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!
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.
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.