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  • Metalpoint QuestionsApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2018-09-06 13:09:37 ... Most recent comment 2018-09-10 12:30:12
    Drawing Materials
    Question

    Hello,

    I have some metalpoint questions.

    1.  I have a metalpoint friend who no longer uses his favorite grounds - Golden's Pastel Ground and Sandable Hard Gesso - because he is concerned with the warning labels (i.e. can cause cancer).  I presume the warning is due to silica content in both grounds - is that correct?  Any other reason? 

    2.  I presume it's sufficient to wear a good dust mask to address the issue?  Even with a mask my friend doesn't like creating dust because he figures it ends up somewhere.  Is there any harm to these sanding dusts if wiped up with a damp rag and put in the garbage?

    3.  My friend also had problems with "fading" in metalpoint drawings. He understands they don't literally fade but rather the metal isn't adhering well long-term; he feels he probably over-sands his ground, doesn't leave enough tooth for the metal to be deposited within. 

    My question is, how does a metalpoint line actually "adhere" to the ground?  Is it merely that metal deposits get "lodged" within the interstices of an irregular surface; or is there another sort of adhesion (such as electrostatic adhesion)?

    4. I want enough tooth in a ground to maximize the potential for dark lines, and to create a good bond between metal and ground.  On the other hand I want a smooth surface so my nib doesn't skip or leave dark flecks when drawn across areas with more texture. Any thoughts on how best to achieve these contradictory aims?

    5. Another conundrum of metalpoint drawing: the more one works a surface with a metal nib, the more smoothed the surface becomes, ergo the less abrasive it is and the less metal is deposited. 

    One way I address the problem (i.e. the surface is smoothed by the act of drawing itself) is this: Once my drawing is more or less developed, I'll occasionally apply a very thin, transparent layer of whatever ground I'm using over the entire image.  This whisper thin "scumble" of ground slightly obscures the drawing, yet it's still visible; the fresh ground reinstates "tooth" so I can go back in and deepen my darks and build up the drawing again, but richer and more multi layered. 

    Do you see any problem in putting a very thin layer of ground on top of a metalpoint drawing, and then continuing to work on it (and potentially repeating that process several times in a drawings?) FYI, I use different grounds - gouache, casein, acrylic polymer gesso, traditional gesso - although the same ground throughout a single drawing.

    I have more metalpoint questions – but that's enough for now!  

    Koo Schadler 

     

      

Answers and Comments
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​The manufacturer would be able to say for sure, but the health label is probably required because because Titanium White pigment is present, which presents a risk in its unbound, airborne powder form, if inhaled. Titanium White is used in a huge range of household and consumer products (including food, cosmetics and toothpaste), and even when only a tiny amount is included, the indication must be on the package.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2018-09-06 17:00:03
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​To achieve deep, dark marks (or at least the appearance), I have two ideas: 
    1) Use "dead soft" silver wire, which has not been tempered for strength. Harder metalpoint tends to burnish the ground, limiting the amount of material transferred. 

    2) Apologies if this seems too elementary, but when I encounter a student that is really grinding into a drawing, reaching for deeper dark values, it's often because the strongest contrast of value wasn't identified early in the process. A composition will naturally have one passage where the difference between light and dark is greatest, at an edge or overlap. Finding this early and "keying" the drawing to that relationship helps reserve lightest light and darkest dark for the place where they will do the most good. That's not to say that the strongest contrast will always be lightest against darkest; what counts is the difference between the two values where they are juxtaposed.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2018-09-06 17:10:08
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer
    Thanks for these intriguing questions.  Unfortunately, between the composition of the grounds and the softness of the metal alloy stylus, there are many variables that can cause any of the phenomena you describe. I will respond within the specific questions and in red.
    3.  My friend also had problems with "fading" in metalpoint drawings. He understands they don't literally fade but rather the metal isn't adhering well long-term; he feels he probably over-sands his ground, doesn't leave enough tooth for the metal to be deposited within. My question is, how does a metalpoint line actually "adhere" to the ground?  Is it merely that metal deposits get "lodged" within the interstices of an irregular surface; or is there another sort of adhesion (such as electrostatic adhesion)?

    The adhesion between the microscopic metal particles and the microscopically abrasive ground is purely physical.  The softer the metal alloy and the harder the edges of the pores in the ground, the more metal will be deposited.  

    4. I want enough tooth in a ground to maximize the potential for dark lines, and to create a good bond between metal and ground.  On the other hand I want a smooth surface so my nib doesn't skip or leave dark flecks when drawn across areas with more texture. Any thoughts on how best to achieve these contradictory aims?

    Sorry, this is beyond my conservation expertise - conservators tend to look at already created metalpoints!  I suspect that you need to experiment with softer alloys and vary the porosity and hardness of the grounds.  Each kind of ground that you mention under question #5 will differ in these respects.

