One of the most widely read blogs in world about cars and things with wheels that are cool is justacarguy.blogspot.com. Jesse, the blog's creator/writer seems to show up at all the shows I do and all the ones I don't because he posts something new nearly every day. He's followed by millions around the world because he's one of the most ripped off bloggers in the world. What he writes on his own blog often turns up word for word, picture for picture, all over the world on other car blogs by people he's never heard of.
So when Jesse asked me if I would scratch out a BOMONSTER original for a new masthead for the most widely read auto blog in the world I jumped all over it. Here's how I did it:
My art is created on scratchboard – which looks like a piece of Masonite coated with a soft white Claycoat finish and then sprayed with a black India ink. My job is to scrape the black surface with a knife - which reveals the white Claycoat layer underneath. I taped the scratchboard to a drawing board - which I can pivot on my desktop. For this project Jesse sent me the photo of a vintage hot rod roadster at speed. He requested some slight modifications and left the rest to me. I threw his photo into Photoshop and leaned the car forward and enlarged the wheels. Then I Googled some aviator goggles because his photo lacked good detail. I added a light pool with a shadow and printed it out for reference while scratching. Since an Internet blog masthead is a small file I was able to keep the art size relatively small on an 8x10” sized scratchboard. I like to scratch larger pieces like shirt designs onto a 12x16” board for better detail.
Sometimes I work from my own drawings and sometimes I work from photos where I tweak the perspective and can bend around in Photoshop. Since this was Jesse’s photo, I opted not to tweak it too far. And since my art is scratched with no room for error, I always work out the driver first as people are the trickiest part to get right. I figure at this stage I can always start over if the driver’s face turns out funky. Then I proceed by scratching out the basic outline following a faint graphite tracing. Graphite transfers are created by doing a soft pencil rubbing on the back of the printout and redrawing the basic shape onto the scratchboard. I wear cotton archival gloves to keep the surface free of skin oils – which can resist the Krylon clear coat sprayed on later.
Many artists can do sheet metal well but bad lettering can bring down the quality of their picture. My challenge was to re-create the “brush-painted-in-hurry” look but not make it look like I can’t do good lettering. I opted to let the scratch marks show to give the feeling of hand painted numbers.
One of the things that defines my style is a scratchy light effect created by scratching a lot of little wavy lines. It’s a time-consuming process and it’s important not make the length or the line quality too uniform. I just keep scratching until I like the look.
On one hand black cars are easy because you just leave the board black. On the other hand, light adds life to a rendering so I scratch little “stipple” marks on the top edges to help define the car shape and to give the car body some dimension. Lots of little marks close together intensifies the quality of light. Here I’ve added some slight tire and flying salt detail.
There are many scratchboard tool sets available online. I can see the value in all the different shapes and sizes but what works for me is one single tool – an Xacto knife with a #16 blade. The point allows me to scratch the fine lines and the flat edge lets me remove a lot of surface material if necessary. I also wrap the tip of the handle with a strip of black duct tape to soften my finger pressure against the harder knife handle surface. As it is, hours and hours of scratching can leave dents on my fingertips for days! I change blades often and will usually go through 7 or 8 blades to create one design.
Every artist has to answer the question: “When is it done?” I have to be careful not to scratch too much but at the same time know how to create an intricate look. Here I’ve added some flying trails of “energy” behind the driver and the car and I came back to the wavy lines creating the pool of light at the base of the drawing. The left half looks finished because I’ve added stipple marks to the wavy lines and also threw in some longer scratches to look more explosive. The wavy lines on the right need that added touch to finish them off.
Once finished I then scan and create a digital file for printing. I spray a Krylon non-yellowing clear coating onto the original surface - which removes a lot of smudge marks and evens out the surface. This one was a fairly simple execution and I was able to scratch it out in two hours after spending about an hour of prep time creating the printout. More involved pieces like my shirt designs and poster prints can take 10-12 hours of starting-and-stopping scratching to finish.