Of experiments and monsters

I decided I was getting too comfortable with my new inks, and I thought I’d try a new experiment. I think it’s important as an artist not to get too comfortable with what you are doing, as complacency can often lead to boring art.

So, what I would tell all artists is to try something unique and different sometimes. Not all the time, because, frankly, I do have to feed the family on my work. But sometimes it’s good to jump in the ring and get bloody. Throw out what you’re comfortable with and break some rules, and stretch your idea of art to its limits.

In this case, I decided to do just that.

I started with a scratchboard, a technique I’ve been thinking of returning too. I created lots of scratchboard art many years ago but, much like ink, I abandoned it in favor of digital. I’ve been wanting to try it again, so I grabbed a piece and went to it.

I started with a fairly normal monster, roughing in the major highlights (scratchboard is like creating in reverse). Once that was done, I took a step back and looked at it. At this point, I could go on with it, and it would look similar to the ink art I’ve been doing as of late (with scratchboard’s unique touches, of course).

But, as is often the case, a Teddy Roosevelt quote was lurking in my head. I’ve repeated it many times before, so I won’t bug you with it again.  But its meaning is that you can never really know victory unless you are willing to fail.

That’s when I took the sandpaper to the scratchboard.

Now, if you’re familiar with scratchboard, especially if you’ve ever worked on a piece yourself, you realize that every little line of white scratched off must be at precisely the right spot. Scratchboard can be an unforgiving art, and anything out of place could ruin the works. Rubbing sandpaper across it is practically a blasphemy.

I ran it all over the board, until my original base piece was faded nearly away. Then I decided to get to the real meat of the work.

I took various colors of inks that I have, watering down some and not others, and started coloring various areas of the board. After I was satisfied with the colors, I took black ink, and nibs instead of my pens, and put lines in various areas to darken them. After that, I scratched more of the surface away to reveal more highlights.

Whether I succeeded in a new piece of art, dear friends, is up to you. For me, the idea was to boldly throw out what I was comfortable with, and try something new.

Here is the original scan, only slightly edited for color balance to keep it true to the original (my scanner runs a little even in the gray tones). I call it The Lost Nightmare:

Also, because I couldn’t just let it lie, here’s a digitally colored version, with deeper colors and some color enhancement. I didn’t add any textures or anything though, I left that off.


Also, I know that some folks that follow my blog (both of them!) like to see more process and more detail, so below are three close up shots of the art as well.

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Russell Dickerson has been a lot of things over many years. Author, artist, designer, winner of awards and recognition, pursuer of the truth, leader of the earth after armageddon.

  • That is awesome. I’ve been struggling myself with loosening up my style, and I love this.

  • admin

    I really had to shrug off that feeling that I was ruining the whole works, especially when I decided to get the sandpaper. It reminded me of the first Die Hard, when he’s tying the fire hose around him before jumping. I should tweet that actually…