top of page
Welcome to a behind the Scenes Look into the Art of Debra Otterstein.
Scratchboard and Feather Painting Descriptions
Scratchboard Process

Scratchboard is a beautiful and fairly uncommon art medium that is actually over 100 years old.  Scratchboard is now accepted in Museum shows all over the world and as such is considered as part of the Fine Art Category.


The working surface of a scratchboard is a three layer medium made up of a 1/8" masonite panel as a support.  The support is covered with smooth white clay followed by a thin layer of black India ink, leaving a solid black panel to start with.  I then use various tools to scratch through the black ink and reveal the white clay below. Every line, dot and dimple is created by hand. The variation in tone and value are based on how many lines are scratched in a particular area or how much of the white clay that your eye sees. Colored inks can be added to the exposed white areas of the work if desired or the board can be left black and white. Large and complex pieces can take hundreds of hours to be completed due to the many layers of tiny scratches that cover the board. 


The black ink used to create the scratchboard is carbon based and as a result of the natural properties of carbon, it is very resistant to fading from natural sunlight. For additional protection once a piece is completed it is also coated with a UV-resistant spray that adds extra protection to the work and prevents it from being easily damaged. If treated with care, you can feel comfortable that any scratchboard artwork that you purchase is created with top of the line materials.

Feather Painting Process

I paint on feathers just like I would paint on a canvas but there are some definite differences.  I only use domestic turkey feathers for my pieces in this way I am up-scaling something that is normally discarded.  I also do not have to worry about breaking the Migratory Bird Treaty law.  I prefer to use white turkey quill feathers.   I use acrylic paint throughout the process as I feel it is not as detrimental to the feather as oil paint would be. I then will draw my image onto the feather using acrylic paint with a very small artist brush.  When doing this I must be very accurate because if a mistake is made it is there permanently, it cannot be erased or changed.   I then tone my canvas (feather) with usually a warm base coat.  This helps to seal the surface and eliminates the white.  I then start the layering process of adding midtones, darks and lights.   With each layer the feather becomes stiffer but at each stage it is still very easy to cause the barbs to separate.  Depending on where the separation occurs determines if the feather painting is salvageable as a fine art painting.  At the end I add my final details, my darkest darks and lightest lights.  The feather painting is then ready to be attached to an archival mat and placed in a custom made wood shadow box.

bottom of page