Search This Blog

Friday, November 22, 2013

Insights from the World of Scratchbords, Part 1

Cover image for Transatlantic 67 by Colum McCann,
Inside of an Iris
Lisa Goesling has been a featured artist on our blog as well as the recipient of two Ampersand Art awards through Manhattan Arts International.  Lisa shares her experience finding Scratchbord.

"If you are an artist, you understand the feeling of getting totally lost in your art. That happens every time I make a mark.

I discovered Scratchbord in 2006 and it’s become my medium of choice ever since. These hard boards covered in porcelain clay with a layer of black ink, are portable, require only a simple tool, and elicit the most incredible amount of detail.

Magnifying glass in hand, I study my subject, and then jump right in, layering line over line to create dimension. By varying the amount of pressure I put on the tool, I create nature’s contrasts, values and texture all with the humble line. I prefer to work from the real flower, weed or leaf, but I am careful to photograph them in case they perish before I have completed my art.

The Opening of the Fifth and Sixth Seals,
Albrecht Durer, woodcut on laid paper, c. 1497
Unless I am creating a commission, I tend to work on several pieces at one time. That way if the detail becomes too overwhelming in one, I turn to another with a different set of challenges. I have worked on boards as small as 4”x4” all the way to 30”x50”. The smaller boards go everywhere with me, I never know when I am going to be inspired! I haven’t tackled my most recent order yet, a 20”x20” Scratchbord on one side and an Aquabord on the other of a 6’ deep wooden box. 

My art has been compared to various famous artists who were also consumed with creating values and textures through line.

Scratchbord has introduced me to so many fascinating collectors from as far away as New Zealand. Being a juried artist with the Illinois Artisans program led me to a recent invitation to display my art from September 2013 through March 2014 at the Daley Centers’ Cook County Law Library in Chicago. I was awarded an Artists Residency at the Merchandise Mart from 2010-2012 through Tony Karman, (expochicago) and the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. I am a featured artist with Dick Blick and Ampersand Art and have had multiple honors through group and solo exhibitions. My current solo exhibition, Just Scratching the Surface was supposed to end at the end of September 2013 but has been extended. 

Additionally, I offer demonstrations and workshops throughout the area. Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago purchased some of my art a few years ago. They now arrange for me and other artists to display our art and create together with cancer patients and others with chronic diseases. It is interesting to see how hesitant people are initially with the Scratchboards. They worry about making a mistake; I always tell them that anything goes. After a while they are transported through the details and forget about their troubles for a while, just like me.

Some different uses of my artwork include my art appearing on Argentina’s Encendido’s Wine Labels, and the upcoming gift set of New York Times' bestseller Colum McCann’s book,Transatlantic. 67

Argentina's Encendido's Wine Labels
In addition to reviews with the Examiner, Fear No Art and several other publications, host Enid Silverman interviewed me for Cable TV show, Artist to Artist in November 2012.

I count my association with Manhattan Arts International as one of my most rewarding experiences. I applied to “Celebrate the Healing Power of ART” because I love to connect with other people committed to the spiritual side of art. I was honored to learn that I was the winner of three awards, an Award of Excellence, the Jill Connor Critic’s Choice Award and the Ampersand Art Materials Award.

'Lisa Goesling’s floral etching on Scratchboard reaches into the dark abyss of space while defining the depth parameters with lyrical petals and foliage seen on iris blossoms. “Inside of an Iris” is a dissection of the various surfaces that piece together this multi-layered flower. By approaching her subjects on different visual levels, as seen here, Goesling commits to gray-scale bringing the viewer into the subtle tones of layers. Blossoms and stems unwind in a circular pattern as if arranged upon a flat surface. Yet Goesling’s use of lyricism in line suggests a series of per formative moments that spin boundlessly.'  -Jill Conner, New York Editor of Whitehot Magazine as well as Editor of On-Verge/Alternative Art Criticism, collaboration between the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) and CUE Art Foundation. She is a contributor to Afterimage, ArtUS, and Art in America, Interview Magazine, Performance Art Journal and Sculpture Magazine. She has provided editorial assistance to Dorothea Rockburne."

More Insights from the World of Scratchbords will be featured in upcoming blog posts.
More of Lisa's work and blog:

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Working with Oils on Gessobord by Jennifer Philips

Starting Point, mixed media on Gessobord
Seattle artist, Jennifer Phillips, demonstrates her layering technique on Gessobord, using oil paints and oil bars.  

