To create these breathtaking portraits of animals, artist Allan Ace Adams uses a scalpel and an x-acto knife to scratch away a top layer of black ink to reveal the white clay underneath. Called scratchboard art, it's a time-consuming process that takes commitment and a fine level of detail. One piece can take hundreds of hours to complete due to the many layers of tiny scratches that have to b be made. Every line must be created by hand and there is no room for mistakes.
A scratchboard starts off as just a hardwood board, which is then coated with a thin layer of porcelain clay. The clay is coated with a think layer of black ink and the artist scratches the black ink to reveal the white clay. “I explain to people that I'm scratching in the highlights instead of the ‘darks' like you would with a graphite drawing,” wrote Allan Ace Adams on his website. “Shades of gray can be achieved by how much ink is removed or by applying an ink wash. The ink wash can be scratched back though to reveal the white once again.”
In addition to a scalpel and and an x-acto knife, Adams has an arsenal of tools. That includes everything from steel wool and sandpaper to wire twisty ties, women's nail buffers and tattoo needles. “Anything that has an abrasive quality can be used,” he explains. “The sky is the limit and exploring those limits is half the fun.”
Many of his subjects include wild animals like wolves, tigers and bears or what he refers to as “dangerous critters” though he can also be commissioned for a pet portrait. The self-taught artist started scratchboarding in late 2008. Here is some of his best work.