After taking a few days off from any colored pencil work last week I was eager to get back into the studio (aka “the kitchen table”) and try something beyond my usual realistic, botanical stuff. One project I’ve been dying to get to is experimenting with some Claybord I purchased several months ago. The results were far better than I had hoped.

A Little About Claybord

First, off, yes, that is spelled correctly regardless of how many times my Mac tries to change it to “clapboard.” Claybord is a product from Ampersand, an American company that specializes in various types of artist panels.

ampersand claybord
Claybord…so smooth, so aromatic…

An artist panel isn’t a group of people sitting around offering up opinions about your work, but rather a hard board that serves as an alternative to canvas or paper. Ampersand’s boards are  typically used with acrylics, watercolor, encaustics, or oils, but you can use them for graphite and colors pencil as well, although this doesn’t seem to be very common.

Claybord itself is a hard panel made using eco-friendly techniques (good for Earth Day!). This panel is then coated with kaolin clay that is sanded super duper smooth. The panels are archival and I have to say that they have a wonderful earthy aroma.

Why It Took So Long

As I said, I bought a four-pack of 6×6″ Claybord panels at least six months ago during one of my art supply shopping sprees. I had intended to use it with watercolor because I was having a hard time finding a watercolor paper I liked. But the Claybord was driving me batty.

Whenever I tried to layer my paint, the under layer would just wash off the board. I thought this was simply the “removable” nature of watercolors, so I tried some permanent ink. Well, that washed off too. So, frustrated, I put the panels into the Abandoned Art Supplies cupboard and ignored them.

Did Someone Say “Smooth?”

When I work with colored pencils I love a super smooth surface, which is why most of my pieces are done on bristol rather than drawing paper, watercolor paper, or other rough surface as many colored pencil folks like to do.

This appreciation of smooth surfaces brought to mind my poor little Claybord panels sitting in the dark. I pulled one out and played around a bit just to see if the clay would take the pencil and, most importantly, if the pencil marks would “stick.” Guess what, they did!

So, as soon as I was ready to get back to work, one of the first projects on my list was to try something simple on the Claybord panel.

Results of the Experiment

I knew I didn’t want to try anything too complex with the new substrate, so I flipped through some old sketches to look for some doodle-y designs that might work. I quickly came to the perfect sketch. Not only was it simple, but it was also square just like the panel. Serendipity, take me away!


With circle template in hand, I drew a refined version of the sketch onto the board and the started coloring it in. I wasn’t entirely sure of the color scheme, but I thought it should have a spring-y look to it to match the season.

claybord, colored pencil, tammie painter
Spring-y Experimentation

I was surprised at how many layers of colored pencil the Claybord could take. The flower petals, for example, have about eight layers on them. The Claybord also handled a blender quite well and it wasn’t too hard to erase when I decided against putting certain colors in certain places (planning ahead is not my strongest artistic suit).

I also like that I feel it gives my work a bit more – how should I say – artistic merit/value over using paper (which is sometimes deemed less valuable as a substrate over canvas even though some papers are WAY more expensive than canvas panels).

My only issue is wondering how someone would mount the panel to hang on a wall, but that’s a quandary for another day.

All in all, I really liked working on the Claybord and may try something a bit more complex at some point. For now, though I may just work this design in a few more colors just for fun.

Have a great weekend everyone and if you’re planning any artistic experiments, I’d love to hear about them!!

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6 thoughts on “Experimenting with Claybord

  1. Oooh, news from your art lab! And it looks like this experiment has been a success – those colours are amazing! This is my justification for never throwing art supplies out 😀 As for mounting/framing them, how about setting the board on a larger piece of glass, and putting that in a box frame?

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      1. Whyever not? Mad scientist beats sad abandoned art supplies (I can almost picture tumbleweeds rolling out of the closet when you open the door) anyday! And a lot of the artists we sell in Other Work use box frames… One of them mounts small ceramic pieces on glass and puts them in a much larger frame, effectively making each one 3-4 times its original size (and much more expensive 😉).

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