Drawing With Silver

1 Jul


There’s a new exhibition coming up at The British Museum this Autumn – drawings in metalpoint. These are drawings made with silver or gold onto specially prepared paper, a technique used before the invention of graphite pencils. I did some work in Silverpoint a while back (above), drawing directly from a life model.

The tool is a smooth barrel of wood like an etching needle but the point is a piece of silver wire, 99% pure. It can be used flat or as a very sharp point, but you have to be accurate because it can’t be rubbed out. Renaissance artists didn’t use the technique for quick scribbling, it was for careful studies. The paper has to be coated with a special Silverpoint Medium; I don’t know what’s in the modern version, but back in the day it was made from finely ground bone mixed with animal glue. When it’s dry, you draw the fine silver point across the paper and the bone drags molecules of the metal off and in a few seconds it tarnishes. This means that you can’t see the line you’ve drawn until the tarnish appears.

da vinci

Leonardo da Vinci’s Bust Of A Warrior in metalpoint

The British Museum is just up the road from my all time favourite artist suppliers, Cornelissen & Son, so I could combine a visit to the exhibition with a shopping trip to Cornelissen to buy silverpoint materials. Now that sounds like a plan 😀

8 Responses to “Drawing With Silver”

  1. kestrelart July 3, 2015 at 22:25 #

    Great post

    • Rosie Scribblah July 3, 2015 at 22:34 #

      Thank you. It’s a nerve wracking technique because there are no room for mistakes, but I enjoyed doing it

  2. allesistgut July 2, 2015 at 08:00 #

    Very beautiful drawing. And your explanations are very interesting. I’ve never heard anything about that technique. Thanks for this rewarding posting. Have a lovely day! 😀

    • Rosie Scribblah July 2, 2015 at 08:36 #

      Thank you. It’s a wonderful ancient technique and so many wonderful artists did it.

  3. anna warren portfolio July 2, 2015 at 03:28 #

    Lovely drawing Rosie – I love these ancient techniques, silverpoint has such a warm, delicate quality. I envy you your trip to the exhibition AND to wonderful Cornelissens! Those jars of pigment are a joy to behold!

    • Rosie Scribblah July 2, 2015 at 08:35 #

      Thank you. Got to plan this one! Cornelissen’s is in an ancient tiny shop with huge age blackened oak beams and tiny ceilings. It’s wonderful to visit and buy materials there. You get a sense of all the artists who have gone before over the centuries.

  4. Alli Farkas July 1, 2015 at 23:48 #

    Quite an informative explanation and your drawing is so elegant!

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