Category Archives: Silverpoint

Silverpoint is self-descriptive, that is, it’s a piece of silver rod inserted in a drawing stylus which is then moved across an appropriately prepared surface. The surface can be flexible or inflexible but needs to be prepared with enough hardness and “tooth” so that the silver rod leaves its mark behind. This mark is known for its delicacy of line and faintness of value.

Pieces of Me/Pieces of Eight. Titanium white over silverpoint. Final size: 106.5 x 168 cm or 42" x 66"

Pieces of Me/Pieces of Eight/Pieces of White

Pieces of Me/Pieces of Eight/Pieces of Light. Titanium white over silverpoint underdrawings.  Final size: 106.5 x 168 cm or 42" x 66"

Pieces of Me/Pieces of Eight/Pieces of Light. Titanium white over silverpoint underdrawings. Final size: 106.5 x 168 cm or 42″ x 66″

I’ve recently been able to complete this silverpoint inspired project – which is intended as a mix of realism and abstraction.

The underdrawing stage illustrated and described here consisted of sixty four panels rendered in silverpoint over a terre verte toned acrylic ground, highlighted with titanium white. After applying appropriate fixative, the overlaying layers consisted primarily of titanium white (there was also a tidge of zinc white) – either sprayed or thrown – in alternating sessions until I was satisfied with the result.

It was fun doing this second phase yet also challenging: it’s my first experience with throwing paint since my college days. So  I had an internal image, but didn’t know exactly how to get there. It was a case of trial and error. My guiding principle was “circulation de la lumière” (the circulation of light). Naturally, that circulation had to take into account the quarter-tones and half-tones of the underpainting. But the throwing itself involved a certain kind of chaos which I couldn’t really control, but rather at best, guide. The final size is approximately 3 1/2 feet x 5 1/2 feet. Basically, life size.

The final version displayed here is (of course) a photograph. As such it is a kind of compromise, not only because of my photography skills (but possibly anyone’s) to adequately represent this piece. The silverpoint layer reflects and resonates depending on the lighting conditions (and your position in the room) while the overpainted layer simply reflects.

With ambient lighting conditions more of the underdrawing softly comes through, while with strong overhead light the overpainted splashes become emphasised. My intention is/was to achieve an alternating balance between the two so that the viewer can receive alternating impressions. For all these reasons it’s important to cut this digital image some slack. So no, there will be no NFTs made available of this anywhere on the internet. 😉

With luck I hope to exhibit it somewhere, sometime in the relatively near future. TBD.

 

Advertisement
#13 Silverpoint on tinted panel, highlighted with titanium white.

Silverpoint underdrawings, batch #4

Perhaps because I haven’t posted in awhile, a number of friends have asked recently if I am still working on my silverpoint drawings. The answer is emphatically: “Yes!”. Since I’ve had a few other projects on my plate, I just haven’t done a post. So here is batch #4.

Actually, I am coming down the home stretch of these sixty four (underdrawing) panels (there are still twelve left to do). Each is a jewel in its own right, though clearly some are more interesting compositionally than others. I had  about thirty panels to sort through in order to select these five to showcase here.

As you’ll see, the panels that contain body parts with differing textures and conditions of light make for the most interesting compositions. It’s important to recognise that the silverpoint can never create a really dark line. The best that’s achievable is a 50% warm grey (which is drawn on a panel already tinted with a terra verte toned ground). So after transposing the basic form-describing lines, I fill in the dark values with silver cross-hatching. Through this process, the three quarter tone, deep shadow information inevitably gets lost however the composition does come to life when I introduce tints of (acrylic) titanium white.

Underdrawing in silverpoint #36 over toned ground, highlighted with white.

Silverpoint underdrawings, batch #3

Silverpoint underdrawing #38 on toned ground highlighted with acrylic.

Silverpoint underdrawing #38 on toned ground highlighted with acrylic.

After a long hiatus (at least from here) I’ve got another batch of silverpoint underdrawings to publish. These were created during our recent trip to California – in my new studio there. The new studio is in our garage, so besides the new working-space, I envision that I will have more room there to create larger pieces (who needs cars anyway?). My current working-space here in Belgium measures about 4 x 10 feet but since Euro-compression-design rules the day I have been able to pack many useful features into it. Still. it’s cramped.

Underdrawing in silverpoint #57 on toned ground highlighted with white.

Underdrawing in silverpoint #57 on toned ground highlighted with white.

