I have long been fascinated by pen and ink drawing, and its mirror world cousin, scratchboard.
Both are demanding mediums, but scratchboard is additionally difficult in that the unfamiliarity of working by subtraction rather than addition takes some practice, as well a mental shift (in common with some printmaking techniques); but the rewards are a kind of textural quality and visual appeal unlike any other medium.
There are some excellent contemporary scratchboard artists carrying forward the tradition; perhaps the best known and most accomplished of which is Canadian illustrator Mark Summers.
Summers combines superb draftsmanship, a talent for whimsey and humorous exaggeration and a knack for likenesses, both contemporary and historic, with a flair that have made his unique illustrations in demand and a common sight for readers of Time, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic Monthly, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times Book Review and numerous other publications and a range of book publishers an corporate clients.
He has received awards form the Society of Illustrators and been featured in juried shows, collections and publications like Step by Step Graphics, Communication Arts, Print and Applied Arts.
If you are a book lover, you may in remember his wonderful series of literary portraits that were prominent in Barnes and Noble bookstores a few years ago (I particularly loved his portrayals of Edgar Allan Poe).
Summers was born in Ontario and studied a the Ontario College of Art. He was introduced to scratchboard by Duncan Macpherson, an editorial cartoonist who drew for the Montreal Standard and the Toronto Star.
Summers doesn’t have a dedicated website, but since I last wrote about him in 2007, a new resource for viewing his art has become available. In addition to the portfolio on the site of his artist’s representative, Richard Solomon, and his portfolio on The iSpot, he now has a presence on the relatively new Behance Network.
In the latter you will find a section of delightfully Wicked Portraits, with Summers’ portrayals of notorious heavies from history, such as Edward VII (image above, top), in the company of such cheery chums as Torquemada, Rasputin, Genghis Kahn and Atilla the Hun.
In these and many of his recent illustrations, he enlivens his scratchboard drawings with tones of watercolor and sometimes oil glazes. There is a step through and description of his working process on the Richard Solomon site, and the same process is also shown a little larger at the bottom of this page on the Behance site. In addition, Summers has left a few replies to comments on my earlier post about his work with answers to questions about his technique.
Summers’ illustrations are featured in a new book, Vanity Fair’s Presidential Profiles: Defining Portraits, Deeds, and Misdeeds of 43 Notable Americans–And What Each One Really Thought About His Predecessor.