• Paul Pigram

Metalpoint is a traditional method of drawing using a metal stylus. As a fine art form it goes back to the Early Modern period, when artists like Dürer and Da Vinci used it to create delicate and ethereal portraits.

Metalpoint involves dragging a fine metal point over a specially prepared surface, leaving a light grey mark almost like pencil. Unlike pencil, however, it’s almost impossible to erase the marks made by the metal point. Drawing in metalpoint is a slow, painstaking process, and is more like shading than modern drawing.

The art form declined after the sixteenth century, when other materials such as graphite became more readily available. It’s still uncommon today, as it’s difficult to prepare the surface for drawing and harder still to produce an image. Many artists prefer simpler, more modern art forms.

There are some beautiful advantages to metalpoint, though. The image emerges slowly, and continues developing even after the drawing is complete: the metal slowly oxidises, changing colour over time. What may seem today to be a drawing in silver and grey will, in a few years, have turned into a soft, mesmerising sepia.

Ray Heaton primarily uses silver as his medium, though he also works in copper and other metals. Ray lives in Amlwch, famous for its ancient copper mines. As well as occasionally drawing with copper, Ray integrates hand ground minerals collected from Parys Mountain into the drawing surface itself. For some pieces, Ray sands back the drawing and layers the powder mixture over the top before continuing to draw. In this way, he gives incredible depth and texture to the drawings. Each piece is a unique combination of the metalpoint and the mineral deposits used to coat the surface.

Ray Heaton is a silverpoint artist and watercolour painter from Amlwch on the north coast of Anglesey. Ray will be holding another exhibition in July 2022 at The Art Quarter Gallery in Beaumaris.

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  • Paul Pigram

I’d like to thank Art North Wales for a fantastic lead, which led to a really exciting opportunity… to appear on BBC1’s The Apprentice!

I was contacted by the TV production company last year and asked if I could teach watercolour painting to some of the candidates on one of their tasks. This would involve the contestants running a highland railway tour through Snowdonia, stopping to paint the mountainous local scenery.

We filmed at Pont Croesor Osprey Centre (near Porthmadog) last summer. The day before the paying customers arrived, I met three of the contestants to give them their crash course in watercolours.

There are panoramic views of Snowdon and its surrounding mountains from there, so we had plenty to paint!

I crammed as much ‘Watercolour Landscapes’ information as I could into such a short time (we were only there for a couple of hours).

The contestants also asked for information about the local area, but I probably confused them with my ‘Welsh’ pronunciation of the mountain names, mangled by my Yorkshire accent!

On the actual day-trip, the contestants and their customers travelled by steam train to several locations, including Pont Croesor Osprey Centre, where the three contestants (now experts in watercolour landscapes!) guided their group of holiday-makers through their paintings.

It all seemed idyllic… until the Welsh rain suddenly arrived, and everyone had to run back to the train!

It was really good fun to be part of the show, and the production company have been great to work with throughout this experience.

I won’t give any spoilers away, you’ll have to watch the episode to find out how my team fared, and see who was fired…

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  • Paul Pigram

Updated: Jun 26, 2021

I paint using beeswax, a variety of coloured pigments, oil paints and hot and cold tools. This process is known as encaustic and although you may not have heard of it this process is ancient dating back 2000 years in its initial form.

Encaustic is a wax based medium made by mixing beeswax and damar resin, a tree sap. You can use this medium to create many forms of art from photo encaustic, i.e., embedding photos into the wax, collage incorporating objects etc., into the wax, sculpting and painting. My preference is the latter two as I like to create paintings with both detail and texture.

I initially saw an encaustic painting many years ago and was intrigued by the sheen and translucency. When I started out, there was little information about encaustic, and I thought the process just involved a small travel type iron, shiny paper, and blocks of coloured wax. I thoroughly enjoyed the unpredictability of the medium and the way it created happy accidents but the road to creating my artwork of today has been hugely exciting and fun. Today there are numerous websites and online demonstrations to whet your appetite. It has taken me 13 years to arrive at my style as it is now, and it has developed through experimenting and creating my own techniques to develop the effects I wish to create.

Now my tools of choice are blow torches, heat guns, hot tools and anything that will make scratch marks into the wax surface. In fact, I can still discover new things every time I step into my studio and that is part of the joy for me. Some days it is wonderful just to play adding found objects or experimenting with different pigments or oil paints. I can easily lose all sense of time when painting as it is so exciting. It is alchemy with fire!

I begin by setting down layer upon layer of medium onto birch panels and from there I can build up the texture to create the painting. Each layer of medium must be fused to the one beneath so that it will not flake away in the future. To do this you have to use heat and it has many forms. So, I have soldering irons, a hot stylus, heat guns large and small and my trusty blow torch. Different tools give different effects and sometimes you need that blazing heat and with finer work you need the tool just to melt the wax slightly. You can very easily get it wrong and create something completely different to your intended idea. Equally you can be inspired by the way the wax flows and let your imagination take you away.

I have a hot tray which I use as both a palette and to keep the colours hot. Encaustic paint needs to be heated to about 160 degrees for the paint to be molten and I use small measuring saucepans to mix batches of colour. You must be careful not to overheat the paint as it can release toxic fumes and could even combust. Equally if the wax is too cool you cannot move it easily as there is no flow in the medium. The joy of this medium is that it is immediate. You can get similar effects to oil painting, but it sets rapidly.

You may wonder about the longevity of encaustic paintings but there are no worries if you have used the correct medium and lightfast pigment. The British Museum has one of the oldest encaustic paintings, the Mummy portrait of a man from Fayum. It is painted on limewood and dates to AD 80-100. Having said that it is good to consider the care of encaustic paintings. Like other artwork you would not place encaustics in direct sunlight or over an open fire. In addition to this encaustic works can be polished to create a fabulous shine or they can be left mat. Sometimes I like to polish just parts of the painting, reflections in water for example. Over time encaustic paintings may develop a slight bloom and that can be removed by polishing with a lint free cloth. Also, when transporting encaustic artwork in any form it is recommended not to leave it in a sealed vehicle as baking heat may cause the wax to soften. Equally freezing cold may cause it to crack and separate from the panel.

On my website: you can see my artwork, the pieces I have for sale and videos showing my process and a little bit about my work.

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