M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Watercolor Paintings & Silverpoint Drawings by Stephen Scott Young

Iron and Brick, by Stephen Scott Young, 2009, drybrush watercolor, 19 ¼ x 22 ½. Courtesy Adelson Galleries, New York, New York.


Lonely Canal in Venice, by Stephen Scott Young, 2009, silverpoint on coated paper, 14" x 10 1/2". Courtesy Adelson Galleries, New York, New York.


Narrow Canal, Venice, by Stephen Scott Young, 2009, silverpoint on tinted, coated paper, 9" x 7 1/4". Coutesy Adelson Galleries, New York, New York.

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 magazine. Scott's watercolors are currently on view at Warren Adelson Galleries in New York (www.adelsongalleries.com) priced at $250,000; and one of his signature paintings of a young, black, Bahamian girl sold at Sotheby's in 2007 for $348,000. Scott 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 17 silverpoint drawings.
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 tarnished 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 Scott's silverpoint drawings were done on sheets of Fabriano Uno paper coated with traditional gesso (a warm mixture of powdered whiting and rabbit-skin glue).
Scott spent hundreds of hours developing the small drawings (no larger than 14" x 10") by laying down parallel lines in one direction (slightly off vertical), 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.
Scott did dozens of graphite drawings and used those as the basis of watercolors 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, French ultramarine blue, and Shiva casein white. That differs from the palette he uses to paint the black citizens of the Bahamian island of Eleuthera (where he maintains one of three studios). The black figures are painted with French ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, brown madder, and Shiva casein white.
Scott will be teaching and demonstrating during American Artist's Weekend With the Masters conference taking place from September 23-26, 2010 at the Laguna Cliffs Resort & Spa in Dana Point, California (www.weekendwiththemasters.com).

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