Brian Gallagher – Beautiful sky and buildings

Every so often I return to Brian Gallagher’s illustration blog, and I’m always captivated by his handling of buildings. I like how the rendering is actually fairly simple, but they really convey a lot of feeling to me. They are nicely designed and the values are great. I thought this scene was especially nice. The sky has a lot of interesting movement:

Russ McMullin – Owls, tree, and stars – progress and finish

My latest scratchboard is more illustrative than realistic.


For it I borrowed the basic design of an owl that my sister burned into a wooden spoon.


I wasn’t trying to achieve realism, but I wanted to include at least a hint of it. I started out by doing some sketches



And then I started refining:



Once I settled on the design, I transferred it to a 5×7 board with Chaco paper and red ballpoint pen:


For scratching I used a sharpened steel point that a friend made for me. It works great and has stayed sharp.


Initially the leaves were way too bright and competed with the owls for attention. I inked over them with a Faber Castell PITT artist pen brush, waited for them to dry, and re-scratched them. Even then they seemed too bright:


So, I pushed them back a little further with a diluted ink wash using Ampersand “black repair” that comes with their set of scratchbord inks:


The stars came last to give a background that wouldn’t compete with the owls. I’m feeling pretty good about the result. Now I’m trying to decide if I’m going to add some color.

Roadside lily in scratchboard

I was going to take some work-in-progress shots of this, and then got too focused on trying to finish. The reference comes from some huge lilies that were growing up the street a while back. The light coming through the pedals made me think it would be a good scratchboard subject. I would love to be done, but I can’t go any further tonight. So far I have about 5 hours in the rendering, maybe 6. The board is a 5×7 Ampersand and I used an Olfa art knife for the scratching.

I’ve got some ideas for a background, but I’m going to test them on another board first. It might be cool to scratch a background pattern and then knock it back a bit with the airbrush that’s been sitting idle, waiting to be experimented with. I hope to post the final by Saturday if all goes well.

UPDATE for Thursday night. Small edits:

Wednesday night:

If you show it, why not show it off?

Looking through online artist portfolios, it’s common to see small images that don’t give the viewer a full appreciation of the work. In those situations I find myself wondering why the artist chose to present the work so small.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, the same image is shown at two sizes below. The small one is good enough for a thumbnail, but it doesn’t have enough detail to give more than a general impression of the work. At the small size you don’t see any of the scratch patterns in the background. The large size is much more interesting. Though not big enough to use for a high-resolution print, it shows enough detail to give the viewer a better appreciation of the original.

My entries for the ISSA Exhibition

The International Society of Scratchboard Artists just happens to be having their 3rd Annual Juried Exhibition in the town where I live—Cary, North Carolina. The show starts Friday, June 27, and runs through the middle of August. It should be fun. I’m looking forward to meeting the other artists and admiring their work.

Two of my entries were accepted:



Russ McMullin – Teddy at the Table

Another “just for fun” piece. This is based on a sketch I did a long time ago. It’s more of a conceptual still life than a story—an exercise in composition, light, and value. The rendering is pretty loose so it took me about 3 hours once my sketch was transferred to the 5×7 Ampersand board. I used a #16 X-acto blade for all the scratch work.