Nathan Cole is a visual artist, photographer, writer, and aspiring naturalist based in Toronto, Canada. Nathan’s practice is based on the exploration of the natural world both physically and visua... lly. By following the pathways set out in nature, he hopes to rebuild connections between our natural spaces and our minds. To unlearn the processes of contemporary society and to overcome his own mental health challenges, he is looking to fully immerse himself in his surroundings by rewilding his mind and senses. Using photography as both a connective tool for himself and his viewers, he then translates these observational details onto his favored medium of scratchboard.
Through his work and experiences with the animals that he depicts, he is hoping to challenge some of the myths, perceptions, and preconceptions surrounding wildlife. Stories and imagery are incredibly important, and our understanding and relationship with nature are so often based around them. With the awareness that for some of these species, their very existence is at stake in our current world, Nathan hopes to challenge harmful practices through representation, education, and his own process of rewilding.
Scratchboard is a masonite board, covered in white porcelain, and then painted black with ink. The images are created by using a metal quill to scratch away the black so that the white appears underneath. Texture, depth, and shadow are created by varying the pressure on the quill, the angle it is used, and repetition on the same spot. Each image is built out slowly from a focal point, keeping the proportion in mind the whole time.
Scratchboard, by its very construction and purpose, is a very fragile medium – you create by taking away and any missed stroke could ruin what you have created so far. Humanity and its relation to nature are quite similar. Humans create their society by taking away, cutting down and stripping the resources to create their cities and culture. Their impact on the wildlife and habitats around them is deeply affected by this process, but also the ongoing effects of the stories told and myths created.
The perception of particular animals due to their place in history can very well determine their livelihood. Creating animal portraits with scratchboard means that the historical and cultural perceptions can deeply affect how the viewer sees the animal in front of them. The painstaking process of creating the art is echoed by the careful approach that must be taken for examining the myths and perceptions of these animals. In this way, I hope that by creating art, I can improve the relationships of humans with the wildlife surrounding them.