THE START I have been trying to draw since two or three years old. First, it was funny little men with hats, then cartoons, then wanting deeply to put my version of what I saw in nature down on paper. Drawing was a world apart, which I could retreat into when the world my body inhabited was temporarily uncomfortable. My father was the son of English immigrants, so the children’s stories I was read before bed were illustrated by such great British artists as Arthur Rackham and Earnest Shepherd. These two artists influenced my style of drawing more than any others.

Black and white line drawings fascinated me for many years, as I trained my hand and eye to work together, to relax and flow. So I worked in pencil, charcoal and pen & ink for a long time, always delighting in working outdoors in nature. My family was a California family that camped and hiked, so I formed a passion for nature early on.

SCRATCHBOARD In later years I began to be drawn to woodcuts, linocuts and etchings, and experimented with these media for numbers of years, until I discovered scratchboard. What I loved about this medium was the fact that it allowed me to have the feeling of pen & ink as well as the feel of a woodcut, linocut or etching. The hand printing process of these latter media had never interested me much, so scratchboard was perfect, in that it is a drawing medium that looks like a hand-printing medium. I worked for years with the old type of scratchboard that can only be done in black & white.

COLOR I worked for 10 years at the Sierra Club in San Francisco, and in addition to my other job with them, created pen & ink and scratchboard illustrations and cartoons for their Conservation Department newsletters, flyers and other print media. This gave me a lot of practice and kept me working. Everything was in black & white, which was fine for a long time, but gradually I began to feel a longing for expression in color. Eventually, I discovered a new scratchboard surface that allows one to add color, called Claybord. A masonite panel is coated with a layer of white clay and then a layer of India Ink. The artist uses a scratch knife to scrape or scratch away the ink, revealing the white clay below. So, the image looks like a pen & ink drawing, in reverse.

The difference between Claybord and the old style of scratchboard is not only the masonite panel (the other is on a cardboard backing) but the ink surface has a mat finish, where the old style has a shiny surface. These two elements make it more suitable for adding water color media—the panel is not affected by water--and the mat ink finish receives the pigment. A shiny surface does not.

I use water soluble colored pencils because of their versatility. The wet pigment stains the underlying clay, and can also be applied to any of the black ink surface remaining, like pastel or regular colored pencils. I layer color upon color and mix on the surface. Changes can be made by re-inking and re-scratching, or blending colors, or washing them off with a wet rag.

PLEIN AIR Sitting quietly outdoors with my subject is the heart of my art practice. A student of Zen Buddhism, I use this practice as a meditation, and the experience of making an image is as important to me as the finished piece. Because scratchboard is not a rapid medium, I work on site for as long as I am in the area. If I cannot finish the piece on site, I take reference photos and finish it in my studio.

TRAINING I have studied art at Hunter College in New York, Parson’s School of Design and the San Francisco Academy of Art, but the development of my scratchboard style and technique has been self-taught. Although scratchboard is used by illustrators, there are not many scratchboard artists using color and scratchboard for framed artwork, so I have had to blaze my own trail with the medium. It has been a happy trail.