Bodfish artist carves creations with scratchboard

Local News

BODFISH, Calif. (KGET) — Kelly Pankey, a scratchboard artist in Kern County, has managed to do more than just scratch the surface with her hand cut panels.

The carving illustrator has been creating impressive detailed images since 2017 using tiny sharp tools.

Scratchboard  artists achieve the desired effects by carefully scraping away layers of ink revealing white clay beneath.

“If you just want a very hard line you can make a deep cut with the X-Acto knife, versus these tattoo needles,” explained the scraper artist.

Pankey employs anything at her disposal to get the look she’s aiming for.

“I use a lot of sandpaper in my work,” said Pankey. “it’s very good for, lightening up an area, or for feathers and fur,” 

With a scratchboard  there are no mistakes, since the upper layer that is removed can be painted back if necessary.

“They sell repair kits If you happen to take off too much, it can be a multi layer process” 

The two dimensional sculptor used to be known for carving her 3D art from wood she found around the yard.

“I think I saw a piece of wood out here that kind of looks like a cat,” said Pankey, “ so I got my Dremel and I started chopping away at it and I turned into a cat”.

Bad weather forced Kelly to search for an alternate artistic outlet leading her to scratchboard.

“I started out doing wood sculpture with the Dremel and with hand tools, but it wasn’t something I could do during inclement weather. So I had to find something I could do indoors.”

Now she brings her visions to light from dark with little rather than bulky heavy machinery and hand tools.

“It’s hard for me to take a white sheet of paper and draw on it. I’m so used to scratching out the black,” explained Pankey. “When I leave something black and white, it can have a lot of different values in it.“

When the sailor returned home from her abroad adventures she settled down in Bodfish and started taking inspiration from the environment around her. 

“I love the woods, the rural areas, you know, small town life,” described the cat lover. “We have feral cats out here, and I’m a big cat fan,  you’ll notice in the tree that there’s a feral cat looking down at the little house.”

The cat fan, as Pankey self-describes, carved a 18×24-inch panel starring a feral cat, a house with teeth and a tongue. 

“A feral cat out in the wild, we’re kind of the opposite. We look out into the wild out of the forest into that where the teeth are.

The artist has scratched more than just the surface in Kern county with her panels, winning best in show last year at the Arts Illiana Gallery pro show in Indiana.

The scuffer entered a 24×36 in panel titled, “Death of a Scarecrow” featuring a murder of crows pecking the stuffing out of a dummy.

Currently Kelly’s work is featured in the Kern River Valley Art Associations, Armchair Art Show. The show is available for viewing at

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