Off the Board
International Artist|August - September 2021
Animals come to life in intricate detail through the boldness and versatility of Melissa Helene’s scratchboard art
Melissa Helene

Protect and Nurture, scratchboard, 5 x 5 (12 x 12 cm)

This piece was part of a larger study of young animals; how their physical characteristics differ from the adults and how they interact with the older members of their species. I love the sweet moment between this kit and her mother.

Inspired by endangered species, wild places, fur, feathers and scales, my work celebrates the personalities and unique details of wild animals. Each piece features layers of detail that bring the animal off the board and create life in the static representation. These details accentuate individual characteristics of the species highlighted in my work by making them clear and distinct. My hope and goal for each of my wildlife portraits is to give them a soul that begs the viewers to see them a little deeper.

My choice to explore a world of vibrant color strictly in black and white allows me to emphasize textures, patterns and details in an intimate and unique way. Each hair is scratched in individually, every highlight in the eyes is placed with exacting precision, and whiskers are placed with intention. Imperfections in the animal are celebrated and emphasized because they make that individual special. My work is here to honor the perfect imperfections of the natural world.

The contrast of black and white and the grayscale I am able to produce makes light the most important aspect of each piece. My scratchboard work relies on light, depth and details to create two-dimensional wildlife artwork with a threedimensional feel. I use light for dramatic effect with deep shadows, brilliant highlights and high contrast. Light also plays an integral part in achieving photorealistic form and mass. Emphasizing light and shadow creates a depth to each piece that helps make the work pop off the board.

The hummingbird piece is a great example of how the lack of detail and shadows illustrates distance and by slowly adding detail and light back into each layer, they come forward. Comparing the background layer to the foreground layer demonstrates the full capacity and versatility of scratchboard as a medium.

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