If you’ve been to any Hills Bank location, it’s possible you’ve noticed variations of the scratchboard above on display. This artwork was created by local Iowa City artist, Claudia McGehee.
Claudia discovered scratchboard in art school. Aligning with her love for rendering subjects in nature, it creates images that appear woodcut, rustic, and nostalgic. “The sturdy, energetic line quality captures what I see in living things,” explains Claudia.
Scratchboard is not a print-making medium, but consists of a thin layer of white clay covered with black ink. Claudia first makes a rough sketch in pencil, and then using white chalk, transfers it to the black-inked surface of the scratchboard. With a sharp blade, Claudia begins scratching away what she wants white, leaving details in black. Once finished with the scratchboard, Claudia scans the black and white piece, prints it on watercolor paper, and adds color with watercolors or dyes.
Claudia was approached by Hills Bank and asked to create a circular scratchboard illustration to reflect the circle of community and elements present within our Midwest cycle of life. The scratchboard Claudia created illustrates Hills Bank’s culture, rural roots, and urban reach through the following components:
- The barns, fields, and corn represent Hills Bank’s longstanding involvement with agriculture, dating back to 1904.
- The buildings show Hills Bank’s dedication to commercial and small business enterprise, along with a commitment to providing residential real estate loans. Both enable customers to achieve their dreams of owning their own home and/or business.
- The school bus and small children symbolize a commitment to youth and youth-related activities, including education and life-long learning.
- The two individuals shaking hands depict a belief that business can still be done on a handshake and is based upon trust and mutual respect.
- The rising sun signifies the belief that in every new day there is an opportunity to make a difference.
To complete the Hills Bank scratchboard, many hours went into the design and concept of the piece. Claudia created 2-3 rough drafts in the form of sketches before actually creating the final scratchboard. Scratching the piece took approximately 5 hours with the watercolor taking an additional hour. The original scratchboard Claudia created has been used throughout Hills Bank in various ways, including murals, coffee mugs, and advertising.
Claudia is originally from the Pacific Northwest and moved to Iowa City in 1993. Learn more about her, see other artwork she’s done throughout community, and view her illustrated books by visiting her blog at claudia-mcgehee.com.