I’ve been planning to use this art as a monthly calendar since I created it last August. But when I associate most of the months with colors, when would be the best time? Late winter/early spring, I decided, after we’d moved past the lovely January light and winter sun to March, the month of contrasts, going in like a lion and going out like a lamb, we hope, but full of undecided weather, snow one day and spring the next.
Here is what I wrote about this art when I created it last summer…
I’ve been thinking about scratchboard for quite some time. It’s a natural with a bunch of black cats, don’t you think? However, I kept insisting that I ink my own boards and I just wasn’t getting around to it. When a saw a package of pre-inked scratchboard sheets on sale, I bought them.
Scratchboard, at least the last time I did the technique some time in high school, is black India ink painted evenly on a smooth and/or glossy surface so that when you scratch the surface with a sharp instrument it removes the ink in the manner you’ve scratched it, as if you were drawing with a fine white pen. You are, then, drawing in white on black, and in a reductive manner instead of an additive manner as we are accustomed to—instead of making marks on paper to build the image you remove material to build the image. This can be disorienting as you try to draw something in like the little hairs along Giuseppe’s back when what you really need to do is just leave them there and remove the unnecessary inked area from around the hairs. Easier said than done. Kind of like Michelangelo saying he took the block of marble and removed everything that wasn’t the sculpture he saw inside, it’s a different approach to what you want to accomplish. When I create block prints I work in the same manner since I am cutting away all the areas that won’t be covered with ink to print and leaving those that will.
So I have been thinking of scratchboard since my cats are black, and thinking ever more heavily about it since I’ve had these papers, two or three weeks. Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine were cuddling on my drafting table the other day, the sun streaming in the window onto the white surface, and I decided right then that the figures silhouetted against the table, and Mr. Sunshine’s features, furs and whiskers alight against Giuseppe’s black fur, would be my first scratchboard subject. I could see it as I looked at them. I took a reference photo and prepare to do the sketch.
But last week was the week that was and every time I settled in to do the sketch it was late, I was tired, my hands were tired, my wrists hurt, and I didn’t want to give it a try until I could give it my best. That gave me more time to decide what I would use to scratch the board and visualize exactly how I would deal with certain individual hairs and whiskers. And people wonder why I’m late for things. With such important things to consider, how do I ever get anywhere?
I opened the photo in Photoshop and lightly sketched the basic outlines in pencil so I’d have something to go by. Normally I simply enjoy just sketching onto the surface in whatever medium I’d chosen and letting my hand-eye coordination work it out so that I’m not constrained by guidelines that don’t permit my sketch to grow organically. In this case, however, with my first experience with a medium since high school, and even after practicing on the corners with a few test scratches unsure of how it would work with different angles and pressures I thought I’d give myself a little guidance and sketched on the outlines of Sunshine’s head and Giuseppe’s back and face. You can “erase” unwanted marks with a black marker, but that changes the surface of the paper and this would have a lot of delicate areas that I didn’t want to be disturbed, and a lot of subtlety. Where I typically like my sketchy lines that build an image, I only wanted the essentials here.
The background would be solid white as well, since that was partly what had inspired me about this—their silhouette against the white drafting table reflecting full sunlight. Highlights and textures are built with patterns of lines and dots with scratchboard, but when I finished with my series of fine white lines very close together and even added some cross-hatching in the “white” area I just wasn’t happy and wanted that contrast. I used the flat edge of the blade instead and, especially with the help of all those lines and crosshatches, completely cleared the surface of any black so that it was solid white. Perfect! Well, almost. I had scratched a little vigorously and the smooth surface was also scratched, and a bit of the ink residue from what I’d scratched off tinted those scratched areas. I decided on a little help from Photoshop for this and after I’d scanned it I went over the white background and erased all the smudges. But it’s just what I was picturing.
Now that I’ve done this once I have more ideas about how to do the next one. The tiny wood carving implement I began with was okay but not the best, and the X-acto No. 11 blade was too fine and at a bad angle to clear away the background, the No. 24 worked better for that.
Overall I’m pretty pleased with my first scratchboard in about 35 years, and I can’t wait for my next one. (Six months later, I’m still looking forward to it…better get a move on.)
Where to find this artwork
“Black and Light” can be found in my Etsy shop as a 5″ x 7″ or 8″ x 10″ print.
For now I’m working with other items on paper, like greeting cards. I’ve also applied it to a keepsake box for Valentine’s Day and I’m looking into textiles as well, so to find all that is available with this image, search my Etsy shop for “Black and Light“.
This month’s desktop calendar
I’ve worked this image into a desktop calendar for you to enjoy and use for the entire month. Looking at the downloads from previous months and averaging out which dimensions fit which devices, I have reduced the number of variations from 12 to three. It was very time-consuming to create all the variations with new devices arriving all the time, so I have one for horizontal monitors/screens, one for square monitors/screens, and one that should fit the dimensions of nearly all mobile devices.
If these sizes don’t work for your device, or if you have problems, please let me know. Often I can troubleshoot the reason an image won’t download or won’t load on your device, but if I just can’t figure it out I can just email it to you and hope that works.
How to download and use your desktop calendar
- Click on one of the images below that matches the dimensions of your monitor to open the image in a new page.
- For desktop computers and laptops, right-click on that image and on a desktop computer choose “save as desktop wallpaper” or “save as background” or whichever option your operating system gives you to be able to do this. You may also simply save it to your hard drive and set it as your background from there.
- For mobile devices, download the image to your gallery then choose it as your wallpaper—this is slightly different on all devices.
Horizontal and HD monitors and screens
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Square monitors and screens
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Small Mobile Devices and Tablets
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Cell Phones and Smartphones
Take a look at other featured artwork and desktop calendar posts.
Each month I feature a piece of feline artwork from the archives to the present day, discuss its history and process, and set it up as a free downloadable desktop calendar for just about every electronic device available.
Click here to see daily sketches, click here to see daily photographs
click here to see other artwork featured on The Creative Cat
or visit Fine Art and Portraiture on my main website.
If you are interested in a print of this image, check my Etsy shop to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
Inspired by felines you know! Visit Portraits of Animals on Etsy.
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