On view May 19 – June 24, 2023

The exhibition consists of 23 scratchboards, 6 preparatory sketches, and 4 acrylic paintings.

John Agnew is an artist of the natural world. His career began in natural history museums, where he  designed exhibits, produced illustrations, and painted murals and dioramas for museums and zoos around the country and as far away as Moscow.  Since the early 80’s, John has produced nearly thirty thousand square feet of murals and dioramas in the Cincinnati area for the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science, the Cincinnati Zoo, Cincinnati Parks, and Hamilton County Parks.

John has traveled worldwide in search of his subjects, including Borneo, Thailand, and the Peruvian Amazon in addition to much of the United States.  Among John’s many accomplishments and honors was his  2011 appointment as Artist in Residence at Everglades.  Agnew’s  work has been featured in Artist’s Magazine, Reptiles, and various other periodicals.

His smaller paintings of natural history subjects are in collections around the world. He is a Signature Member and a member of the Executive Board of the Society of Animal Artists, and a founding member of Masterworks for Nature. He has participated in major exhibitions of realist work, including Art and the Animal, Arts For the Parks, and Birds In Art.  In 2007 he was the Grand Prize winner of the national juried show,  Paint the Parks and received an Award of Excellence in the Society of Animal Artists annual show, Art and the Animal. In 2009 he received the “Patricia A. Bott Award for Creative Excellence” at Art and the Animal.  In 2012, he received the Ronald David Smith Memorial Award at the Kentucky National Wildlife Art Exhibit. He has published many limited edition prints and in 2001, North Light Books published his book, Painting The Secret World Of Nature.  His work has been featured in Artist’s Magazine, Reptiles magazine and others. This exhibition was produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C.

Definition of Scratchboard Art:  “Scratchboard Art is a two-dimensional, subtractive medium that involves the use of abrasive tools to directly remove a surface layer of one value (typically dark) to expose a secondary layer of a contrasting value (typically white). The majority of the values within the artwork should be achieved by varying the amount of surface layer that has been scratched away or left. Reapplying transparent mediums over the initial scratching is permissible, but the integrity of the underlying scratching should remain visible. Works may be color or black and white.” The International Society of Scratchboard Artists

Scratchboard is a relatively new art process, but its roots go back as far as Cro-Magnon man. Some of humankind’s earliest endeavors involved scratching pictures into rock or bone; more recent developments like etching, wood engraving, and scratchboard are continuations on that theme.

Modern scratchboard was developed in the late 19th century to meet the demand for illustrations for the rapidly proliferating books, newspapers, magazines and advertisements. Wood engraving was widely used to reproduce paintings and photographs for printing, but it was time-consuming and required working in reverse.

Several versions of cardboard coated first with chalk, then with India ink, were developed in England, Austria, and Italy. Fine lines could be scraped or scratched through the ink, simulating wood engraving. These new materials eliminated the need to work in reverse, were easy to correct, and allowed artists to work on a larger scale, as the fine linework of scratchboard art could easily be photographically reduced for reproduction.

Scratchboard was widely used for advertising and editorial illustration from the 1920s to 1950s and has seen something of a renaissance in the last two decades. Scratchboard’s graphic impact, subtle shading possibilities, and ease of use make it a very appealing medium.