Silverpoint 9 x 10 on Canal paper
copyright Jeanette Jobson
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.