The ground can be a variety of things, as long as it has an element in it that reacts with silver. You can try:
- zinc white gouache
- chinese white watercolour
- some toothpastes (makes you wonder about what that does to your health!)
I chose to use zinc white gouache for this project as it comes in much larger tubes than the tiny chinese white watercolour paint tubes that I have used in the past (as I have to illustrate 38 double page spreads for this project). The nice thing is that you can add colour to your ground and it will still work. This way you can make lovely textured backgrounds for your drawing.
You start by stretching your piece of paper on a board, so that your paper stays nice and flat when you add the ground and does not start getting all wavy. Once the paper is stretched you make a thin solution of zinc white gouache and water and paint this all over the paper, making sure every bit is covered. Let it dry and add a second layer and let it dry again. It is now ready to use.
However to make things more interesting you can add colour to your ground. After your first layer of zinc white solution, you could mix in a little bit of any type of paint or ink with your second layer of zinc white. Here it becomes a matter of experimenting till you get to a colour or range of colours that you like. You could make a whole painting this way and then draw over it with the silver! It is real fun to experiment and throw some paints around!
1 layer of zinc white gouache, then zinc white gouache with indigo watercolour added, pink blush acrylic added, olive green acrylic added and titanium buff added
Now what about the silver? Nobody seems to sell silverpoint materials, so you have to make your own drawing device. I chose to take a mechanical pencil in which I replaced the 0.5 mm leads with a length of 0.5 mm silver wire which I bought from a jewellery making website.
One downside of silverpoint, you cannot erase your lines! So when it's drawn it is there to stay! You could paint over it, but you'll always see that, especially if you have made a coloured or textured, painted background. And the silver will of course keep working with the ground, so over time your line will most likely reappear. In a way that makes it very exciting to work with it, it is a bit more challenging and you need to creatively deal with all the wrong lines!
With all my bits and pieces prepared I am now ready to start drawing. Here samples of my first attempts:
haunted by the dark shadows of my own mind
They need a lot more work, but at least it's a start! (Have 4 1/2 weeks left for 38 double page spreads, a doddle... Panic!!!!! I'd better get back to preparing my grounds quickly!)