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​Meet the Artist:

Keith Sykes

We were excited to speak to Scraperboard artist Keith Sykes to find out how he started his Scraperboard journey, find out about how he works and what inspires him.

Photo of scraperboard artist Keith Sykes working at a table

Can you introduce yourself?

I am Keith Sykes, a full time professional artist based in Lancashire.

 

Describe your style of scraperboard artistry?

I am described as an Animal Portrait Artist and I work exclusively on Scraperboard. As well as the traditional scraperboard tools I use a sharpened needle to produce fine scratches through the inked surface of Scraperboard, I often work under a magnifying glass for areas of intense detail.

Very occasionally I use sepia ink but almost all my work is black and white. When working on white I apply the ink by either brush or airbrush. I am self-taught and have developed my style and techniques over many years.

Scraperboard artwork of two ducklings by Keith Sykes
Scraperboard artwork of cocker puppy by Keith Sykes

How and when did you get started using scraperboard and why did you choose to work with scraperboard?

Once upon a time many decades ago a friend bought me a pre-printed Essdee Scraperboard kit as a present, I vividly recall that the image was a tiger. Having enjoyed working with the Scraperboard kit and feeling more ambitious, I purchased a piece of plain Black Essdee Scraperboard from my local craft shop in Morecambe, my first picture was a portrait of a Pinkfooted goose.

I had previously painted for pleasure in water colour and oils but as a profession I produced architectural and detailed engineering drawings, as a consequence I was used to life on a drawing board working with fine detailed accuracy in ink.

 

Scraperboard artwork of a lion's head by Keith Sykes

Where do you work?

I work on a large drawing board in a dedicated studio within my home that I share with two dogs. There is a large TV in the room and I often work with the TV on in the background.

 

Tell us about your typical day

I am not an early riser but I often work late into the evenings if I am chasing deadlines or feeling particularly inspired. As with many home based artists, every day is pretty much the same and that includes weekends and Bank Holidays, so unless I have some other jobs to address or specific activities arranged (and there are plenty of such distractions including shooting and motorcycles) I often tend to work either on the drawing board or in my office answering emails and other such mundane administrative chores.

The trade off to working what would normally be classed as unsociable hours is the luxury of being relatively flexible if and when more interesting and or pleasurable things are on offer. I sometimes consider introducing more discipline into my life, then the advantage of blurring the lines becomes more appealing again.

I particularly enjoy visiting clients to take reference photographs and study the animals, I have been fortunate to work for variety of interesting clients from all corners of the UK and often overseas.

Pot of scraperboard tools

What inspires your work?

I am inspired by the things I see in the countryside such as wildlife and working dogs, also galleries and the work of other artists as well as creative photography. The biggest single inspiration was provided by a Kenyan Safari in 2017 and from that experience alone I have lots of pictures in my mind. Hopefully, one day I will have time to bring them to fruition.

Scraperboard artwork of a stag
Scraperboard artwork of a cock-wigeon by Keith Sykes

Do you have a favourite scraperboard piece that you have made?

No not really, as with all artists and artwork, some things work out better than others.

 

What is your greatest achievement?

It is not specifically a ‘great achievement’ but I suppose being fortunate to work as a full time artist and essentially being paid for doing the things I enjoy combined with the associated flexibility has been an achievement for which I am very grateful. I believe strongly in the words that if you can make your obsession a profession, you will never work again.

Scraperboard artwork of a dog by Keith Sykes
 

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on a commissioned portrait of a Race Horse, a slightly refreshing change from the endless stream of sporting dogs I am usually commissioned to portray, but the process and principles remain the same.

Scraperboard artwork of a running boar by Keith Sykes
Scraperboard of the profile of a labrador's head by Keith Sykes

Do you have a favourite Essdee product?

I always enjoy working on Scraperboard, both black and white but it is nice to keep the sizes, proportions and subjects varied.

 

Do you have any top tips or advice for other scraperboard artists?

I certainly don’t feel qualified to offer tips to other Scraperboard artists but I am always happy to try and help if asked.

Pot of scraperboard tools
 

Where can we see more of your work?

I currently only exhibit in the gallery at The House Of Bruar near Blair Atholl in Scotland. Since 2003 I have been  a member of the Redspot Group of artists www.redspotartists.com and we have exhibited together at many Game Fairs, Stately Homes, Galleries and twice at All Hallows in the City of London. Due to the restrictions of the pandemic our latest exhibition titled “Redspot Unlocked” was an on-line exhibition supported by a catalogue made from real paper.

