Silverpoint Drawing classes with Dr Alan Pascuzzi
Alan Pascuzzi Studio
Our last class was on Wednesday 14th December – and way to wind down towards the Christmas season!
Silverpoint drawing essentially uses the types of material available to create a drawing in the days before we learnt how to put lead in a pencil.
This is a new class that Alan Pascuzzi has put together for me to offer to guests who want to learn to draw in a style used by the Old Masters – and we copy their methodology almost to the letter!
Before graphite was squeezed between two pieces of balsa wood it was, I suppose, possible to carry a lump of lead around to draw with?
Lead is seriously heavy and not easy to sharpen to a point – whilst a thin stick of silver, attached to a piece of wood with strong or metal wire, is easily portable and much easier to use, therefore, it was much beloved by Renaissance artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Filippino Lippi and many others.
Pencil drawing directly on paper is clearly much simpler than scratching away the surface of a piece of paper coated with a mix of finely ground chicken bone-meal (the third-wing-bone being the simplest to crush to the correct consistency!) When mixed with a little gum arabic it creates a fine-sandpaper and once this has been covered with a grey, or sepia, wash the image can be created by the silver point digging through the wash and creating gentle lines and subtle shadows. The additional beauty is when you add the white crayon lines which create the unique depth found in this type of drawing.
In the first part of the class Alan teaches us the history of Silver Point and how metal points were used in communications by early Greeks and Romans, as well as Medici princes. The latter includes the unloved Alessandro il Moro, whose despicable behaviour and subsequent murder by his cousin Lorenzino effectively brought to an end the dynasty of Cosimo (il Vecchio) di Medici. Fortunately, or not, depending on your point of view, there was another Cosimo di Medici waiting for selection in the wings, and the line of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici was continued from the descendants of his second son Lorenzo the elder.
Cosimo’s second Court Painter, Pontormo, seems to have chosen (or been “persuaded”) to depict the ruler as a courtly gentleman advanced in the skill of drawing with a metal point, as shown in the picture above and the detail below, in which you can just see the thin metal point of the instrument he is using, supposedly to depict a portrait of a woman he was in love with.
In our classes we learn how to, size our own paper, make our own silver-point pen, and then we trace an old master drawing and use charcoal to transfer it to the paper – only then do we start to draw our image and finally add the delicate white highlights.
So this class teaches you magic – and I promise you won’t have to grind-up your own chicken bones … just look, learn, copy and enjoy the result.