Egyptian light – exploring new mediums

Spending time back in Luxor visiting friends and familiar places has given me time to explore two new mediums a little further. I have dipped into both techniques back at home but continuing other work in the studio hadn’t given me much time.

During visits to Egypt over the years I have explored many mediums, drawing and drypoint, and gouache and oils. During this most recent visit I felt it was time to experiment with a different medium, traveling with oils can be somewhat troublesome and airlines seem to be becoming more cautious about oil based paints, that along with the way the oil paint responds in the hot climate made me begin to think of trying something new. It was also time for a change, I felt conscious of not wanting to repeat the same ideas from previous trips.

Just before Christmas I began to experiment with silverpoint. I have been intending to do this since being inspired by the beautiful ‘Renaissance Drawings’ exhibition at the British Museum a couple of years ago. Although it wasn’t  until the recent Leonardo exhibition in London that I once again studied the stunningly delicate metal point drawings and immediately afterwards took myself off to Cornellissons to see what I needed.

My first silverpoint sketches were made over Christmas, halfway up a mountain overlooking the magnificent Lake Maggiore. I was immediately struck by the softness and delicacy of the mark and of how the tone and more defined lines could be built up. The  metal itself allows a great precision when drawing which I felt suited my work well. This along with many similarities to my drypoint work, small-scale and the fact that once a mark has been made there is no changing it made me think of exploring it further once back in Luxor.

The silverpoint drawings I made while in Luxor are a mix of rapid sketches made out and about, and a few more sustained portrait drawings. My models Omnea, Mahmoud and Raouf have all been drawn a number of times and are very familiar with the process.

What interests me is how the medium of silverpoint changes in appearance over time. To begin with, when the drawing is new the marks are silver, rather like graphite in appearance. Over time, after a year or two, the silver begins to react with the zinc oxide preparation on the surface of the paper and the drawing slowly turns sepia.

Photos of these drawings will appear in a later post once I have been able to photograph them satisfactorily. The delicacy of the mark being very difficult to capture…

The majority of my Egyptian work has been an ever growing series of portrait drawings made in pencil and graphite. During my recent stay in the autumn I began to use a terracotta conte type medium which gave a pleasing result, giving a well defined and sharp line against which a soft delicate mark contrasts nicely. Two of these female portraits are included in the current Petrie Museum exhibition, ‘Luxor: People & Places’.

Just before leaving for Luxor, I gave a talk about my exhibition at the Petrie Museum about the ideas behind this body of Egyptian themed work and about my experiences of working in the community in Luxor.

In preparing for this I looked at a number of the small landscape studies I have been making alongside the portraits since  my first visit. These small postcard size paintings made in either oil or gouache attempt to capture the essence of the light and atmosphere of the places I have stayed and visited.

Thanks to David Hockney there has been a great deal of interest in a certain iPad application that he uses when working in the landscape and as this is certainly much easier to travel with I thought I would give it a go…

These works were made while on the rooftop, or balcony. However tempting it was to take my iPad further afield I was aware of using it too much in public, in these difficult times it seems a rather extravagant manner in which to draw. And while I wanted to make some ‘drawings’ whilst on the Nile, I didn’t want to drop my  iPad into it. So instead I used a more traditional drawing method.

Here are  a few of the studies made during my stay, beginning to explore the possibilities of this new medium.

In the early afternoon, standing defiant

From the rooftop, sunset

After sunset, from the rooftop

Sunset over the Nile

During the heat of the afternoon

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This entry was posted in David Hockney, Drawing, Egyptian Portraits, Exhibition, Luxor, Painting, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Portraiture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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