Monday, February 11, 2008

Silverpoint II

Ryan's Gate
Silverpoint 9 x 10 on Canal paper
copyright Jeanette Jobson


I spent yesterday practicing silverpoint. I prepared some fairly sturdy Canal paper using white acrylic paint, not wanting to go all the way to town just for gesso. It rippled a little and I should have used watercolour paper, but this was an experiment after all.

I had been out in the morning and taking a lot of photos locally, using the contrasts of sun, shadows and snow. I've had my eye on this gate for months. Its the entrance to Ryan's meadow where hay is made each summer. The fence is handmade as are most in rural Newfoundland, strung with wire farm fencing between the posts and a simple bar gate.

My silver was sterling silver wire, 22 gage which I inserted about an inch and a half piece into a .5mm mechanical pencil. Then I just started drawing. It is a time consuming exercise and I learned a couple of things in this.

I don't believe that I coated the paper well enough. In my impatience to get going on this, I only used one layer of acrylic paint. I believe, according to my research, that I can get deeper values if my gesso ground is a thicker layer, sanded between coats. You need a bit of tooth to your paper to enable a minute layer of silver to be left on the surfac.e. Next time, I will be using gessoed board or watercolour paper with at least three layers of gesso, lightly sanded.

Layers are built up very slowly and nothing can be erased. Silverpoint is like using pen and ink. It is precise and makes you plan and think where you will place your next stroke, however you can disguise small errors by added more layers.

Depth of tone is limited to about 10% - 40% that of graphite pencil drawings. This has advantages and disadvantages. I personally, like the subtle values, as most of my work is done with a light hand. You can create depth in your drawing, but it will demand time and patience and many, many layers. White highlights can be added or small touches of graphite to emphasize an area.

The silver wire that I used was half hard and most wire used for silverpoint is deadsoft, annealed wire. So I will be ordering some of that or simply a stylus and point online. A couple of inches of wire will create hundreds of drawings as it won't wear down quickly as graphite does.

I will have to wait to see how long it will take for the drawing to tarnish and turn that lovely sepia colour that it should. Environmental conditions, depending on where you live, will accelerate or delay the development of this change in colour which is caused by oxidization. Apparently California is the best place to live if you want quicker changes to the colour. All those environmental pollutants seem good for something it seems!

Taking an image or scan of silverpoint is a challenge as the tones are pale. Its a fine line of adjustment to get the true picture. The image here is taken with a digital camera but the values are a bit too dark compared to the original.

I'd love to see others experiments with silverpoint. I know that I will be doing more soon and may try an animal or portrait. I believe its a learning process and it does feel good to walk in the footsteps of the Masters.

14 comments:

Billie Crain said...

looks good to me, Jeanette! silverpoint certainly suits your style. i read somewhere that you can cover mistakes with more gesso, then work over the same spot when dry. is that true?

Jeanette said...

Thanks Billie. Well, I guess I'll soon see about that! :)

Paulette said...

Very nice, I agree that this suits your style. It will be interesting to see it when it is tarnished.

Cindy said...

For an experiment I'd say it looks very successful. Lovely drawing, nice composition. I know nothing
about silver point, so it was very interesting to read about your process and what you learned.

Thanks for sharing!

~Gina Cuff said...

Hi Jeanette,

Wow, this piece is incredibly beautiful! Your first try with silverpoint has been a success. I can't wait to try it now. Thanks for the tips. I'll be sure to coat the paper with several layers of gesso. I have 20 gauge, dead soft sterling silver wire that I will use. So excited...

~Gina

Jeanette said...

Paulette, I am interested in seeing the tarnished version as well.

I like trying new techniques Cindy and this one is very interesting.
But then I love fiddly, time consuming drawings. :)

Thanks Gina. I rather like it for my first attempt, but I think I could get darker values if I'd used a thicker gesso layer. I need to order some dead soft silver wire to try, even though the 22 guage half hard worked ok.

Jeanette said...

Paulette, I am interested in seeing the tarnished version as well.

I like trying new techniques Cindy and this one is very interesting.
But then I love fiddly, time consuming drawings. :)

Thanks Gina. I rather like it for my first attempt, but I think I could get darker values if I'd used a thicker gesso layer. I need to order some dead soft silver wire to try, even though the 22 guage half hard worked ok.

Dave said...

I've always wanted to try silverpoint; the tones are so lovely and delicate. But I doubt I could do as good a job as this, even though you call it an experiment! Keep 'em coming!

Jeanette said...

Dave, your drawing skills with pen and ink are super so silverpoint would be a breeze for you!

Go get some supplies and have a go. We'll all start the Silverpoint Club :)

pencilwizard said...

I like this Silverpoint very much, it comes across as very soft and delicate, I shall watch these experiments with interest.

Robyn said...

This is a really impressive first effort Jeanette. You've managed to get a lot of silver on the paper from a very thin wire. I don't know what gauge mine is but it think it's much thicker. I went looking for my experiment and was most disappointed to see it hasn't even slightly tarnished - yet you should see what happens to the rest of the silver in this house!!

I agree silver point really suits your lovely delicate style. I will try another piece soon. I'd hate to not be in the club ;)

Jeanette said...

I hope you join in as well pencilwizard.

Well it was a spur of the moment thing Robyn, so I used what was available. The wire I used was one gage down from earring thickness wire.

I'm asking the birthday fairies to provide me with the real goods. Though I did buy gesso and put some on a commercially gessoed board the other night then made a mark the next morning. Wow, what a difference! Its like using a 6B compared to the surface that used.

Oh you have to do another piece. I think I'll have to create another Squidoo lens just for this then link to everyone's wonderful silverpoint drawings. :)

Cathy Gatland said...

I've been wanting to try silverpoint since seeing it in Sarah Simblet's 'The Drawing Book' - so I'm encouraged to see your lovely drawing, and learn from your experience. Need to go on a hunt now for dead soft silver, gesso, etc so I can join the club!

Jeanette said...

I hope you do access some supplies Cathy. I know you'd enjoy creating some drawings with this. THere's always a place for you at the 'club' :)