. The line work is semi to highly detailed with the lines flowing in a parallel fashion with cross cuts to form breaks in the tapered tips of the lines and cross shaded lines to form the darkened shaded areas. The style encompasses what some people associate as the “Wall Street” journal style. Line engraving is a similar process in that the black and white lines are applied positively onto the “white” (un-inked) scratchboard. The lines can, thereby, be scrapped off to create broken lines in order to soften and taper an edge. The second process is accomplished by using a  knife to negatively remove the pre-inked blackened scratchboard to reveal the white board in closely controlled and parallel strokes to create the effect.

The “steel engraving” style is created similarly to all the above techniques. However, the line style is more closely associated with the “currency” bills such as the US Dollar currency and other bank notes. The “original” technique employed the use of a chisel and a steel or copper  plates in which a small bar of hardened steel with a sharp point was used. This is pushed along the plate to produce thin strips of waste metal and thin furrows. This is followed by a scraper which removes any burs as they will be an impediment to the ink. It is important to note that engraving must be done in the reverse or mirror image, so that the image faces the correct way when the die prints. One trick of the trade was for engravers to look at the object that they were engraving through a mirror so that the image was naturally reversed and they would be less likely to engrave the image incorrectly. Steel plates can be case hardened to ensure that they can print thousands of times with little wear. Copper plates can not be case hardened but can be steel-faced or nickel-plated to increase their life expectancy.

Many clients request a customized illustration for their TradeMarks and logo identities because of their need for a very specific image that is closely associated with their corporate identity. For example, Land’s End required a very specific type of lighthouse to represent their company. Aerial Funds needed a turtle illustration that was closely tied to the central theme of their company which was the story of the “Turtle and the Hare.” The White House Historical Association wanted an illustration that represented the specific perspective that they wanted to achieve with the White House building.

See logo samples: http://www.stevennoble.com/v/Logos/

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