John Agnew is an artist of the natural world.
Driven by a childhood fascination for dinosaurs, he has dedicated his professional and artistic practice to the study of reptiles. Agnew particularly regards crocodilians as living representatives of dinosaurs, incarnating in the natural world his own childhood imagination.
Perfect subjects for his scratchboards, Agnew has travelled around the world to observe various species of crocodilians in their native habitats — from the southern United States, to the Amazon basin, Borneo rainforest, and equatorial Africa. Through the scratchboard technique, the artist is able to capture the textural qualities of these reptiles, living in fascinating natural landscapes.
What is a scratchboard?
A scratchboard is a drawing medium obtained from a board coated with white kaolin clay and India ink. The image is traced by scratching off the ink to resurface the clay underneath, using a sharp scraper — a #11 hobby knife is Agnew’s preferred tool.
Starting from a sketch drawing, the lines of the subject are first traced on the scratchboard surface. Using the traced lines as a guide, the artist stipples the first layer to create a grey undertone. Highlights and details are then added by cross-hatching the exposed clay surface.
A Closer Look
Explore more of Agnew’s work below. Hover over the image to magnify and examine the finer details of the scratchboard.
You can make your own scratchboard at home. Check out the video below to learn how to make your own work of art using anything you want as inspiration.
CROCODILIAN SCRATCHBOARDS BY JOHN AGNEW, Produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C.