I had another textbook project this month from an east coast publisher. These were a series of black and white scratchboard illustrations on a variety of subjects. I had the impression that I was only one of several illustrators working on this book project. I had another batch of similar illustrations for the same client the month before. Some were of a nautical nature, and there were a few that had to do with space travel, and archaology, and there were a series of illustrations about a young boy from an aleutian fishing village. I had a little more time with this project than I normally do with a lot of my ‘same day’ work, so a lot of them came out quite nice.
It was with this project that I really started using the ‘scratchboard rake’ tool in my Painter software, mostly as a way of putting down ‘grey areas’ in the background that I could sculpt into clouds or fog shrouded mountains or whatever the illustration called for. This would become a tool that I would lean on heavier and heavier as the years went by, and would find new and interesting ways to put it to use. For those not familiar with the ‘rake’, it is a tool that allows you to draw several parallel lines in scratchboard at the same time, and if you keep them fairly straight, you can copy and past a number of them together to give yourself a ‘grey field’ that you can then go back into with a white tool and manipulate in a manner of ways. Sometimes it takes a bit more forethought and planning ahead of time but it makes for a much cleaner image and is worth the trouble.
One of the wonderful things about a multi-image project like this with a consistent style, is that it gives you invaluable experience at working on your techniques. I think I learned more new things about scratchboard with these two book projects than I had in years of day to day work. You’ll see lots of these new techniques and tricks popping up in everyday projects in the months and years to come.