    5. Another conundrum of metalpoint drawing: the more one works a surface with a metal nib, the more smoothed the surface becomes, ergo the less abrasive it is and the less metal is deposited. 

    One way I address the problem (i.e. the surface is smoothed by the act of drawing itself) is this: Once my drawing is more or less developed, I'll occasionally apply a very thin, transparent layer of whatever ground I'm using over the entire image.  This whisper thin "scumble" of ground slightly obscures the drawing, yet it's still visible; the fresh ground reinstates "tooth" so I can go back in and deepen my darks and build up the drawing again, but richer and more multi layered. 

    Do you see any problem in putting a very thin layer of ground on top of a metalpoint drawing, and then continuing to work on it (and potentially repeating that process several times in a drawings?) FYI, I use different grounds - gouache, casein, acrylic polymer gesso, traditional gesso - although the same ground throughout a single drawing.

    Each kind of ground will age differently, so I recommend using the same one throughout.

    I am attaching a recent reference on metalpoints:

    Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns

    Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2015

    Drawings Under Scrutiny: The Materials and Techniques of Metalpoint, Kimberly Schenck; Masters of Silverpoint in the Netherlandish Renaissance, John O. Hand; Silverpoint Drawings by German and Swiss Renaissance Artists, Giulia Bartrum, The Rise and Decline of Metalpoint Drawing in Renaissance Italy, Hugo Chapman, Metalpoint Drawings in the Low Countries in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, An Van Camp; The Silverpoint Revival in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Stacey Sell; Modern and Contemporary Drawing in Metalpoint, Bruce Weber; The Technical Examination of Metalpoint Drawings, Joanna Russell, Judith Rayner, and Jenny Bescoby.

    Margaret Holben Ellis

    2018-09-07 16:57:23
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Koo

    Another great newish book on the subject is The Luminous Trace: Drawing and Writing in Metalpoint by Thea Burns

    https://www.amazon.com/Luminous-Trace-Drawing-Writing-Metalpoint/dp/1904982832

    Brian Baade
    2018-09-08 13:44:10
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thanks Matthew, Margaret and Brian for the comments, all of which are helpful.  I have several of the books mentioned; they are excellent but also long and dense, just haven't gotten through every page yet - but I'll continue to read and dig deeper into metalpoint.  Your input is much appreciated.  Koo

    2018-09-10 12:30:12
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Hi Koo, I thought I might try to answer one of your questions:​

    4. I want enough tooth in a ground to maximize the potential for dark lines, and to create a good bond between metal and ground.  On the other hand I want a smooth surface so my nib doesn't skip or leave dark flecks when drawn across areas with more texture. Any thoughts on how best to achieve these contradictory aims?

    I have found that by adding thin coats of ground, and sanding between layers, even on paper, then sanding the final layer with 800-grit sandpaper, a wider range of values with silver is possible. As stated above, the adhesion of marks is purely physical, there's no chemical bond, so exposing the metal to as much ground as possible with each stroke is essential, because the ground "grabs" metal off the stylus. Some grounds are soft, and will chip, others are too granular and will cause irregular gradations, so as Margaret Matthews Berenson suggests, experimentation is essential. As others suggest, play around with alloys. I use dead soft sterling 92.5/7.5 and it gives me the best results. One other note, if one is looking for the value range of graphite with a metal point, one will always fall short. Graphite is super soft compared to any metal at all.

    You're looking for the balance between granularity, hardness, sandability, and smoothness. As I've often suggested, I think casein meets the requirements, as it dries fairly hard but not as hard as gesso, acrylic gesso or acrylic paint, and dries permanent unlike gouache (which has the best abrasive qualities in my opinion). It also contains no chalk, bone ash or other abrasives, so the surface is regular and smooth. As noted in an answer to a later post on this site by Brian, however, casein has some potentially reactive off-gassing and I've mentioned that commercial casein contains linseed oil as a preservative so surfaces prepared with casein need to cure for a week or more to become as hard and inert as possible. For years I used Plaka, which is now only available in small containers, but have since moved to Shiva, which is quite soft and more gouache-like. There is also Wrights of Lymm casein, which is not heavily pigmented, but has a lovely velvety surface much like Plaka. I sometimes combine the two. In the book Susan and I have just published, I also give a recipe for a hide-glue and pure zinc oxide ground that has excellent hardness and abrasive qualities - and tinkering with the recipe could yield exactly the results you want. The only drawback in my opinon of hide-glue preps is they are not permanent.

    2018-12-14 15:03:19
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Sorry, that's me above ^ User Comment by Tom Mazzullo

    2018-12-14 15:07:57
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