Watercolor on Scraperboard

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Scraperboard, or “scratchboard,” is probably an unexpected substrate for watercolor, but I find it a fun combination. I’ve been creating pieces in this medium since my elementary school days. Whereas in watercolor one works from light to dark, in scraperboard it is the opposite: the black layer is scraped away with various tools, from sharp-edged devices to steel wool, revealing the white clay beneath.

Since scraperboard is not as forgiving as watercolor, care must be taken to place marks accurately. Though one can’t remove an error, it’s more like drawing than painting, but interestingly, negative space shapes are critical to shape development in both media. In watercolor, negative space shapes are developed by gradually darkening value, allowing paler shapes in front to “pop.” In scraperboard, pale negative space shapes eventually define the dark forms and help suggest depth. The exact same design and thought process uses opposite values in each medium.

The untouched, black scraperboard background has the same effect of making pale value and bright color pop as it would be to add the most saturated and darkest negative spaces to this portrait in a standard watercolor painting. Nothing special was done to add color here to the white clay. Fixative protects the final piece.

Rabbit in Repose, Scraperboard with Watercolor, 16×20″ ©Bivenne Staiger 2020

Many have asked how long this piece took to complete, and, not counting a number of interruptions, I’d say about an hour, start to finish. It can be seen at Lyme Art Association’s “Animal Kingdom” exhibition, on view August 21st through October 1st.

5 thoughts on “Watercolor on Scraperboard

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