Saturday, February 09, 2008

Silverpoint, knitting and inspiration

Leonardo da Vinci
Study of Arms and Hands c. 1474
Silverpoint heightened with white on pink prepared paper
214 x 150 mm, Windsor, Windsor Castle

I'm in a bit of a slump right now in terms of drawing. I have things I fiddle with, but nothing is coming out as I want and my want isn't really there. I know everyone goes through periods like this and I know it will pass. I feel as if I should be creating new pieces or finishing others, but its just not there right now. I'm tackling some other creative things for a day or two til the drawing hand revives.

I bought some sterling silver wire for some of the jewellery that I make and I want to experiment with silverpoint drawing, one of the oldest drawing media, predating the graphite pencil. Silverpoint
drawing is done with a sharpened silver wire on a gessoed support. Because silver reacts, the silver-gray drawing then tarnishes to a darker reddish brown. I need to create a treated surface to draw on, either gesso, or if I can't find that, then gouache or perhaps at a pinch, latex on a firm paper. I'll test it using some of this silver wire in a mechanical pencil holder. There are specific silverpoint supplies that can be purchased, but I won't invest money until I know that I like it or it performs as I want it to.

Here are some links to silverpoint for those interesting in trying their hand.

Gerrit Verstraete
Diana Fairbanks
Jason Hugger
International Silverpoint Archives
Silverpoint Web
Silverpoint Drawing Complete

My other creative alternative is knitting, which I haven't done for a long time,, even though I have cupboards of a storage room stuffed with balls of yarn or all types. I agreed to teach a few beginners to knit in March, and need to reacquaint myself with the movement and feel of yarn and needles. I have been a knitter since grade school, just likely less enthusiastic in those school days when we had to knit squares for blankets for less developed countries.

I moved into a stage of constant knitting for many years, only to have it lapse when drawing took over most of my time. I began a Master Knitter course in the late 1990s, however part way through it seemed that the endless squares were more like tension swatches than a verification of my skills, so I didn't complete it. The concept was to provide, in several phases (3 or 4 I believe) of increasing difficulty, proof of your skills through a variety of squares of work that eventually could be sewn together to make a bedspread sized blanket. I have about half the course completed and still sitting in that storage room cupboard, waiting. I guess I should sew the squares already made into something instead of letting them languish.

I also believe that acrylic yarns should be abolished. Yes, I know they serve a purpose in this wash and dry society, but the feel of real wool, alpaca, cashmere or soft cotton or linen can make or break your interest in a knitting project. And, if I'm going to invest time and money in creating a knitted piece, then it needs to be unique, both in pattern and materials.

For those interested and not close enough for me to show them the techniques, try a couple of these links to get your started on a new art form.

Canadian Guild of Knitters
Craft Yarn Council of America
Knitting Help


Jan said...

Someone in a now-defunct art group introduced me to silver point and I think it is so elegant and beautiful. With your drawing skills, I'm sure you'll do very well with it. Can't wait to see what you do.

vivien said...

I'll watch your experiments with silverpoint with interest - it's a medium I've never tried and can be so beautiful and subtle :)

Anonymous said...

I hope you post the things that you knit...I just started knitting about 6 weeks ago and I love it!

Billie Crain said...

wow! silverpoint! i've seen work done in this medium and it looks incredible. good luck. i'm looking forward seeing what you do with it.:)

Jeanette said...

I'm looking forward to trying it Jan, it should be interesting. Did you do anything with silverpoint?

I love the look of it Vivien. There is merit in revisiting the past.

I will indeed post what I knit Debbie. Good for you, learning to knit. Its an art form and craft that has declined considerably over time and needs to be revived.

I should have something to show you tomorrow Billie. Keep your fingers crossed!

Robyn said...

I've been resisting knitting for some reason yet this is probably the best time and place to get into it again. The Italian yarns are stunning and like you, I hate acrylic because it is such a pleasure to feel real camel hair (can one still buy that?), cashmere and all the other natural fibres. I think I'd had a bit of trouble with knitting patterns in Italian though!

I love silverpoint, Jeanette. I bought a piece in Florence and then went back for a mechanical pencil to fit it. Purpose made, it has different ends, one rounded and smooth and the other sharp. Works perfectly well on White Gouache as well as gesso. I put my effort away to see the effect time will have on the colour. You've inspired me to try and find it.

Very much looking forward to seeing you make some silverpoint drawings. No pressure though ;)

Jan said...

No, I never attempted silverpoint - it felt as if it would be sacrilege in my hands. I just love the look of it.

I used to knit though. Never made anything really worthwhile but it was kind of fun. I still have the needles and a bit of yarn but we just don't wear a lot of sweaters here nor have need of scarves or other cold weather gear. I wouldn't know where to begin to knit a bed throw or other such object!

Hope to see your work (both silverpoint and knitting) real soon!

~Gina Cuff said...

Hi Jeanette,

I think I'll give silverpoint a try as well. I have been wanting to for ages and I have the materials to get started. Any of the art supply stores in town carry gesso. I got mine at Michaels using a 40% discount coupon.
I love knitting too, but I could never seem to get the necks right on sweaters.


Jeanette said...

Knitting always was therapeutic for me, somewhat like drawing. And I always had a complex and a simple pattern on the go at the same time. It will be fun to start up again.

I'd love to see your experiments with silverpoint. Italian landscapes would be beautiful in this medium.

Perhaps tonight I'll be able to post my silverpoint efforts Jan. I have life class tonight, so it depends on when I get home.

I think you'd do beautifully in silverpoint Gina, as your drawing skills are excellent. Yes I'll have to invest in some gesso tomorrow and do a 'proper' drawing. My current effort is canal paper primed with acrylic. Not quite good enough, but ok for practicing on.

Kate said...

I'm new to knitting and am always on the lookout for websites to aid me. The links you had were very helpful. I wanted to pass along a site I found that has a few basic how to videos with great tips on knitting. I'm not sure if you're interested in how to knit videos, but I found these useful when I was just starting out.