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Engraving and Painting Animals on Claybord with Acrylics

Ron Ukrainetz demonstrates engraving and painting animals using acrylics on Claybord black

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Each of my pictures on Claybord Black starts with a pencil sketch on paper, since it's easier to correct mistakes on paper than on Claybord. Once the sketch looks good, I transfer or redraw the sketch onto the Claybord Black, using carbon paper or charcoal on the back of the sketch, and a stylus or very hard pencil. Once the transfer is complete, I again draw over the transferred image with a Derwent 4B, 6B or 8B water-soluble pencil. Then I use either steel sewing needles in a pin vise, an X-ACTO knife or Claybord tools to carefully engrave or scratch the textures into the surface.

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I usually start with the subject's eyes, and I work from the farthest animal to the nearest, Learning about your subject is critical, since anatomical mistakes stick out like sore thumbs.
After I've engraved the image, I use GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics to apply glazes of color over the engraved areas. Water and acrylic must be kept to a minimum to avoid causing the black ink to bleed or covering the painstakingly rendered detail. I have developed a medium of equal parts: GOLDEN acrylic retarder, matte or gel medium and water, which I add sparingly to the color. Generally, I start with the darkest areas and paint to the lightest. Where I need a strong highlight or brighter color. I work with more paint and just matte or gloss medium. In some cases, I paint right on the Claybord Black without engraving anything underneath. This seems to emphasize the animal as the paint is allowed to be diffused with the ink surface.

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Ron Ukraineu,
Great Falls, Montana
9-1/2" x 35"

My favorite brushes are the Daniel Smith Series 11 and Series 55. I do not paint every hair - the smallest brush I use is a #4 round. Buy the best brushes you can afford. If they're well cared for, even painting on clay won't destroy them too rapidly.

Finally, when the piece is finisbed. I seal the surface with a clear acrylic spray such as Krylon. Any remaining transferred pencil lines disappear at this point. Then, with a 50-50 mix of GOLDEN Polymer Varnish UVLS, Matte and Gloss, with a little water as per the directions, I spray one coat with on airbrush, let that dry 4-5 hours, then sand lightly with oil-free steel wool. I repeat these steps for at least three coats.

Ron Rufous

About the Author
Ron Ukrainetz, born and raised in Great Falls, Montana, has been a professional artist since 1984. His works have garnered numerous regional and national awards and have been featured in many publications including The Artist's Magazine, InformArt, U.S. Art and Wildlife Art News Magazine. Ron is known for his accurate portrayals of historical people and events, especially relating to Lewis and Clark. He has provided over 150 illustrations for the National Lewis and Clark Re-enactor's Manual. In 2003, Crizmac Art and Cultural Materials Company produced Inspiring Journey: Lewis and Clark Through the Eyes of Artist Ron Ukrainetz. Ron is a founding member of the Montana Painters Alliance, a juried organization of professional plein air artists.