Silverpoint is one of my favorite mediums for small format drawings. I began using it almost 11 years ago when my oldest son, Nicolas was a baby. My work is usually large and gestural but when I became a new mother, I adapted my studio practice to my new circumstances. I could no longer plan extended times in the studio, so I began a series of small observational drawings of Nicolas while he napped.
Format affects the choice of media and working small required a change of drawing tools, I took this opportunity to explore silverpoint (a thin piece of silver with a sharp point). Old masters worked with silverpoint among other drawing mediums before graphite was invented.
Silver will make a mark on a surface if it is prepared with grounds such as gouache, acrylic or rabbit skin glue; there are even prepared grounds specifically for silverpoint on the market. With time, the drawing tarnishes and turns a beautiful warm grey. I have worked on gesso boards, 5 ply bristol prepared with gouache and most recently on plike paper, which needs no preparation. One of the advantages of preparing your own grounds is that you can tint it. Many old and contemporary silverpoint drawings have been done on tinted grounds.
Most of my silverpoint drawings are observational. In my figurative and still life drawings, my focus has been on reinforcing form and space with line. When drawing landscapes, I have been interested achieving an atmospheric quality and capturing a sense of the place. I find it convenient and fun to work with silverpoint “en plein air” (on site) because my paper fits easily in my sketchbook and I carry very few tools, yet I can take my time to develop the piece.
My latest drawing, “The Encounter” (below) is a narrative piece in which I resumed the process of working from numerous references. I can see how my perceptual drawings have influenced the handling of space. This piece is the first of a new series of small format narrative drawings as studies for larger pieces. Look for posts on the progress of the series in the coming months!