Thursday, April 26, 2012

Silverpoint and its limitations

I've been posting silverpoint drawings at various places on the net for a few years now. I usually don't get any comments at all which is depressing but I can live with that. I don't say much either so I can see where that is coming from. One comment I do get quite a bit is, "Your darks need to be darker." Uh, how many times does it need to be said, "This is as dark as it will get." Depending on the image that can be a deal breaker. But for the most part silverpoint will give me darks that are dark enough.
Silverpoint on off white prepared paper
14 x 10

 I think the people are used to seeing highly retouched photos with totally black darks and almost pure whites. Very contrasty and eye catching, but not really true to nature. Let's do something I usually don't do. Let's look at the reference photo I used for this drawing.
So here we have a very usable reference photo from the lovely auroradreams. I made a couple minor changes, but nothing earth shaking to be sure. Now look at the darkest darks, hair, eyes and the shadow under the knee. Silverpoint won't get quite that dark, but it will be pretty close especially when its aged and the silver has tarnished. Definitely not a problem though. Now look at the folds in the drapery. The shadows are light and airy with plenty of light reflected in them. Certainly no real dark darks there. But that's exactly where people want to see more contrast. Well, let's do a little retouching and see what that looks like.
That's certainly more dramatic. It's also becoming a completely different image. Better? Maybe. Worse? Maybe. Kinda depends on what you're trying to do. Again look at the darkest darks. All detail is gone including the reflected light on the knee. It just disappears into a black hole. Of course just because it doesn't show up on the photo doesn't mean I can't put it in anyway and I would, but it would have to be extremely subtle or the form wouldn't look rounded. And back to the drapery. The shadows are darker, much more dramatic with much, much less reflected light. A bad thing? Again, depends on what you're trying to do. Rembrandt made a pretty good reputation doing that. To my knowledge he only did one silverpoint though, and honestly it wasn't his best work. While we're on the subject of Rembrandt let's take this a little further.
Not quite Rembrandtesque but it's getting there, and I think we're close enough for our purposes today. I've darkened the midtones a bit more. I actually had to lighten the head and shoulder some because it was disappearing into the background. We've come a ways since the original image. Better, worse that's up to you. It's largely a matter of taste and really what you feel like at the time. Honestly, I think this retouched version is really a pretty good image for a drawing ...... in charcoal. I could get the background this dark in silverpoint, but the shine would be really annoying for quite a while. Charcoal or an ink wash would be a much better choice. I've learned it much better to not fight your medium, and silverpoint does have it's limitations. You want dramatic, use something else.

 I also think that's why silverpoints don't hold up particularly well in big shows. You don't get the high contrast, eye catching images that you can with other drawing media.  Silverpoints also tend to be small simply because they take a while to do. Those darks have to be slowly built up. So you have a big show of large, dramatic, eye catching pieces surrounding a few small, basically gray drawings. No matter how good they are they tend to get overlooked. Now before you start thinking this is all just sour grapes let me say I don't show silverpoints. These are just done for fun, and to keep my drawing skills sharp.

So if silverpoint is such a crappy, unmarketable medium why use it? Because I like it. It's perfect for smaller, intimate drawings.  I like those.  It just has a quality that is like nothing else.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Waiting for Spring

Silverpoint on light blue prepared paper heightened with white gouache
14 x 10

We didn't really have to wait for spring this year. It got here a good month early, and it feels like it's already over now. That's not so bad except for all the lawn mowing. I need the exercise.

Anyway this is the last of my small efforts to give the people what they want. A fair number of people come here from the silverpoint web presumably to see the silverpoints. So here you go. I rather like this one, unfortunately it refuses to be photographed accurately. This is a bit on the dark side. Hope you find it worth the visit.

No idea what's coming next, but I promise there will be something.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Now where was I?

It seems I've been missing in action for a while. Couldn't be helped. Thanks to all the people that keep dropping by. Now, where was I before all this. Oh yeah, I was going over what the stats say everyone likes. First was charcoal drawings, next is the Lady in the Lake theme, silverpoint is coming.

For some reason people seem to really like the Lady in the Lake. It is a nice story, but why the preoccupation? Not that important really. I haven't actually gotten back to the story, but I do have something similar that just might make do in a pinch. It's Greek mythology rather than Arthurian and it is a lady in a lake (technically a river) maybe that's close enough. So here it is The Song of the Potameides.

Oil om Canvas
25 x 36

I can here it now. Song of the what?

Potameides are one of the five types of Naiades, the nymphs of the freshwater. Potameides are the nymphs of the steams and rivers specifically. The other types are Pegaiai, the nymphs of the springs, Krinaia, the nymphs of the fountains, Linmades of Limnatides, the nymphs of the lakes, and the Eleionomai, the nymphs of the marshes. While their essence is directly tied to their specific body of water they are not confined to it. The Naiades are not immortal, but they do have extremely long life spans. However being linked to the water their fate could also be tied to it. If their lake, spring, river, fountain or marsh dries up, bad news for the naiade. Well somebody here seems to be overeducated.

I think this is the first painting I have ever done based entirely on an underlying grid. Somewhere around here I have that preliminary grid with the drawing on it, but I have no idea where it is. I think it wound up on the back of something else that has since found it's way to the trash. But I think it really helped to bring everything together. Placement of objects was pretty easy. Follow the grid structure and put it there. One thing I have wondered about is does it need more? I tend to follow the idea of if it doesn't add to the overall image, it detracts. As a result I don't do a lot of really busy pieces. Personally I like the simplicity and lack of clutter. Of course that can be overdone.