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  • Writer's picturePaul Pigram

Metalpoint - A fine art form

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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