Visual Journal Page 41: Scratch, Scratch, Scratch…


This visual journal page, like many of my visual journal pages, is based off of a work of art. This began as an example for a scratchboard project, and turned into a mission and a failure. It was trying, exhausting, tedious, rewarding, therapeutic and in the end I gave up.

Scratchboard is an assignment I do every year with my Introduction to Art class and Drawing class. It is a great lesson on shading, hatching, cross hatching, stippling, and contrast. It is also a great assignment because generally the majority of my class ends up with a successful project in the end. I always strive to have every student create something they are proud of, while this isn’t always the case, I do have a handful of projects up my sleeve that can help get them to that point.

I never give an assignment I haven’t first tried myself. I had dabbled with scratchboard in the past, but I really wanted to challenge myself with this example, I wanted to hit the roadblocks my students would hit, so I can guide them through tough spots. To do this I chose a relatively complex image. I felt good going into it, I really loved the image, but by the end I was over it. I was sick of this stupid black and white door.

I hit roadblocks, I made mistakes, but what really got under my skin was how tedious it was. This was slow moving. Any spare moment I had in class, I planted myself to my chair, got out my Xacto knife, and began scratching a tiny section, slowly removing the black top layer, and exposing the white. After hours were poured into this I set down my Xacto knife, never to return to this image again. It still sits, hidden in some notebook, incomplete. I reached a point where I couldn’t move forward, and I developed a very real sense of empathy for my students. I have since encouraged them to go smaller and more basic with their images. I still encourage them to push themselves, but I never want them to reach that point of no return, the moment when they don’t care what grade they receive, they just can’t scratch anymore.

Since this project I haven’t touched another scratchboard. I have my example complete, I know my tips, warnings, and project guidelines. However I hope one day I try it out again, or even return to my 3/4 finished door to finish the last section. Although the scratching was terribly tedious when I found my rhythm it felt good, therapeutic almost, I could zone everything out and focus on the next crumb of black I was about to scratch away. Perhaps in the near future I will feel an urge to pull it back out, and rediscover my rhythm.


  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Image print out
  • Scissors
  • Thin sharpie


When the moment came that I finally gave up on my scratchboard I decided to hang onto the image I was using as a reference, and incorporate it into a visual journal page. Rather than glue the whole image on one side of my book I decided to cut it into three strips and spread it out between the two pages to create a more interesting composition. I used rubber cement to glue down the pieces once I was satisfied with the layout.

After the pieces were glued down I began writing with a thin sharpie. I repeated the word “scratch” up and down the sides of the cut outs, as a reminder of how much time I spent scratching away at my scratchboard. This image was simple enough to create, but it did take thought and planning before hand to create the best possible layout. Off center images and images that break space up into thirds is much more pleasing to the eye than images place in the dead center.


Create a visual journal page about a project or work of art you gave up on. Consider it a memorial for a dead project.

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