Silverpoint Experiments

For the next few days I’m letting myself draw just to draw, not because I have a deadline or a project to be working on. I rarely have the opportunity to sit back and draw like this, so it’s a treat to let go of my brain and just enjoy the experience of drawing by itself. The other “excuse” is that I just received my silverpoint materials in the mail yesterday, so I’m experimenting with this medium to see what it’s capable of.

Celery Root Study I

I’m working on 12″ x 9″ clay coat paper and a silverpoint stylus.  I’m also going to experiment with preparing different grounds to see how the silverpoint acts on different surfaces. Over a period of several months, the lines in the drawing are supposed to tarnish  and transform into a delicate brown color which I’ll be excited to see. To figure out this medium more, I’m trying to come up with specific characteristics that are different from pencil, which has some visual similarities. One aspect I like is that the silverpoint doesn’t smudge or smear at all, it’s almost like a pencil that behaves like a pen sometimes.  The range of tonal contrast is much smaller than with pencil, so a dark black is impossible to achieve. Drawing very fine and delicate lines is what I’m discovering silverpoint does best; staying light is almost a given when you start drawing.

Celery Root Study II

I’m drawing from two celery roots; I always buy celery roots as still life items for my drawing classes.  Every time I’ve bought one for my classes I’ve always wanted to draw it, so here I finally have my chance. The one in the image below was especially unusual, I think it looks like a conjoined celery root.

Celery Root Study III

4 thoughts on “Silverpoint Experiments

  1. I don’t know if you’ve already tried this, but I’ve used white gouache (titanium I think) as a successful substitute for the pricy, pre-made grounds you can buy. It’s nice because you can tint it with watercolor, if desired. I made two styluses, one pointed and one with a large, flat edge, which I found really helpful when varying my marks. Steel and zinc work well for drawing too, and I’m actually surprised by how much experimentation can happen by drawing with different scraps of metal, since silverpoint is a medium know for its rigidity.

  2. Hi Myles,
    Thanks for the suggestions on materials, I’ve tried watercolor paint as a ground, but I like the idea of gouache since it’s a little heavier and more opaque than the watercolor.

  3. Another great coating medium is to use white casein as your ground. I have also had students use old copper pennies and other metals to draw with on the paper they have coated in class. Naturally the different metals produce slightly different values. It can be wonderful.

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