 

Where can we buy your work?

My website, galleries and exhibitions. Most of my work and especially dog and horse portraits are commissioned and I can be contacted via my website.

 

Anything else you want to tell us about?

I work from photographs, sometimes lots of the same subject and wherever possible I like to meet the animal and take my own reference shots. Ironically despite producing work in black and white I always prefer to work from colour photographs, I find it difficult to explain or justify but they seem to offer more information for me to apply to my work.

Image credits – Keith Sykes

 

FEATURE YOUR ART!

Created something beautiful? Tag us @essdee_uk or use #essdee for a featured post on our Instagram page!

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Educational Art and Craft Supplies Ltd Privacy Policy  Introduction Educational Art and Craft Supplies Ltd (also known by our brand name Essdee) are a manufacturer of art and craft material, and offer a range of Scraperboard, etching tools, block printing tools and materials.  We are committed to protecting and respecting your privacy. Everyone has rights with regard to the way in which their personal information is handled.  During the course of our activities we will collect, store and process personal information about our customers, suppliers and other third parties, and we recognise that the correct and lawful treatment of this data will maintain confidence in the organisation and will provide for successful business operation. This policy sets out the basis on which any personal information we collect from you, or that you provide to us, will be processed by us.  Please read the following carefully to understand our views and practices regarding your personal data and how we will treat it. Becoming a customer or your provision of any information to us constitutes your acknowledgement of the terms of this privacy policy.  Please do not send us any of your information if you do not want it to be used in the ways described in this privacy notice. It is important that the personal data we hold about you is accurate and current.  Please keep us informed if your personal data changes during your relationship with us. You have the right to make a complaint at any time to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which is the UK supervisory authority for data protection issues.  We would however appreciate the chance to deal with your concerns before you approach the ICO, so please contact us in the first instance. For the purpose of UK data protection laws, the data controller is Educational Art and Craft Supplies Ltd of Frederick Road, Hoo Farm Industrial Estate, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, DY11 7RA. We can be contacted on 01562 60787 and info@essdee.co.uk. The data we collect about you ‘Personal Data’ is any information about an individual from which that person can be identified. It does not include anonymised data where identifying characteristics have been removed. We may collect, use, store and transfer different kinds of personal data about you which we have grouped together follows:
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To determine the appropriate retention period for personal information, we consider the amount, nature and sensitive personal information, the potential of harm from unauthorized use or disclosure of your personal information, the purposes for which we process your personal information and whether we can achieve those purposes through other means, and the applicable legal requirements. In some circumstances you can ask us to delete your data.  This is explained in the section about your legal rights below. In some circumstances we may anonymise your personal data (so that it can no longer be associated with you) for research or statistical purposes.  In this case we may use this information indefinitely without further notice to you. Your Legal Rights Under certain circumstances, you have rights under data protection laws in relation to your personal data.  If you wish to exercise any of the rights set out below you should contact us. You will not have to pay a fee to access your personal data (or to exercise any of the other rights). However, we may charge a reasonable fee if your request is clearly unfounded, repetitive or excessive. Alternatively, we may refuse to comply with your request in these circumstances. We may need to request specific information from you to help us to confirm your identity and to ensure your right to access your personal data (or to exercise any of your other rights). This is a security measure to ensure that personal data is not disclosed to any person who has no right to receive it. We may also contact you to ask you for further information in relation to your request to speed up our response. We will endeavour to respond to all legitimate requests within one month. Occasionally it may take us longer than a month if your request is particularly complex or you have made a number of requests. In this case, we will notify you and keep you updated. You have a right to:
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  • Request erasure of your personal data. This enables you to ask us to delete or remove personal data where there is no good reason for us continuing to process it. You also have the right to ask us to delete or remove your personal data where you have successfully exercised your right to object to processing (see below), where we may have processed your information unlawfully or where we are required to erase your personal data to comply with local law. Note, however, that we may not always be able to comply with your request of erasure for specific legal reasons which will be notified to you, if applicable, at the time of your request.
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  • Request restriction of processing of your personal data. This enables you to ask us to suspend the processing of your personal data in the following scenarios: (a) if you want us to establish the data’s accuracy; (b) where our use of the data is unlawful but you do not want us to erase it; (c) where you need us to hold the data even if we no longer require it as you need it to establish, exercise or defend legal claims; or (d) you have objected to our use of your data but we need to verify whether we have overriding legitimate grounds to use it.
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Updated March 2021
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