Most visual art is some form of additive technique: mark-making with graphite on rough paper, building up clay on an armature, applying colour pigments to a canvas and so on. Scratchboard is one of the few methods of two-dimensional art that is actually subtractive; that is, where the image is formed by the removal of material rather than the addition of it. It's similar to carving, but on a flat surface.

Here's Canine Ancestry by Ontario-based illustrator Lori Dunn.

Lori Dunn comments:

"In 1993 the taxonomy of the dog was changed from Canis familiaris to Canis lupus familiaris, a subspecies of the Gray wolf. Evidence from behaviour, morphology and molecular biology led to the classification change indicating that the Gray wolf is the ancestor of today’s dog breeds. This artwork “Canine Ancestry” of a Gray wolf skull pays homage to the evolutionary process that led to the remarkable relationship forged between humans and the domestic dog. Skulls can be beautiful objects in their own right, and lend themselves perfectly to rendering in scratchboard.

"Scratchboard is a form of direct engraving using an extremely sharp tool such as a scalpel blade. Masonite boards are coated in white kaolin clay, sanded smooth and painted over with black India ink. Lines are carefully “scratched” through the ink to reveal the white clay beneath. In creating this piece I was attempting to hone my skill at subtle degrees of shading. Scratchboard engraving requires an extremely light touch and even pressure applied at different depths to achieve this. Working in reverse, highlights are etched out and dark areas are left as is. The smoothness of the teeth and play of light on the skull were a challenge, but I loved the end result."


Dunn's stunning image was recently featured on the Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators (SONSI) site, where she and I are members of a fun and fascinating group. Canine Ancestry has won an award for excellence from the 51st Society of Animal Artists Exhibition - well-deserved, Lori!

- -