Diana Lee: Scratchboards

My works are not photographs—they are fine art scratchboards. Scratchboard art is a form of direct etching using a sharp, pointed tool to scratch out an image. Traditional scratchboard is a three-layer medium made up of a support surface coated with a layer of smooth white kaolin clay (porcelain) and then sprayed with a layer of thin black ink. I scratch through the layer of ink, often using the tip of a surgical scalpel, to expose the white clay below, producing a black and white image. When light strikes the exposed porcelain it gives an iridescent glow. I sometimes add color to the exposed white areas of the work with inks or paint. Most scratchboard artwork can take well over 100 hours of scratching to be completed.

My earliest memory of scratch art was in 1952. Our second grade teacher had us make blocks of color with our crayons on a piece of paper and then cover the blocks with a thick coat of black crayon. She gave no indication what the end result would be. When the class was done she handed out Popsicle sticks and told us to scratch lines through the black crayon. I still remember the wonder of watching the colors magically appear as I scratched. I still experience that awe every time I work on scratchboard. — D. Lee