In the newest issue of Drawing (Summer 2013), Lauren Kirchner writes about art materials in a survey course that covers drawing with pastel, pen-and-ink, metalpoint, Conté, and marker. While all of these have unique qualities and can be used to create astounding art, I’d like to share with you the section on metalpoint (also known as silverpoint) because it’s a fascinating medium that’s coming back into popularity. I happily root for the unsung hero, and since metalpoint isn’t mainstream (yet!), here are some perfect examples of what can be achieved in the medium from Drawing.
Metalpoint: A Beautiful Line, by Lauren Kirchner
Metalpoint drawing uses thin metal wires, most often silver or gold, to draw on a prepared surface that reacts with the metal, causing particles to become embedded in the paper. This centuries-old technique long predates the pencil; in the Medieval era metalpoint was used by scribes to copy manuscripts. Today’s artists employ it when they want a fine, precise, and singularly delicate line.
To make the medium easier to handle, wires can be placed in a holder similar to a mechanical pencil. The drawing surface sands down the tip of the metal wire as it is pulled across, permanently embedding the metal in the grain of the surface.
Joseph A. Smith, a drawing instructor at Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, frequently uses silverpoint in his own art, and he sees that the medium is coming back into style among illustrators and artists who appreciate its absolute indelibility and its unusual sheen. “Because you can’t truly erase it, metalpoint either imposes discipline on an artist–making you really have to think about when you’re doing–or it forces you to develop an approach that allows for redrawing or a layering of different tight images,” he says. Silverpoint also possesses another unique quality: It tarnishes. “Sterling silver gets a patina, and it will literally change color,” says Smith. “A silverpoint drawing becomes more and more beautiful over time.”
In addition to the above, the newest issue of Drawing celebrates illustration in particular, and features drawings by American master Edward Hopper, satirical works by Edward Sorel, Steven Weiss’s take on combining new and old techniques, and more.
“It only takes a couple trips to the newsstand, one good visit to a bookstore, or an hour playing a popular video game to realize that some of the most passionate, most inventive, and most intriguing art you’ll find anywhere is created as illustration–images such as book covers, advertisements, and concept art used in games, movies, theater, and television,” says Austin Williams, associate editor of Drawing.“The best illustrations are not only wonderfully imaginative but also as technically accomplished as the drawings and paintings seen in galleries–there’s much to be learned from the work of these artists.”
Yours in art,