The Lost Art of Silverpoint

Mombretia Maze, Jeannine Cook

Mombretia Maze, Jeannine Cook

When Jeannine Cook first contacted me about a residency, I had to look up the term ‘silverpoint’ to find out what it even meant. After a bit of Googling around and a long appreciative look at Jeannine’s beautiful website, I was hooked. Jeannine practices an art that dates back over a millenia and is practiced by only a few dozen artists today. Spending time with Jeannine is an exercise in seeing the world anew: she finds inspiration in the most miniscule of details, beauty in the arc of a leaf’s veins, the swirl of mica in a stone, the cracked seedhead of last year’s flowers. Read on to learn more about this elegant, austere artform as well as about her time at Bordeneuve.

Traces IV-V-VI by Jeannine Cook

Traces IV-V-VI by Jeannine Cook

Few people have the experience of seeing the lustrous shimmer of silver, gold, platinum or copper drawings on prepared paper. When viewers learn of metalpoint drawing’s rich heritage, with eclipses and renaissances undulating through its thirteen-century life, they are captivated.

 My passion has long been to share these drawings’ diverse beauties with the public.  I find metalpoint to be addictive, meditative, and disarmingly humble in its technical requirements.  Yes, you cannot erase marks made on a prepared surface, but otherwise, a stylus, smooth prepared paper or vellum, good light and time are the only other requirements.

 Metalpoint allows a great delicacy of line and subtle tonality. A white ground suits botanical studies, landscapes, portraits… Recently I have also been using a black ground for very different results, “abstracts” from tree bark, details of stones, etc.  Silver is the preferred metal for a white ground while gold, silver and copper behave totally differently on a black ground.  Both forms of metalpoint are intimate in their shimmer, totally permanent and amazingly contemporary in feel.

Cedar Lines, gold and silverpoint by Jeannine Cook

Cedar Lines, gold and silverpoint by Jeannine Cook

The silence is gentle and all-pervasive.  The tracery of bare branches is filigree lace against the azure of clean-washed skies.   The sense of ancient time is almost palpable, traced by the shiny stones laid down the track to Bordeneuve so many aeons ago. The early inhabitants of Betchat, Ariège, walked this way long before this village was even founded.  Links to the past are centering, renewing.

This is the magical place to come to gather one’s thoughts and energies, then to create art and allow oneself to venture into new voices in one’s work.   Meals are not only delicious; they are also a time of stimulating, thoughtful explorations of subjects large and small.

I savour of each day here, as I try to draw my lustrous but discreet metalpoint drawings. They are sufficiently demanding of execution that the quiet peace here is hugely helpful. Even the stones that I have gathered down by the bustling river below us offer a fascination and sense of connection as I draw them in silver and gold, weaving their characteristics into work that is seemingly abstract but realistic in fact.  These stones speak of the amazing geologically diversity of these ancient Pyrenees mountains that punctuate this world’s horizons with their snowy peaks. I like the sense of unity that is so perceptible here.

Bordenueve is one of those magical places to which one promptly wants to return, even before one has left…

Huitres de Chablis by Jeannine Cook

Huitres de Chablis by Jeannine Cook

Enduring Elegance by Jeannine Cook

Enduring Elegance by Jeannine Cook

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