When I began this project I knew of course that the silverpoint pencil nib is quite restrictive, so the challenge in these panels is how to render various highly textured, amorphous and abstract shapes with a very fine, low in value line. Mostly impossible. For many of these compositions then, if I were to use just silverpoint, I’d have only very flat uninteresting underdrawings to offer. But since they are executed on a toned ground, the addition of the while highlights (using tubes of titanium white in acrylic) allows for greater manipulations. Washes quickly establish the tonality, texture and gesture – things which are otherwise difficult to achieve in silverpoint alone.

Underdrawing in silverpoint #36 over toned ground, highlighted with white.

Underdrawing in silverpoint #36 over toned ground, highlighted with white.

The silverpoint then establishes the basics of the design and hints toward the darker values, while the white moves the image forward. I enlisted the help not only of brushes but also sponges, hands and fingers. And since each panel is about the size of a standard book, I could rotate the panel to get my washes to drip in whatever direction I needed. Nice. That’s really hard to do with a big panel or canvas. 😉

Underdrawing in silverpoint #58 over toned gesso, highlighted with white acrylic.

Underdrawing in silverpoint #58 over toned gesso, highlighted with white acrylic.

All in all I created fourteen panels during this recent time. They are still resting in their little beds in California, however I was able to take some photographs of them before leaving. I’m hoping to put the whole series together during our next trip, where I will have enough space to throw some paint at the final assemblage. As ever, we’ll see.

Silverpoint underdrawing on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint underdrawings, batch #2

Silverpoint underdrawing #05 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint underdrawing #05 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

I’ve completed six more panels, so I figure it’s time for an update. Illustrated here are a few of those that I that have found to be particularly interesting/beautiful for various reasons. The most evocative appear to be those whose compositions include human beings or parts thereof. It’s as though each one is from some unwritten comic book – captions not included (Hergé would have understood). Additionally, the abstract panels cause me to wonder/admire anew at how the iconoclastic impulse of Islamic art continues to produce such interesting varieties of texture and pattern.

Silverpoint underdrawing #07 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint underdrawing #07 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Further, one very general note. I feel I am serendipitously creating 21st century daguerreotypes(!). (Who knew?) It’s as though by using silver to recreate images based on a digital photograph the mechanistic process has come full circle: human to machine back to human. And again, because the drawing stylus is silver it’s almost impossible to achieve a line that is darker than a 50% grey value. All values are compressed thereby, necessitating a multitude of small decisions. Adding in the white highlights makes each panel come alive – my own gevoelsmatig pleasure.

Silverpoint underdrawing #11 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint underdrawing #11 on toned gesso ground. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

The raison d’être for these remains as underdrawings. And I have no doubt that their beauty and subtlety will contribute to the whole in as-yet-to-be-experienced ways. However, some will be held back for individual display and appreciation. For this, I think I have a plan…

Silverpoint over tinted acrylic gesso ground, highlighted with (acrylic) titanium white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 /1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Silverpoint Studies, Batch #1

Panel #10, Silverpoint over tinted gesso ground, highlighted with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 /1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #10, Silverpoint over tinted gesso ground, highlighted with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 /1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #01, silverpoint underdrawing over tinted gesso, highlight with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #01, silverpoint underdrawing over tinted gesso, highlight with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

I’ve been doing some underdrawings for a new project. It will be a different approach to the same image/subject matter as the “A Piece of Me” project, completed in December 2020. However, instead of being executed in a full textural and chromatic range this one will be untextured,  monochromatic and ghosted back. It will be done in silverpoint on acrylic and overpainted (in acrylic or oil, TBD) on sixty four panels.

Here’s a selection of some of the individual panels I’ve created so far with some notes. 1) Using silver point means that I can never reach a rich dark value (this is not india ink!). So that’s fantastic and exactly what I’m looking for. 2) In addition, since I’m creating them on tinted grounds, the darkest value provides less contrast than if I were starting from a white ground. Again, excellent! 3) The tinted ground itself establishes a middle value and allows me to lay in white washes to bring in some highlights. 4) Inevitably, the value range is compressed and subtlety reigns. Nice.

Panel #02, silverpoint underdrawing over tinted gesso, highlighted with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #02, silverpoint underdrawing over tinted gesso, highlighted with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #03, silverpoint underdrawing, silverpoint on tinted ground touched up with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

Panel #03, silverpoint underdrawing, silverpoint on tinted ground touched up with white. 13.3 x 21 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.

I can already see that, when the composition warrants it, a few of the panels are or will be worthy of individual display, though I’m not sure how to handle that. Should I create them (only) for integration into the final piece? Or should I create some for appreciating in isolation (only)? It’s a great problem to have which, at the moment, I don’t have to solve. I can simply create the little panels, fall in love and see where it all goes.