Technique Tuesday: Silverpoint

technique-tuesday-silverpoint

What is it?

Welcome back to Technique Tuesdays! After high demand, we decided to revive the blog series with new discussions on techniques, genres, and art history. With that said, we would love for our readers to participate in this series, as well. If you are yearning to learn more about a topic or have a burning question on the process behind a work, feel free to comment below and we will be sure to get on it!

Alright, back to the topic of the day – silverpoint! Compared to other metal drawing methods, like those of lead and tin, silver is capable of rendering fine lines and does not create a blunt mark like the other metals. Drawn upon a surface prepared with gesso, gouache, or primer, a silver rod can produce very smooth stroke marks. How this happens is that the tooth of the surface’s preparation mix takes away from the actual silver rod, thus producing a mark! If the surface is unprepared – which was more typical in the past -the silverpoint evokes a lighter color.

Though these qualities make silver a great medium for detailed work, it is however less forgiving. The way that silver digs into surfaces and the inability to erase it calls for intense artistic training for perfecting the medium. Also, when silver oxidizes or is exposed to air, it tends to tarnish and change to a reddish brown – you may have seen this reaction happen with outdoor sculptures, too. However, the intensity of its tarnish depends on how much copper the silverpoint contains. More copper equals more tarnishing.

So next time you run into a silverpoint piece, you can be an expert on the silver’s components and whether the surface was coated or not!

Examples in art history:

Silverpoint was popularized around the early Renaissance era in the Flemish and Italian regions – of course, where Renaissance art reigned! It was heavily used by goldsmiths for their design sketches and served as the primary method for artists’ sketches as well. Some of the most well-known Old Masters of silverpoint include Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Leonardo da Vinci.

The most notable, I would say, is Albrecht Durer who is famous for his mastery of etchings and line drawings. Unlike Rembrandt who used silverpoint for more of a sketching gesture, Durer drew disciplined, hard lines to create his pieces. It goes without saying that silverpoint was thus a top choice for Durer!

As with any art movement, the use of silver soon became outdated. The silverpoint technique was surpassed by the more accessible, more forgiving medium of graphite. The hassle of preparing surfaces mixed with its permanency and rarity quickly led to the technique’s impopularity in the 1500s. Its revival later came about during the modern era, around the 1900s, for the purpose of drawn portraiture. Artists, unlike the past, now have newer resources and more flexibility in creating surfaces easier for silverpoint. They experiment with mixed media, from crayon to casein-coated parchment, to produce such beautiful work.

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Typically, the gallery carries oil and acrylic paintings or works that incorporate wet mediums. It is on the rare, yet delightful occasion that we receive great drawings by our artists. One such instance came about when Susan O’Neill brought in “Woman in Silver” for our upcoming show, “Local Art, Local Eats.” In this particular work, remnants of Rembrandt’s silverpoint style are apparent in O’Neill’s gestural, sketch-like technique.

oneill-woman-in-silver

Another great artist who often practices silverpoint is Robert Liberace. His works are also reminiscent to the Old Masters’ technique, as seen with his work “Serpentine.”

liberace-serpentine-72

Come see these magnificent works in person whenever you stop by the gallery or at our opening reception for “Local Art, Local Eats” on Friday, February 17th at 6:30PM! And if you are specifically interested in silverpoint, contact the gallery and we can notify you when we receive such works!

Advertisements

Congratulations!

It’s springtime! The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming…and the Portrait Society of America is announcing its yearly award winners! We are just weeks away from the PSOA annual conference, and thrilled to share that several Principle Gallery artists have been selected as finalists or received certificates of excellence their annual International Portrait Competition!

So here’s a big congratulations to Mia Bergeron and Gavin Glakas, whose paintings (“Harborer,” and “A Look Into the Setting Sun,” respectively) were awarded Certificates of Excellence in the competition!

