Kaetlyn Able

 I create dreamy, flowery portraits of people and animals. Using tattoo needles and an x-acto blade, I etch into thin layers of black ink that I have painted onto white clay panels. Traditionally, this drawing technique is known as scratchboard, or scraperboard, but I don't love those clinical-sounding names. They don't do the process, which feels utterly, completely and perfectly magical, any justice at all! For me the practice is a kind of meditative excavation. Searching for the image, I gradually remove thousands of whisker-thin lines of black ink. As more and more of the white clay is revealed, forms begin to slowly take shape. With every drawing there comes this incredible moment when all of a sudden, a character and a story seem to emerge out of the black. It's a surprise every time. I most often layer these black and white drawings with pops of colorful elements that I paint in acrylic, creating further texture, dimension and emotional resonance.

My images, and the stories that they tell, are intuitively derived. They seem to pop into my head, usually a bit hazy at first, until I begin to sketch them out and develop them on paper. I look to old photographs, decorative patterns and bits of ephemera from the 1800s--early 1900s, and my collected wildlife images for source material. Once a sketch resonates deeply and viscerally with me, I transfer it to a panel and begin to bring it to life in a final scratchboard drawing. As I work, the concepts behind the image reveal themselves. Themes of life, death, memory and love come up again and again. Other ideas that surface repeatedly in my work include references to American and European folk tales, the history and mythology of the American West, and human connections to nature.

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