Sunday, 3 May 2015

Day 15, Silverpoint and Gouache

I'm falling further and further behind with this challenge but hey ho! Will plod on regardless because there are no actual rules here other than self imposed ones. So I'm ploughing ahead making stuff in a random fashion in between other work that I have to do. Yesterday it was time to rummage through the art cupboard looking for missing things when I came across the silverpoint again and thought I'd give it another go....even though I don't quite know what I'm doing!

Day 15, Another attempt at silverpoint, another tulip bulb but this one has grown some roots in water
 As a bit of an side, and nothing to do with silverpoint, I was reading about Andy Warhol the other day. Not that I'm a huge fan but I like him more since seeing the exhibition at Tate Liverpool last year or maybe it was this year ( can't remember ). Also my daughter was writing an essay about him, and I usually get the privilege of proof reading these essays ...anyway to the point! I came across this famous quote of his, apologies if it's not entirely accurate I tend to alter words to suit me.

' Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding , make even more  art.'

That's a philosophy I agree with, just get on with it! at worst it ends up in the bin and you start over, which is better than doing nothing and regretting it. So with that said, I'm not sure what to make of tonights effort. Seems a bit pathetic, but seemingly it will develop over time and it's quite nice to do. 

I had tried Silverpoint last year and not really been overly impressed with my efforts but everything takes time....right!? I've always loved those Renaissance silverpoint drawings, especially those by Durer so wanted to try it.... Guess I was always going to be a bit disappointed with my effort!

'Two Seated Lions' by Albrect Durer 1521. Copyright Wikimedia Commons
So what did I do?
First I referred to this brilliant website on silver point. If I can produce a website on vellum that's half as good I'll be very happy!
 First off you have to prepare the paper with a several coats of the ground. I did this first with ready prepared ground and then decided to add some colour to it to give a more natural colour, it's not unlike natural vellum. I used a Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook and the paper reacted well tho the ground. I can't remember quite what colours added, raw umber and some others, red and transparent yellow plus a touch of neutral tint. About 6 - 8 coats of ground was applied making sure it was fully dry between layers.

Preparing the surface with layers of Golden silverpoint ground, I added some colour to give this natural finish.
 Thereafter I worked with the silverpoint by drawing with the silver medium in it, which is called the metalpoint. You can use other metals too, copper and gold give a different finish. I only had one size piece of silver and could have done with a finer piece but I filed  it a little at the end. 
Hatching with the metalpoint - I added some white gouache to give more depth
The technique is line drawing and a hatching process, to give more tone the hatching lines are made closer together, just like hatching with pencil. It's quite light in tone but apparently it does develop over time as the silver oxidises, so I'll wait a few months to see what happens. Unfortunately if an error is made you can't go back or rub anything out, once each stroke is made it's permanent. 

I did get impatient with the lack of tone and decided to add gouache to highlight, not sure if that's what you are supposed to do but I can't see why not. It seemed to work well with the natural background.

So this is my final piece, I'll post it again  in a few months time if I remember, when hopefully it will have developed  more tone. I guess I can add more to it if needed at a later date.

Silverpoint drawing with body colour of a tulip bulb
Final drawing ....just need to wait now and see how it develops with oxidation. This photograph gives a more accurate colour than the others but is a bit dark. Maybe I'll try another one sometime.

 Not sure when day 16 will appear as I've got too much other stuff to do this week but will try my best!


  1. Really nice post. I love the aged look. I'm surprised by the darkness you managed to get. The last time I tried silverpoint i couldn't get my dark parts look that dark. But maybe it's just the contrast with the gouache, which I like very much too. Can't wait to see how it oxidises overtime.

    1. Thanks Sigrid, it's not very dark at all but I think the photo maybe picked it up as darker, the final photo is more true in colour but also the combination of the darker background and white gouache is doing a lot of the work here. I'd definitely like to try more of it. although it does feel a bit like not much is being achieved though and Im used to working with pretty dark graphite so it takes some getting used to. I did some silverpoint before and put them I can't find them! so hopefully the fact that this one is in a sketchbook means I wont lose it! I would like to draw some ferns with it...might be nice

    2. hmmm, I know what you mean. I once made a drawing for my parents but it never tured really dark somehow. And while drawing acorns a few years ago I couldn't get myself to finish them. It doesn't seem to suit me for that same reason as you meantioned: not dark enough. I love big contrasts and drama but if I don't get that instantly I can't keep myself motivated. Ferns sound really nice though. I loved them in your sketchbook in graphite.

  2. I'm fascinated with silverpoint, so loved this post. How on earth do you manage to get so much done? I know that you have commissions in full swing too... you're a marvel (or else you have a secret clone!). I'm enjoying this blog posts too... and it's keeping you away from the raspberries!

    1. Thanks Shevaun, I just do a bit here and there while I'm thinking about the other stuff. I've never enough time to do all the things I want to do, and have a whole heap of stuff going on in my head all the time ;) so to keep the sanity I go do a bit of something during breaks, such as giving the paper a coat of ground.... It drives me on if I set little goals .... Bit loopy really ;) I'm probably on overload after 2 years when it was really difficult for me to work.