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How I do it
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How I achieve it
(1 hour 35 min.)
This tooth was supplied by the customer. After deciding on the subject, I draw a sketch onto the tooth. I use a Grumbacher GAMMA pencil to put the sketch onto the ivory. This pencil is the best for drawing on slick surfaces, will even write on glass. When I get the sketch about where I want it, I use a spray fixative to protect the drawing until the main lines are scratched in. Some detail is worked out, but the sketch is generally pretty loose, only meant as a guideline for what is to come.
Step by Step Designs
(4 hours 58 min)
The first lines scratched are the outlines of the main features of the design. In this case, the outlines of the main figure, the border and the horizon line. Then I set in to the real work, scratching in lines in almost a ‘basket weave’ type of pattern on the man’s cap. Also the eyes, beard, hair and tie. All these areas will be the darkest areas of the finished piece. I always work from dark to light, scratching in the areas that will be the darkest colors first. I use oil paint instead of the traditional ink. It is more stable, lightfast and waterproof.
Scrimshaw Art
(8 hours 38 min)
I decided to make the jacket a DARK blue rather than the black, which was my first thought. The piece needed a bit more color. The many tiny lines in the jacket as well as the continued work in the cap, hair and beard make for monotonous work in this stage. The fixative is beginning to wear off the tooth at this point, especially when I add the oil paint and wipe off the excess with a Q-Tip. The continued filling and wiping tends to wear the fixative off gradually, which is good. I’ve found that I usually don’t have to make a conscious effort to remove it.
Scrimshaw By Garbo
(12 hours 23 min)
At this point of work, I have finished the cap, beard and jacket. Now also, you will see that I have begun to put in the shadow on his forehead and around the eyes. I almost always use stipple for flesh. Stipple affords the smoothest tonal transitions, takes longest to do, and builds up slower than any other scratching technique. I used a mixture of burnt sienna and burnt ochre for filling the scratches in the face. In addition, there is some use of black especially on the eyes, nostrils and mouth.
Original Art
(14 hours 41 min)
The main shadows in the face are now shown by stippling the scratches in the darkest areas. As you stipple, you can change the darkness of the area by both pressure and closeness of the pattern. I redrew this pattern of light before I began stippling the face. You must be careful when you go back in with a pencil at this point. Do not get the graphite into any scratch marks because that will muddy up your colors. The face shown here is virtually finished. Basically, there are only two tones represented in the face here: light and shadow areas. I could have done more subtle tonal transitions in the face, but the price would have been dramatically higher as a result. I also have scratched in part of the harpoon at this point. <NOTE: one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “What if you make a mistake? This is a good example of what can be done in such a case. Look at the rope trailing around the harpoon. See where the rope is looped around itself? You can see the lines beneath the rope so that it looks like the rope is clear? Those lines were a mistake. It will be scratched out later by removing the black paint from the wrong scratches and overworked with the right ‘rope’ color.

Finished Product
(17 hours 41 min)

Now the figure and harpoon are finished. I decided to make the ship larger than the original sketch. After redrawing it in pencil, I have begun to fill it with black. I want the ship to be secondary so it will stay mostly black paint. I have also begun to delineate the water area between the hand and the ship.

(21 hours 7 min)

Almost finished! More has been done on the water, the hand, buttons, ship and harpoon. The water is done in a blue/green mixture. The hand is done in the same way the face was with the two basic areas of light & shadow. The rope is finished now (with the mistake covered!) All we lack is the finishing touches on the ship and the stand for the piece. We’ve also arrived at a title, “Bent to the Whale”. This is a play on words; the inclination of the man and the shape of his harpoon. Most harpoons were bent by the taking of whales. They were tempered so that they would bend instead of breaking. One of the men aboard a Whaling Ship was always a blacksmith to care for the iron harpoons, lances, etc. Notice too, that I have added my signature ‘Garbo’ at the bottom right of the art.

(25 hours 36 min)

FINISHED! The base is made of a block of ebony wood capped with a 1/8” piece of elephant ivory and a turned finial of ebony. Inserted in the finial is a brass rod which connects the tooth to the stand. I scratched the title into the elephant ivory top. Finally, I cut a piece of leather and attached it to the bottom of the stand so it will rest easily on the customer’s desk. Finally, I notify the customer the work is complete.