Studies of an oak tree

On labor day weekend this year we went camping to Jekyll Island. The park was full with people getting the most out of the end of the summer and we enjoyed a great weekend there. Saturday was rainy so we spent a lot of time sitting under the awning of our camper and either reading or drawing.

I worked on a small study of an oak tree from direct observation. Oak trees abound in the south and this particular one is a very impressive old one. For this study I focused on the tree itself and the ones on the background aiming to achieve a sense of  depth through atmospheric perspective (less contrast and detail in the background).

Study of an oak tree from direct observation in silverpoint

Study of an oak tree from direct observation in silverpoint

My nine-year old son Felipe, joined me and worked on his own observational silverpoint drawing.  I recommended that he look at the negative shapes and draw the spaces in between the branches to deal with the complexity of the subject and he did a great job!! His loose marks and linear build up of value are impressive and his composition very dynamic. Children are such natural artists. They never seize to amaze me.

Silverpoint drawing by my 9 year old son Felipe

Silverpoint drawing by my 9 year old son Felipe

Exploring silverpoint

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!

“Encounter”, Adriana Burgos, 8.5″ x 11″, silverpoint on plike paper, 2014