What leads an artist to specialise in one medium rather than in another? Partly personal interests, perhaps, along with a comfort level with certain technical aspects of the medium. Or perhaps it ultimately comes down to that small inner voice saying to the artist – “this is special”.
In my case, I really fell in love with the lustrous, discreet voice of silver, gold or copper marks on a smooth prepared surface. The sensuous feel of a stylus on the drawing surface, the delicacy and exactitude of the line made, the technical fascination particularly of watching how each silverpoint drawing oxidises and evolves with time… all contribute to my love of drawing in metal. While drawing is slow and meditative (metalpoint originated in early medieval monasteries…), there is also a sense of risk. You cannot easily erase the marks made, so there is always the latent challenge of “can I succeed in doing what I want with this drawing and can I push out the boundaries of what metalpoint can do today?”
Metalpoint has long been used in nature studies, thanks to its permanence and exactitude of line. I thoroughly enjoy combining my lifelong love of plants, rocks, feathers… with my passion for metalpoint drawing. Tree bark patterns, so intricate but so individualistic, become realistic, yet abstract compositions. The marvellous details in stones can lead to subtle, complex voyages of discovery and fantasy. Flowers, too, with their elegant structure, lend themselves to silverpoint’s restrained and shimmering exploration.
The 21st century world often needs quietly powerful voices in art as a counterbalance to the over-technicolour, hyper-stressed aspects of our lives. I celebrate the resurgence of interest in metalpoint drawings in our times, for this medium is a still, pure voice of calm.