My garden is full of blooming Peony flowers today! I have used the Peony as inspiration for many of my fine art pieces in both colored pencil and silverpoint drawings.
This is an ongoing series that I have been working on using Silverpoint. They are close up views of Peony flowers that grow every year in my garden. I spend hours photographing the flowers with my digital camera, cropping the images in Photoshop and then I print them out to use as reference photos. I like to photograph in bright sunlight in order to get high contrast images-bright whites and dark shadows.
What is silverpoint? Silverpoint is the art medium that the art masters, such as Rembrandt and Durer and Da Vinci used to draw with. This technique/medium pre-dates the invention of the pencil. I discovered this medium while taking a Botanical Illustration class at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. The instructor, Laura Vogele, brought in an amazing drawing of a Locust bug that she created in silverpoint and I was mesmerized. Immediately I went and bought the supplies and got to work.
The way it works is that a piece of sterling silver wire (a perfect art medium for a jewelry designer to use!) is placed into a mechanical pencil holder and drawn on a special clay coated paper. The silver will not work on any other paper. Traditionally, the surface for drawing was rabbit skin glue, but I have issues with that, so it’s clay coated paper for me. Silverpoint can not be erased, any mark that goes down, stays down so careful planning is required before beginning.
Silverpoint drawing has a limited range of values that can be achieved so a careful rendering of the image is required or everything will be gray. I make sure to save the white areas so my value scale will be more dramatic. Another interesting element about it is that the silver in the drawing will slowly tarnish over time creating a warm patina, which I love. You can see in the above images how the silver turns into a warm grey.
On my drawing table today is a half finished silverpoint drawing of a bunch of asparagus. Planning on spending the weekend drawing. I will post the finished 'masterpiece' next week.