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Featured Artist: Rock Newcomb

Acrylics on Claybord

A few years ago, I discovered the advantages of painting on Claybord. Paintings on Claybord, as they move from my studio to galleries all over the world, are not affected by the humidity and temperature changes that cause the contraction you experience with canvas. The luminosity of the clay surface along with the sgraffito techniques I use make my paintings come alive.

Final painting by Rock Newcomb

Step 1: Sketching and Laying in Patterns and Washes

Since Claybord is forgiving, I can draw and rework pencil drawings right on the surface.After sketching, I used a mixture of Burnt Umber and Mars Black to lay in the bold dark patterns on the pots. Claybord is very absorbent so your paint will dry quickly. Using subtle washes, I then concentrated on the shaded areas on the prehistoric Indian ceramics. This began to develop form in space. Make sure you use a matte medium when diluting your acrylics with water to preserve the integrity of your paint.

One of the great advantages of Claybord is the layering of color you can achieve. Using warm earth tones (sepia, burnt umber, raw umber, transparent red iron oxide and cadmium orange), I established the ground and the background. To further develop the form of each object I used many layers of very diluted sepia and raw umber washes, which warm the objects.

Step 2: Creating Texture and Detail

One of the advantages of Claybord is that the thick clay surface allows me to incise right into my paintings. I carved, sanded, and erased through the acrylic paints with sgraffito methods to cause the ceramics to look very, very old. I use razors, scratch knives, or just about anything to work the clay surface of the board. I then painted in areas with sepia, and highlighted them again by scratching back to the white of the board or to a lighter layer of color underneath. Using these sgraffito methods you would swear there were pits and holes in the ceramics. After I finished carving into the surface, I went over all the painted patterns on the ceramics where they are in direct light and applied a 50/50 wash of titanium white to reemphasize the light. Then, I cut in highlights to define the worn spots.

Step 2: Creating Texture and Detail

Step 3: Creating other Textures

Both the Claybord’s surface and rigidity provide me an opportunity to experiment with different materials, often using mixed media at virtually any stage of the painting. For example, I wanted the petroglyphs to appear as they had been pecked into the stone background. I sketched the images of four quail and a vortex and then brushed art masking fluid onto these drawings using a small stiff brush in a pointillist style (small dots) allowing some of the under painting to show through. I then painted over the dry masking fluid with a wash of sepia and red iron oxide and then peeled off the masking fluid, which revealed a somewhat darker background with a lighter image of the quail and the vortex. Then, I darkened the ground with sepia and red iron oxide, which gave it the appearance of the texture of stone, and added diagonal stripes of what appears to be mortar.

Step 3: Creating other Textures


One of the exciting aspects of finishing a piece on Claybord is the ease of framing without glass. To protect and finish off the piece, I airbrush two to three coats of Golden's UVLS polymer varnish (70% gloss, 30% matte, 100% water). Strain the mixture through a paper towel (doubled) each time before using. Now my collectors can enjoy the luminous quality of my work without glass!

Acrylic Exercise

Use acrylic paints, transparent glazing, and sgraffito techniques to develop depth, detail and unique color effects. Glazing techniques are particularly effective with acrylic paints because the polymer binder in the acrylic paint will keep multiple layers from physically mixing.

Painting of an elephant by Rock Newcomb

1. Apply a thin wash of acrylic paint. Let it dry for a couple of minutes before scraping.

2. Use a variety of scraping tools to render detail and create texture. Scratchboard knives or coarse oil free steel wool work well.

3. Glaze over the detailed area with a complementary color. The exposed areas will be 'filled' with the complement.

4. Repeat this process numerous times to create highlights, details, and depth in your painting.

About the Artist

For more information about the artist, please write Rock Newcomb, 103 N. Bryce Circle, Payson, AZ 85541 or fax 520-472-8792.