Owl Scratchboard

Over the holiday break, I worked on another scratchboard. I knew I wanted it to be an owl, so I searched around for owl pictures and came across this, which fit the image in my head:


First, I sketched the owl with pencil and paper, paying attention to important outlines, but only trying to get a broad sense for shading in other areas.

After this, I transferred the drawing to the scratchboard by placing it on top of the scratchboard and drawing the outline of important areas in pen. This made a soft impression in the scratchboard and gave me a sense of where to draw the dominant lines. After this, I looked at the original picture and started scratching, doing the lightest parts first. Here is the final product:

Context and Art

Throughout my life, I have never really been into “art” (it is hard to pin down what this word actually means, so I will put it in quotes). In fact, I thought it was a sham. Observing people in museums “taking in” abstract paintings made me want to throw up. People would tell me that I had to understand the history surrounding the piece to appreciate it. I obstinately countered that I wanted the piece to mean something to me in and of itself, context aside. Isn’t learning the historical context just filling your head with a bunch of facts? Isn’t art something that can/SHOULD transcend facts?

Over the past couple of years, much has changed for me and I have come to appreciate art more than I ever thought I would and I believe I owe it to the word “context”. I have come across the word “context” in many different areas of study, and I have succumbed to the fact that it imbues everything. Context fills each and every thing we “understand” with meaning. Context allows us to appreciate the richness of life. While I would still like to hold on to the idea that a piece can derive meaning “in and of itself”, I now find this idea to be meaningless. Surely even if a piece gives you meaning and you know nothing of the historical context, the meaning you ARE getting is from other contextual pieces of information in your brain (i.e. you are a structural engineer, so the structure of the piece seems to stand out to you; you are a staunch feminist and the fact that only male characters appear in the piece gives you an idea as to the underlying meaning of the piece).

Given all of this, I decided to buy some scratchboards, a medium that interested me because it is similar to the M.C. Escher, the only artist who up until this point, I had found provocative. I don’t even know the basics of art, but I experimented today. Here is my first attempt:

My First Scratchboard