Crayon etching is most like a commercial art technique called scratchboard. With this method, the artist brushes India ink onto a specially coated support such as illustration board, and when the surface is dry, white lines and areas are scratched out with a cutter or knife.
Scratchboard was very popular in the first part of this century. It allowed graphic artists to use line to produce half-tones or "shade" work for reproduction in newspapers and magazines. As a commercial art technique, it's been replaced today with computer-generated graphics.
While scratchboard isn't as popular commercially, it's still a fun and interesting art technique. You can use the same method to make a Halloween crayon etching. If you recycle and reuse materials to make the art, you'll help save natural resources, landfill space, and money.
Begin by coloring random shapes or patches all over a smooth, heavyweight scrap of paper or a piece of illustration or mat board. Give each shape several coats of color or press down on the crayon to make sure the shape is colored heavily. Work with bright colors, and avoid using black, because it won't show up under the India ink. Also, metallic gold, silver, and copper are difficult colors with which to work.
After the entire paper or board is colored, you're ready to brush on the ink. Since crayon is a waxy material, it will tend to resist the ink when it's applied. To help the ink stick to the paper or board, remove some of the "waxiness" by lightly polishing the crayon with a rag. Brush the ink onto the crayon, and if it resists the ink, patiently move the ink around till it sticks. Allow the board to dry completely before continuing.
In the meantime, make a scratch tool by reusing an old compass or some common household items. The point on a compass makes an excellent scratch tool. Reuse it by removing the pencil, closing the tool, and taping it shut with masking tape. Another way to make a tool is to tape a finishing nail or a large embroidery needle to the side of a pencil.
Halloween themes are especially good subjects for crayon etching. You might draw a creature from outer space or a jack-o'-lantern. Before you start scratching out the design, make a simple drawing to use as a guide or plan. Now the fun begins! Start etching the picture by scratching through the ink layer to the crayon below. Just make a line drawing, or develop some textures by scratching lines or shapes close together. Examples of interesting patterns are all around you, or refer to the crayon etching design sheet pictured above for some ideas.
Tips and Tricks:
Use this technique to make designs and more pictures with other themes. Try making a quilt block or a stained glass window design.
Making a crayon etching can be very messy. Be sure to protect your work space with newspapers, especially for the inking process and the actual etching. If you must rest your hand on your picture as you work, place a scrap of paper underneath to keep your hand clean and to protect the artwork.
Mat board is nonrecyclable, so reusing mats helps save the environment and money. Ask your picture framer to donate a good, used mat for your finished crayon etching.
Visit Pumpkin Masters and Green Halloween for more holiday fun, and have a safe and happy Halloween!
© 1997-2008 Marilyn J. Brackney (updated 2018)
Volume 9 No. 4
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