The Ugly Before the Pretty

  When I first took up this medium, it took me quite a while to get used to the ugly of it. Hours and hours spent scratching just for it to look, well...like garbage. I gave up on many pieces in the beginning. I would have a grand idea, sketch it out, transfer it, scratch all afternoon, and it would go absolutely nowhere. I would toss it in the trash halfway done and start another one. (And that one would have a 50/50 chance of survival as well.) I cringe to think of all the amazing pieces I turned my back on. I hadn't yet learned that unlike a painting, which shows promise with a single brushstroke of color, or a charcoal drawing which starts to breathe life within only moments, scratchboard (at least the way that I create it) takes a long (long, long) time to emerge into anything resembling art.

I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce a piece I am working on for the upcoming show in October, and show its process in four distinct steps.

STEP 1, above:  This took me 6 hours to complete. Yes, this messy piece of crap took up SIX HOURS OF MY LIFE! Imagine spending six straight hours toiling away towards a final product of perceived brilliance, and at the end of that time, this is all you have to show for it. It's enough to make you want to slam your forehead into your (dirty, inky, lascerated) desk.

STEP 2, above:  At this point, 4 hours later, it is starting to look a little more like a real image. My heart rate has slowed and I'm not as twitchy as I was during phase one, although after a total of ten scratching hours, I am somehow always expecting more at this point. Nothing to write home about. Still ugly.

STEP 3, above:  Finally, I am getting happy. By the time this phase is complete, I have another 6 hours invested in this particular piece. That's a total of 16 hours, and although the image is clearly emerging, it is far from done. The shading is smooth, but flat. The highlights are still too gray, and there is little detail. Still plenty left to do.

STEP 4, above:  Completion! The first 3 phases have very defined goals as far as the scratching of lines, and the planning of shaded areas, but phase 4 is simply the best! At this point, I just scratch until it is finished. The final step on this piece took an additional 7 hours.


Above, the completed piece, finished, framed, and clocked in at 23 hours.
But damn, ain't she pretty?