I am always looking for ways to create subtle contrast between hard and soft edges in my work. While using a brush to create some of the softer applications of paint, I often use other tools like palette knives, needle tools, and oil bars to create my heavier textures. These materials work best on a firm support, therefore choosing the right substrate to paint on is very important. Unlike canvas, which can be flexible, Gessobord™ from Ampersand provides me with a strong rigid support that withstands a heavier hand and meets the demands of oil bars, palette knives, and texturing mediums. The surface also allows me to work in thinner washes and with soft blended brush strokes. The 2” Deep Cradle Gessobord, with its attractive wood sides, is gallery ready to hang and does not require framing, giving it a modern look when hanging on the wall. 
Raw Umber oil bar to develop trees

Using a rag to wipe out shapes at the base of trees.
To begin this painting, I prepared a 16x20 Deep Cradle Gessobord by first taping off the natural wood edges with painters tape to keep the area clean. Using a palette knife, I applied a combination of Golden’s Molding Paste and Crackle Paste to the lower half of the board to give texture to the grassy field area. After it dried, I sealed it with Golden Soft Gel Medium and then gave the whole surface a layer of Daniel Smith Venetian Red Gesso. Portions of the red color peak through the final layers of my painting and unify the color palette. I then sketched in the composition using a dark brown Conte pencil. 

I developed the initial stages of the painting using a mixture of oil bar colors and a low toxicity mineral spirit called Daniel Smith Sol. I spread a wash of the spirits over the surface and then used a raw umber and burnt sienna oil bar to develop the tree forms (A). While the surface was still wet, I used a rag to wipe out shapes along the base of the trees to show soft light coming through (B). 

Zinc white with Hansa yellow and ochre for sky
Reapplied oil bar with palette knife
Next, I used a variety of oil colors to blend in the sky and to create the soft edges of the tree tops (C). For the sky, I used a mixture of zinc white with hansa and yellow ochre for the warmer areas and raw umber for the cooler areas. I used mixtures of olive green and raw umber to create the trees in the distance, and then began to lay in the rich yellows of the distant field. At this point, I began defining the areas of light at the base of the trees using a mixture of hansa and yellow ochre, zinc white and a little raw umber. This was when I started refining the shapes and creating hard edge contrast. I did this by scraping paint away with a needle tool, drawing back into the surface to create a suggestion of branches. Then I went back and added delicate colored lines with a #4 script brush. 

Working dark to light, I focused on laying down initial layers of raw umber oil bar in the foreground and then, using a heavy hand, scumbling across the surface in a horizontal linear pattern with raw sienna oil bar. Subsequent colors of oil bar were used to build up the color and surface of the field. They were heavily applied to the surface, scraped away, and then reapplied using a palette knife (D). 

To finish, I used a #12 fan bristle brush to blend the trees and parts of the foreground. Once the painting was dry to the touch, I used a damar retouch spray to unify the surface of the painting. This varnish will allow the painting to continue drying until a final varnish is applied. I removed the tape that was protecting the sides of the Gessobord panel and my painting is now ready to hang! 

To learn more about artist Jennifer Phillips, visit

All things Ampersand,
Karyn Meyer-Berthel
Artist & Social Media Specialist
Ampersand Art Supply

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Replica of self"

"Replica of self", originally uploaded by Ampersand Art Supply.

Watercolor on Aquabord, 12" x 12" work by Ali Cavanaugh.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Viral A-17"

"Viral A-17", originally uploaded by Ampersand Art Supply.

Acrylic and gel medium on Claybord, 46" x 60", 2007 work by Chris Kahler.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Meditation 28"

"Meditation 28", originally uploaded by Ampersand Art Supply.

Oil on Gessobord, 42" x 42", 2006 work by Roi James.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Featured Artist: Ian Bodnaryk

Salama, 11" x 14", acrylic
"I have found that Ampersand panels are unmatched and provide the ideal painting substrate for my high detailed work.  I previously made my own panels, but found that I could rarely get a flawless surface.  With Ampersand Museum Series panels, I receive an ideal texture with little to no fuss."  ~Ian Bodnaryk

Inquisition, 15" x 20", acrylic
Canadian artist, Ian Bodnaryk has been working in acrylics for more than 20 years, and it is evident, from the scrupulous detail in his work and the careful planning of the design, that each piece is constructed with skillful precision and thoughtfulness. Ian began his career in realism, enjoying the natural beauty in an object, even if one might find the subject ordinary or mundane. "I love the challenge of turning objects around my home into dramatic icons, while retaining the simplicity or humor of the subject," he explains.

