Visual artists draw their power from what is added as well as what is not added. But in the medium of scratchboard art (called scrapeboard art in some countries), it has everything to do with what you take away. Scratchboard artists like Los Angeles-based-BOMONSTER use a clay board that is evenly covered with India ink. Using a tool (usually an X-acto© blade) to scratch away the ink leaves a contrasting color on the now-exposed board.
Such a medium does not allow for much in the way of mistakes, and you can’t put down pencil lines and then paint over your outline, such as in watercolor. You have to “see” the image in its completeness when you begin, creating depth, shadow, and proportion with a practiced hand.
The advantage of this method is the ability to transfer the image without losing quality (scratchboard became popular in the 1800’s because of the printing methods for books and newspapers at the time). It also makes for a very powerful image because of the strong contrasts.
BOMONSTER got back into scratchboard because his work as an advertising art director wasn’t letting him develop as an artist. Creating ad campaigns for the likes of Yamaha, Honda, Porsche, Nissan, and the like built his strength in developing ideas rapid-fire (a skill that is sorely needed if you ask any artist who has suffered a creative block), but the actual creating was then farmed out as his team moved onto the next campaign. As BOMONSTER puts it:
“That business really develops your ability to come up with conceptual stories [but] what it did not do was allow me to develop my art chops because I was paid to develop campaign ideas. Once we got it approved I would hand it over to ‘real’ illustrators or storyboard artists, we’d establish a budget and do it that way, and I would just oversee it.”
So for fun, BOMONSTER began doing some hot rod and chopper drawings on scratchboard, “because it was a medium I remembered from art school,” he says. It wasn’t until other artists got a look at his stuff that he thought about showing his work and offering prints. Now, after seven years, BOMONSTER has the talent for idea creation and refinement that made him a successful art director, combined with the steady hand needed to bring those ideas to life.
But as an entrepreneur (as any freelancer is), he also has to work the business side of things. Authors have to understand the publishing business. NFL players need to know how to do an interview and deal with photo shoots. And artists need to know their customers.
“I walked around [car shows] before I became the vendor and I looked at other artists [who were] vending their work, and they were in the back [of their booth] sketching and not talking to anyone,” says BOMONSTER. It was an important lesson for him. As a show-goer, you may not feel comfortable interrupting an artist at work to ask them for a business card or inquire about prices.
Continuing, he says, “you gotta become the marketer, you gotta become the retailer, you’re the salesman… you really have to assume these other roles outside of just being the artist, which is what the artist is most comfortable with.” Creating something is one thing; getting it out there and earning enough money to do it again is another matter indeed.
But on the plus side, you’re doing what you love, on your terms. In a world of vague advice, many a person has “followed their dreams” only to find that doing what they love for a company’s bottom line leaves them quickly burned out and uninterested in doing what they once loved. More still have a situation like BOMONSTER’s, where the work is rewarding but doesn’t quite scratch that one itch in particular.
With his scratchboard work, BOMONSTER can pull from his own life as opposed to creating art that will communicate a brand’s message to a specifically targeted audience. The art is the brand and the audience is anyone who likes the style.
And there is a lot of style on offer.
Having raced motorcycles for 15 years myself, one particular piece of BOMONSTER’s work caught my eye. It’s named the First Turn and is made up of about a dozen skeleton motocross racers all piling into the first corner of a race: a place that even a casual race fan knows is where a lot of mayhem can happen, as the entire line of riders tries to occupy the same piece of real estate at the same time.
The level of detail was readily apparent in this particular work, with each bike and rider having their own personality. I came to find out this detailing came from BOMONSTER’s own life-experience as a motocrosser when he was younger. “Creating it I had been in so many motocross races, I’m drawing it thinking, ‘well, I know what it’s like to be first— briefly— and I know what it’s like to be third, where there are only two guys in front of you and you’re not even thinking you’re in third, you just have two other bikes in front of you.’”
He continues, “I had a guy crashing out, I had a guy in last— which I’ve been—and every one of these positions, mid-pack, inside, outside… drawing all these skeletons on dirtbikes I can literally remember what it felt like being in that spot. Being squeezed in the middle or on the inside or outside […] I relate to every one of these positions.”
I was reminded of the axiom told to writers: “write what you know.” Knowing motocross helped put a life into First Turn. But BOMONSTER also has the artist’s flair. Coming up on dirtbikes it’s no surprise he primarily rides adventure bikes on the street, yet in several of his prints, he features choppers or vintage bikes. One, called Good Times, pulls together the custom van world, surf culture, the #vanlife movement, a bobber, and a vintage motocrosser all together with a beach camping scene. It takes a moment to appreciate fully but the amount of depth and detail send the eye all around, from the campfire to the details of the motorcycles in the foreground, then eventually to the coastline and the surfer heading down the beach with his board.
It’s the kind of scene that is perfect for a print to hang on the wall since you can view it repeatedly and notice something new each time. BOMONSTER’s website offers several dozen different designs available as prints or hats or patches, as well as apparel for men, women, and kids.
It also has a blog you can follow for updates as well as a way to contact BOMONSTER about commissioning him for original work for your club, event, album cover, or anything that needs timeless style. He does a lot of cool event T-shirts as well as designs for custom car/bike shops. See the “Commission Art” tab for examples. I also recommend following his Facebook and Instagram profiles, which are linked to the top-right of his website.
So there you have it. Custom cool that you can wear off the bike, or hang a print to give the den or the parts counter at your shop a little touch of class. One warning though: staring at some these prints for more than a minute may cause an overpowering urge to jump on your bike and rip up the coast.