Scratchboard: Casas Grande Fish Effigy. John Stermer Artist

Scratchboard And Ink: Works in Black And White

Scratchboard: A black ink surfaced cardboard with a white clay undercoat.  Used by artists.

Scratchboard: New Mexico Ruins By John Stermer

Among Favorite Works.


Some of my favorite works by the artist John Stermer (Dad) are his drawings on black and white scratchboard (also referred to as scraper-board).  Furthermore, I think it was just fun for him to create these pieces.  

Scratchboard:  Additive & Subtractive Process.

The approach is simple enough, that is to say just two values: black and white.  And, it is an interesting challenge to alternate shapes and lines of the black and white.

Using scratchboard is also a good composition exercise.  It can be both a subtractive (scratching the black away) or additive (adding ink back on) process.  What that means to the artist is that you have to think ahead.   For example, you might ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will you like to scrape away the black ink?  That is reveal the white?
  • And, where would you like to add ink marks made with brush or pen?

It also means the medium is great fun.  

Scratchboard: Casas Grande Fish Effigy. John Stermer Artist

Materials:  Essdee Scraper-board.

As I recall, the artist John Stermer liked to use Essdee scraper-board.  You might notice, that its also called “scraper board” that’s because the company is out of Great Britain.  In any case, he gave me a couple of sheets of Essdee scraper-board to play with once. I can give you first hand knowledge that it was fun!

What is important when selecting a scratchboard is that the paper must be thick and sturdy enough to handle the scraper.  The artist scrapes back the black ink that is applied over the white clay coated paper in order to create the design.  Yes, and you guessed it, if you have high quality inks, you can re-ink areas.  

Plus, there are white boards with black inked surfaces. 

Scratchboard: Rowling spur

Scratchboard by Ampersand Art.

On a side note, for those who are interested, Ampersand Art creates a scratchboard on hardboard, not on paper.  Though I have not used the panels, and they were not available while my Dad was working, they look like they would be excellent to use.  Ampersand also has colored inks that one can use with the boards.

Blades For Scratching.

For those who are unfamiliar with the medium, there are blades specifically designed for working with scratchboard.  Both Essdee and Ampersand have information about blades and other the tools on their websites.  

Should you wish to try scratchboard, a search on the internet or your favorite art supply store may help you.  I know there are other brands of scratchboard and tools.  However, Ampersand and Essdee are the two brands of which I have personal knowledge.

Yes, You Can Sharpen The Blades!

I’d like to share a story with you about the scratchboard tools.  You see I bought some once.   Being new to the medium, I thought that you used them a few times and then threw the blades out.  My Dad asked me what I was doing.  I didn’t realize it but you can sharpen them on a wet stone just like any other blade!

Scratchboard & Ink: Kneeling Nun by John Stermer

Scratchboard or Pen & Ink?

John Stermer would sometimes work with black ink on white paper, using ink pens or brushes.  I would suggest the decision to work one way or the other depended on the subject and artist’s intent.  

Its All Good and Versatile.

In any case, the combination of pens, scrapers, ink and paper ends up being surprisingly versatile.  Plus black and white together can create exciting compositions.

I think it is no accident, then, that the iconic John Stermer self portrait was done in black and white.  Though, as I recall he may have used a felt tip pen on paper – somewhat like a doodle.

Ink: Self Portrait

Included in this article are some of pieces John Stermer created.  

Thank you!

#JohnStermer  #scratchboard #fineart #drawing 

PS.  I’m including the complete Silver City Museum flyer.  I think it looks wonderful! The museum is located in Silver City, NM.

Scratchboard: Casas Grandes Effigy by John H. Stermer


And, the final, third Silver City Museum flyer.

Scratchboard: Black & White




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