I just finished this silverpoint drawing. It is from the central panel of the Ludovisi Throne. It’s said to depict Hera’s rebirth as she ascends from the sacred spring she bathes in each year to renew her virginity. The main figure is also believed to be Aphrodite (Venus) rising from the sea. Others believe, however that the figure portrays Persephone on her annual return from the underworld. I think I ascribe to the Hera interpretation, the idea of an annual renewal really appeals to me, I’d like to take a dip and become a Maiden again!
Here’s a couple of silverpoint drawings of one of a family of Bewick’s wrens (Thryomanes bewickii) that live in my backyard. They are lovely little birds that remind me of growing up in England. They fly fast, darting in and out of the trees, you usually see them only for a second and then they are gone. They can be recognized by their jaunty upstanding little tail and have a very powerful and melodious song, it’s surprisingly loud for their size and it always seems to me like they’re trying to tell me something very urgent and important.
These were drawn with 18pt silver wire held in an automatic pencil holder. Silverpoint drawing tools can be made by yourself fairly easily and relatively cheaply by hand or can be bought at a reasonable price here.
Both drawings are on gesso board prepared with silverpoint/drawing ground. The background in the Wren drawing is loosely drawn and stylized, William Morris style leaves, while in the foreground, the wren is tightly rendered.
This loose sketch of the wren’s nest in the crook of the pear tree is drawn on a 5″x5″ board.
I drew this bust of the Bodhisattva Kwan Yin when I first started with silverpoint, it was a long study and as I progressed through the drawing, I was learning moment by moment. I can see a few passages where I was particularly stumped because I tried to use silverpoint in ways that silverpoint doesn’t like to be used, ie as a pencil, but all in all I’m very happy with it.
It’s drawn on a prepared Ampersand Gesso Board, they come cradled or un-cradled, this was the latter. The ground that you use is important for the silverpoint to lay down although it will show up on just the gessoed surface. Here, I also used a Silverpoint/Drawing ground made by Golden Paints. I highly recommend using it, it is easy to apply and it prepares any surface ready to accept silverpoint.
I discovered a new (to me) paper. It’s called Terraskin and it’s eco friendly (no water, no trees, no bleach) and made from stone. It feels as smooth as a baby’s bum but you can use silverpoint on it without preparing the paper. It can also be erased fairly easily. I found only one problem, the silverpoint would abrade the paper fairly easily, if I wasn’t very light with the pressure but that’s a good thing anyway, with metal point you slowly build up the darks. I ordered it from Amazon but I’m sure they have it elsewhere. This is just a quick sketch but I think I’m going to like it
When I decided I wanted to try gold metalpoint drawing, I remembered that I have this old gold ring that my husband found many moons ago. It’s always been missing a stone and I planned on replacing it but never did as it would take a very big one. I plan on buying some 18 gage 23K gold wire soon and making a proper point but for now the ring worked pretty darn well. Most of the drawing is gold, I used the side of the band and some of the prongs on the top for detail but the fine detail is silverpoint. You can see the gold shining in the photo. The silver will eventually tarnish, darkening to a warm sepia color but as far as I understand, the gold will not.
This is small 4″x4″ but the process is painstaking, you build up the darks one layer at a time and so it took a good part of an afternoon.
Last year, I started working with a new to me but very old technique called metalpoint drawing. This form of drawing is made by using a metal wire in a holder of some kind on a prepared gessoed ground. My wire of choice was silver in a pen holder but gold and copper wire are also utilized.
The most wonderful thing happens as the drawing ages, the metal fragments left behind on the paper slowly become darker, just as a silver spoon will tarnish, turning it from a light silvery grey to a warmer brown. Copper will turn green as it oxidises. I’m finding that it’s very hard to erase silverpoint, erasers are not that effective and I’m learning that only sanding works completely which, if you’re not very careful, will damage the paper. So, for me this makes the drawing process more like a pen and ink than a pencil drawing, you have to be totally committed to the line you’re making but as pen and ink was one of my first loves, I feel like I am coming back to my roots.
Here is my first drawing in silverpoint on a gessoed ground, Queen Bee.