Pennsylvania, USA, A Crown Upon His Head, scratchboard, 11 x 14" (28 x 36 cm)
Third Prize is a one-page editorial feature in American Art Collector magazine My Inspiration
I have always had a deep and abiding love for wildlife and the natural world. As an artist, I am passionate about portraying our animal neighbors with beauty and dignity; each creature is an individual with its own story to tell. The kudu is my favorite antelope species; large and powerfully built, the males carry impressive spiral horns which if straightened would reach a length of 5 feet or more. Despite their size, they carry themselves with a distinct elegance and grace. It is this grace and sense of haughty majesty that I wanted to convey in this scratchboard. I felt that a pose with the head raised and the horns casting a dramatic shadow across the body would be best for this.
My Design Strategy
From a collection of thousands of photos from zoos and on safari, I had images of a kudu with his head raised to browse, but the light was flat and his face was partially hidden in branches. Working in photoediting software, I pulled together material from several other photographs to create my composition, being careful to note how the anatomy would be affected by the light. The face was the most challenging as these animals have short coats that reveal the bony structures underneath. Rendering these accurately is important. I love black-andwhite scratchboard for the chiaroscuro effects that can be achieved and my focus was to create dramatic theatrical lighting, with several lost and found edges along the length of the horns.
My Working Process
After completing my design in photoediting software, I create a line drawing that I transfer to my scratchboard using graphite transfer paper. I never draw directly on the scratchboard, as the surface is delicate and drawing mistakes cannot be erased. I use a No. 11 X-acto blade for the majority of my scratchboards; for rendering hair in artwork nothing else can create so fine a line. Almost anything abrasive can be used to create textures on scratchboard but I find the X-acto blade is easiest to control. My black-and-white scratchboards are usually several layers of scratching followed by diluted washes of black to help create subtle midtones. The brightest highlights are picked out as the last step before varnishing.
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