Scratch-what Art??? You Will Be Amazed… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Scratch-what Art??? You Will Be Amazed...

What’s Up?

No shock: even though I was glad to get the prep-work and the Event Space programs completed successfully, I still had tons to do on Friday. Putting the two programs together in Keynote–thanks again to Bug Bob Allen for his help there–took well more than 20 hours… The price of exposure. As things stand, I am miles behind on e-mails including lots of important Used Gear stuff. I hope to do some catching up on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The Streak

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, irrational, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 275 days in a row with a new educational blog post. And I still have dozens of new topics to cover; there should be no end in sight until my big South America trip next fall. As always-–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–-please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. AND Please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


“Port In The Storm” Costa’s Hummingbird (Scratchboard and Ink)
Courtesy of and copyright Cathy Sheeter

The Amazing Scratchboard Fine Art of Cathy Sheeter

I met Cathy when she joined me for a morning at Nickerson Beach about two weeks ago along with her friend, IPT veteran Andrae Kipin Acerra. During our brunch and image review session Cathy shared some of her work with me on her phone. I was totally floored. Many thanks to Cathy for allowing me to share just a few of my favorites of her work here. You can see lots more on Cathy’s website here.

Note: Cathy uses her photographs as reference material for her amazing artwork.


“The Naturalist” Gray Wolf (Scratchboard and Ink)

Courtesy of and copyright Cathy Sheeter

About Scratchboard Art

from Cathy’s website

Scratchboard art is a form of direct engraving. The panel starts out solid black and then the artist scratches to expose a layer of white clay under black ink. The working surface is a three layer medium made up of a 1/8″ masonite panel as a support (for ampersand scratchbord, which is what Cathy works on; the support may be different in other brands). The support is covered with smooth white clay followed by a thin layer of black India ink, leaving a solid black panel to start with. The artist then uses various tools to scratch through the black ink and reveal the white clay below. Every line, dot and dimple is created by hand all with lines and dots and variation in tone and value are based on how many lines are scratched in a particular area or how much of the white clay that your eye sees. Colored inks can be added to the exposed white areas of the work if desired or the board can be left black and white. Large and complex pieces can take hundreds of hours to be completed due to the many layers of tiny scratches that cover the board.


Is Scratchboard Archival?

The black ink used to create ampersand scratchboard (the type of board I work on) is carbon based and as a result of the natural properties of carbon, it is very resistant to fading from natural sunlight. For additional protection once a piece is completed it is also coated with a UV-resistant spray that adds extra protection to the work and prevents it from being easily damaged. Cathy work is also typically framed behind museum glass (except if shipped to shows where it may be behind plexi-glass for safer transport), which filters out 99% of harmful UV rays. If treated with care, you can feel comfortable that any scratchboard artwork that you purchase created by Cathy is created with top of the line materials. You can buy with confidence that you will be able to pass on Cathy’s artwork to the next generations and it will look as good in the future as it did the day you bought it!


“Shirley the Baby Squirrel” (Scratchboard and Ink)
Courtesy of and copyright Cathy Sheeter

Why have I not heard about Scratchboard Art before?

While scratchboard has been around for many years it has never been highly popular. It is considered by many artists to be one of the most difficult of all mediums, as you can not take an eraser and fix a mistake. It can also be a very time consuming medium, as every line is done by hand and larger works can take hundreds of hours to be completed.

What tools are used for creating scratchboard art?

Scratchboard artists use a wide variety of tools to create different textures in the artwork. The primary tool is usually a standard craft knife or scalpel for line work and can be as varied as using sandpaper, steel wool and fiberglass brushes for various other effects. Most artists spend many hours on their work as all textures are created using only scratches! For a more in depth discussion on the tools I use please check out my article on scratchboard tools.

How do you color scratchboard art?

Scratchboard can be left as a dramatic black and white image but it can also be colored after scratching. Because the white layer is clay based and absorbent it will accept color mediums such as colored transparent inks, fluid acrylics and watercolor. Colors can be applied so that they look anywhere from subtle to vibrant. Cathy uses transparent inks to add color to her work. Once a layer of color is applied the artist can go back and re-scratch those areas to build up layers, but once color is applied they can never go back to just black and white. Coloring boards typically takes Cathy about 1 1/2 times as long as leaving a board black and white, so you may notice a slightly higher price on colored works.


“Spin Cycle” Grizzly Bear (Scratchboard and Ink)

Courtesy of and copyright Cathy Sheeter

A Brief Career Summary

Cathy Sheeter is quickly becoming known as one of the premier wildlife and western scratchboard artists of today. Her mastery of the difficult scratchboard medium is evident in the outstanding quality of each of her works. Highly detailed and realistic, her scratchboard art is often mistaken for photographs at a distance. Cathy has only been exhibiting her work since 2008 but her rapid accent into highly respected wildlife and western art exhibitions and ever increasing number of awards and publications is making her work increasingly collectable worldwide. Cathy’s work is instantly recognizable due to its life-like eyes, anatomical accuracy, strong compositions, and sense of light which help bring the viewer into the world of her animal artwork creations.


“Cross My Path” Domestic Short Hair (Scratchboard and Ink)
Courtesy of and copyright Cathy Sheeter

More About Cathy Sheeter

Cathy was born in 1979 and grew up in a very remote town in Eastern Oregon, where she was immersed in a community with small town values, rich in ranching, agriculture and open spaces. Her love for the natural world was encouraged by her family and she owned (and showed) countless animals throughout childhood. Animals and the western lifestyle continue to be central components of her life and the focus of much of her art. Cathy was fortunate to have a family that encouraged her artistic interests and talents from early childhood. She took art classes through high school and was first introduced to the medium of scratchboard in those classes. While Cathy chose to major in animal sciences in college, she never stopped creating art in her free time. In 2002 Cathy moved to Colorado, where she still resides.

Cathy’s primary choice of mediums is the non-traditional scratchboard. Scratchboard is a form of direct engraving where the artist starts with a masonite panel that is coated with white clay and then topped with a thin layer of black ink. A sharp pointed tool is then used to scratch away the black ink and expose the white clay below (leaving a black and white image). The image can then be colored with inks if desired. Scratchboard is regarded by many artists as one of the most difficult mediums to master as it requires excellent drawing skills and attention to fine details. The medium does not allow for many mistakes and the artist must be able to convey many different textures all with just lines or dots. Large and complex pieces can take hundreds of hours to complete. Cathy also enjoys working in graphite pencil, oil paints, color pencil, and pastels from time to time..
Cathy is a founding member and one of the first juried in ‘Master Members’ (MSA) of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists (founded 2011). She continues to promote and push scratchboard into top wildlife and western art shows nation wide. She has been invited to exhibit her work in many prestigious museums throughout the US as well.

Cathy first started exhibiting her work and entering national juried shows in 2008. That same year Cathy also applied to the prestigious Society of Animal Artists for membership and was delighted to be selected as a signature member (top membership ranking) on her first try. Continuing her journey into the professional art world her list of awards continues to grow each year, as does her list of top tier exhibitions that she is invited to participate in. Her work can be found in private and corporate collections throughout the US and Canada.

Cathy’s professional associations include: Master Member (and one of the founders) of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists (ISSA), Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists (SAA), and Associate Member of the Women Artists of the West (WAOW).


Springer Spaniel (Scratchboard)
Courtesy of and copyright Cathy Sheeter

Comments Welcome

I’d love to hear you thoughts about Cathy’s work. Which of today’s featured fine art pieces is your favorite? Be sure to let us know why.

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