Silverpoint drawing ahead! / by Jeannine Cook

I cannot believe it - the weather gods are finally relenting enough that I can get to Sapelo Island this coming weekend to be Artist-in-Residence again with my friend, Marjett Schille, courtesy of the Sapelo Island Estuarine Research Reserve. This is the third time we have planned this - third time lucky, I hope!

I have been packing my supplies for a plein air weekend, with lots of warm clothes as I don't think it will be that warm. But the main care has been to prepare enough paper so that I can get my teeth into some silverpoint drawing. I cannot wait!

Preparing smooth board or paper - archival of course! - with gesso, titanium white acrylic, Chinese white gouache or casein is the ritual one follows before embarking on a silverpoint drawing. The silver particles are pulled off the stylus by the very fine rugosity (fine, fine sandpaper, in essence) of the ground on the paper - that is how the silver marks are made.

Working outdoors, with shortened days at this time of year also means that I needed to prepare smaller sizes of paper for silverpoints. There just is not enough time to work on a large drawing, as this is a slow and meditative process. In order to achieve any serious darks in a silverpoint drawing, you need to let one layer oxidise, and then go back carefully over it again to lay down a slightly darker layer. All this takes time. If the weather is humid, there is always the danger of scoring the drawing surface when you go back over a previous layer of marks... so care is needed.

Nonetheless, silverpoint drawing seems to me to be an interesting vehicle to try and capture the luminous clarity of the marshes and vegetation in the salt-laden world that is a barrier island like Sapelo. Time will tell if I achieve any decent drawings... or perhaps I will have time too for some watercolour paintings. If the weather gods allow...