PSOA collage 1

(left) Mia Bergeron, “Harborer”; (right) Gavin Glakas, “A Look Into the Setting Sun”

We’d also like to extend a huge congratulations to Susan O’Neill and Casey Childs, both of whom are finalists in the competition! Below are the artworks that earned them this honor:

PSOA Collage 2

(left) Casey Childs, “Phylis Vandernaald”; (right) Susan O’Neill, “Lissome”

The Portrait Society’s annual conference is in Reston, VA this year, and will take place April 14-17, so to all the attendees, Principle Gallery offers a warm welcome to our neck of the woods!

There have been several other Principle Gallery artists making a splash lately as well! Congratulations to Valerio D’Ospina on his recent feature in Design Milk (click here to check it out!), Geoffrey Johnson on making the cover of the May American Art Collector issue (see it here!), and to Jorge Alberto, who just had a painting accepted to the 2016 International Juried Show of Contemporary Trompe l’Oeil and Still Life to be held at The John F. Peto Studio Museum in Island Heights, NJ!

We are so proud and thrilled to work with such a talented group of artists! Keep up the amazing work, everyone!

Technique Tuesdays: Charcoal

Technique Tuesday CharcoalWelcome back to Technique Tuesday! Today we’ll be looking at a fantastic substance that has been used to make art for thousands of years: charcoal!

What is it?

In the most basic sense, charcoal is the remnants of burnt wood. It’s likely that it didn’t take long after man discovered fire for man to also discover the bold mark-making ability of the remnants of that fire. Charcoal as an artistic medium has come a long way, and artist’s charcoal today is a more deliberately crafted mix of powdered materials, often held together with a kind of gum or wax binding agent. Art charcoal comes in many forms, including hardened blocks or sticks, “vine charcoal” which is a softer form for sketching, as well as powders, crayons, and pencils. Charcoal is a fantastic and expressive dry medium that can be applied to a variety of surfaces, and is easy to smudge, blend, and lighten for a dramatic range of values.

Examples in art history:

Charcoal is arguably one of the oldest mediums for the creation of two-dimensional art. Cave paintings have been discovered all over the globe that show how charcoal has been used in art for well over fifteen thousand years.

Prehistoric Collage

Some prehistoric charcoal images found in caves in France

Unfortunately, the same properties that make charcoal so excellent for expressive sketching and drawing also make it a substance without a lot of staying power, and one that easily flakes off of paper or canvas. Artists used charcoal for many centuries to help them plan compositions, but it was always considered an ephemeral medium, and few of those works on paper survive today. In the late 1400’s, a method was finally discovered that helped “fix” the charcoal to the paper more permanently. This early process of fixing charcoal drawings involved dipping the drawings in a bath of gum. A short time later, Albrecht Durer began to really popularize charcoal as a primary medium rather than just a means of preliminary sketching, and by the 20th century more and more artists were exploring the medium. Thankfully, fixatives have come a long way since the gum baths, and today artists can choose from a variety of advanced spray fixatives to preserve their artwork.

Collage 2

(left) Michelangelo, “Study of a Man Shouting” c.1523-34; (middle) Albrecht Durer, “Knight, Death, and the Devil” 1514; (right) Pablo Picasso, “Marie-Therese, Face and Profile” 1931

Examples in Principle Gallery:

We thought it was an especially great time to take a look at charcoal art, since among the newest work to come in the gallery are some fantastic charcoal drawings! Many of the painters represented at the gallery enjoy working with charcoal for sketching purposes as well as a primary medium, and Casey Childs and Susan O’Neill are two who are certainly talented at using it. Seen below are just some of the drawings from Casey’s “Influtential Figures” series, and trust me–they’re even more incredible in person (click here to check them all out on our website)!

Childs Collage

(left) “Abraham Lincoln”; (middle) “Mark Twain”; (right) “Walt Disney” -drawings by Casey Childs

Also new to the gallery are some incredible and expressive figure studies by local Alexandria artist Susan O’Neill. Deeply inspired by the human figure, Susan enjoys crafting spontaneous and energetic images with charcoal. Here are just two examples of her latest group of fantastic drawings (click here to see them all!):

O'neill Collage

(left) “Lissome”; (right) “Lithe” -drawings by Susan O’Neill

Be sure to check out our website (www.principlegallery.com) and sign up for our mailing list to receive newsletters featuring other incredible new works like these!