Stephen Scott Young is one of the most successful, talented, and humble artists I know, and I was delighted to write about his recent work for the spring 2010 issue of Watercolor. His watercolors are currently on view at Adelson Galleries, in New York City, where they are priced at $250,000; in 2007, one of his signature watercolor paintings of a young Bahamian girl sold at Sothebys for $348,000. Young went though a number of professional and personal changes last year, and the most positive development was that he made two trips to Venice to create graphite drawings, watercolor paintings, and silverpoint drawings.
Iron and Brick
Silverpoint has been used by artists for centuries and involves drawing on a prepared surface with a strand of sterling silver held in a mechanical pencil or hollow piece of wood. At first the thin lines are faint and shimmering, but in time the silver tarnishes to become a warm gray. Because the silver will only register on a surface covered with traditional gesso, casein, or gouache, it is impossible to erase the metallic lines. Even trying to cover up stray lines winds up making the prepared surface looked patched. Most of Youngs silverpoint drawings were done on sheets of Fabriano Uno paper coated with traditional gesso (a warm mixture of powdered whiting and rabbit-skin glue).
Narrow Canal, Venice
The artist spent hundreds of hours developing the small drawings (no larger than 14 x 10) by laying down slightly tilted parallel lines in one direction, and then in another direction so as to create diamond or triangular shapes where the hatched lines crossed. In some places he also added stippled dots and horizontal lines to create a rich dark gray. Silverpoint does not allow for the kinds of deep blacks one can achieve with graphite or charcoal.
Young did dozens of graphite drawings and used those as the basis of watercolor paintings once he returned to his Florida studio. One of the paintings shows a model posing in a gondola along one of the narrow canals, and another (shown here) offers an interpretation of one of the doorways along the canal. His palette was limited to Winsor red, Winsor yellow, ultramarine blue, and white casein paint, which differs from the one he uses to paint the black citizens of the Bahamian island of Eleuthera (where he maintains one of three studios). For those paintings, he uses are painted with French ultramarine, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, brown madder, and white casein paint.
M. Stephen Doherty