Choosing to work in acrylics was natural for Ian, as he learned how to paint and found his style with them, gathering along the way that they achieve the results he needs.  With the quick drying time, Ian can focus on one piece at a time, his working preference.  For a time, Ian made his own panels, but struggled to get a flawless surface. Considering the reviews of fellow Scratchbord artists, Ian decided to try Ampersand's panels. He found that the high quality met his needs without much preparation. 
The Contemplation of Daniel, 20" x 16", acrylic,
Kingston Prize Finalist

Ian explains his process using Hardbord™, the unprimed, museum quality board Ampersand sells. "When using unprimed Hardbord, I will first seal the surface with two coats of GAC100. After an appropriate amount of drying time, I begin the priming process. I normally thin the gesso by about 20%.  I apply the gesso with a 2" hake brush using criss-cross brush strokes. After each coat is applied, I will use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process.  Once the gesso is dry and cool, I will sand the surface using a 200 grit sanding block to eliminate all the brush marks. This process is repeated 6 to 8 times. The last two coats, I will normally tint the gesso with my background color. When using a board that is not cradled, I will apply several coats to the back of the panel to eliminate any warping." After completing a painting, Ian does varnish with a spray varnish, he shares, "Varnishing is the key to maintain the life, vibrancy, and safety of your piece."

Earlier this year, Ian became one of 30 finalists of the Kingston Prize, a biennial national competition for contemporary portraits by Canadian artists.  To see Ian's work in person, you can visit The Art Gallery of Calgary in Alberta, Canada where his work as part of the Kingston Prize exhibit will be on display through January 25, 2014.

To view more of Ian's work online, you can visit his website at: or find him on Facebook:

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"AS 108-708"

"AS 108-708, originally uploaded by Ampersand Art Supply.

Watercolor on Aquabord by Ginny Herzog, 8" x 8",

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Without a struggle"

Dry pigments on Pastelbord by Diane French.

Monday, November 4, 2013

"Prairie green 1"

"Prairie green 1", originally uploaded by Ampersand Art Supply.

Work by large scale watercolorist, Michael Ireland. 30" x 60", 2007. More on

Friday, November 1, 2013

Scratchbord Demo with Sally Maxwell

Texas artist, Sally Maxwell, is known for her exquisite scratchboard drawings. Her enthusiasm for the medium led her to develop techniques for using color with scratchboard over twenty years ago. For more information about the artist, please visit  Below, I've shared an article that Sally wrote explaining her process for coloring Scratchbord.

Scratchbord™ is a smooth clay-coated hardboard panel that is sprayed with a heavy black coat of India Ink. Scratchbord™ was developed as an alternative to scratchboard paper for professional scratchboard artists. Its rigid structure and the quality of ink on the surface allows me to produce super-sized artwork in magnificent full color. Using several grades of steel wool and a fiber brush, I’m able to achieve the smooth value changes in black and white as shown in the exercise below. Try this exercise and see why I’ve chosen Scratchbord™ as my medium of choice for full color scratchboard work.

I do my preliminary drawing directly on the Scratchbord™ with pastel chalks. It can also be done the old fashioned way by drawing a study on paper and chalking the back to transfer the drawing to the scratchboard.

To start, using the fiber brush, I indicate all the edges, shadows, highlight areas, plus I scratch in directional lines, which give the piece its volume.

Following the directional lines, I sculpt the petals using gentle pressure on the fiber brush. I vary the pressure on each stroke, removing more at the top of the stroke and gradually removing less as I’m moving down the stroke. I blend and eliminate the brush stroke look by using the finest grade oil-free steel wool. When the drawing is completed, I clean off the black ink residue with a soft cloth or the clean dry palm of my hand.

I prefer using colored india (waterproof) inks to add color. In this case, I applied a wash of (50% scarlet/50% water) following the directional lines. To eliminate brush strokes, I apply an additional coat of ink with a dry brush. An airbrush can also be used to apply very even color. Some inks will leave residue on the black edges of the subject matter and can be difficult to cut if not wiped off quickly. For the final touch up, I apply black ink around the edges of the subject matter which will cover any left over residue and over-painting.

Once all my color is in, I remove the highlights where the sunlight is hitting the rose petals. This gives them volume and dimension. In this step I also lighten areas which are going to receive washes of shadow color. For example, a light wash of yellow will make one of the petals appear more transparent.

When I finish the removing process, I apply a wash of a shadow color (ultramarine blue+sepia thinned down to 25% ink/75% water) over the lower petal. I used a very pale yellow (10% ink/90% water) to wash over the bottom of the upper petal creating a luminescent glow. Last, I check the piece for any accidental over painting, and any scuffs in the black ink. Then, I clean the piece once more with a soft cloth and spray on 2-3 coats of spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating #1309 (Matte) or #1305 (Gloss). The fixative seals and protects the artwork and allows me to frame without glass!

All things Ampersand,
Karyn Meyer-Berthel
Artist & Social Media Specialist
Ampersand Art Supply

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.