Meet the Artist:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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