Showcasing the Arts


July/August 2015 Featured Artist:
Kathy Conroy


Kathy Conroy demonstrating 
    scratchboard technique at the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen Fair.Wildlife representation in the history of art has gone from crude cave paintings to two-dimensional stone carvings in the tombs of the Pharaohs to oil depictions by the masters. As an artistic realist, I have found that the scratchboard medium provides a nearly three-dimensional representation of the subject matter that I always loved to draw and paint since I was a child.

A significant event occurred when my youngest daughter entered high school: I quit my job in manufacturing and entered the ACA College of Design, later named the Art Institute of Cincinnati, to obtain a degree in graphic arts. During my years there, I was introduced to scratchboard as a two-week project and realized that this medium is uniquely suitable for wildlife depictions. The incredible level of detail that is possible with fur and feathers was mind-boggling.

I have been an artist most of my life working in all mediums from pastels, to watercolors, oils and gouache. But, I fell in love with scratchboard and this is now my medium of choice. My goal is to achieve the level of master within the International Society of Scratchboard Artists (ISSA) within the next two to three years.

What is scratchboard? It is hardboard — like Masonite — that has a thin layer of white china clay deposited o n it, which is then coated with a layer of India ink. Scratchboard is available from most commercial art supply vendors. Using a variety of fine tools, like utility knives, scalpels, needles, and specialized scrapers, I scratch the image into the white clay by carefully removing the black India ink. When the first iteration of scratching is done, I have a black and white depiction of my subject.

Frequently, I choose to add color to provide a more life-like representation. Using special scratchboard inks, I color the image as if using watercolors. I then go back and scratch through the colors to provide enhanced detail and shading. The finished product is sealed with several coats of clear acrylic to protect the painting and to eliminate the need to put glass over the piece.

The beauty of scratchboard lies in the nearly three-dimensional depth of the image. The act of scratching the image leaves a texture that looks more lifelike than most photographs. The downside to scratchboard — hence the dearth of scratchboard artists — is the tedium of scratching every hair and feather detail. Even my smallest pieces take many hours to create. However, I thoroughly enjoy the creative process, regardless of the time involved. The finished product makes the time investment very rewarding.

I am a juried signature member of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists (ISSA) and I am also a juried member of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen (KGAC) and the Kentucky Arts Council – Kentucky Crafted Program. My personal dream is to develop my passion for art into a self-sustaining endeavor.

Kathy Conroy
Pleasureville, Ky.

Telephone: 502-542-7208


Page last updated: June 8, 2016
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