Earlier this year (2009), I started working in silverpoint, a method of drawing with a piece of silver wire held in a stylus. Silver is a soft metal (like lead, copper, etc., which can also be used for drawing), & leaves a residue in its wake, like the trace left on a painted wall if you scratch a metal nail along it. With time, the silver gradually oxidizes to a pleasing sepia-like hue. The main drawbacks to silverpoint are that a) the surface you are working on needs to be prepared with gesso or a similar treatment, to give the paper enough of a texture to hold the silver trace, & b) the end result tends to have a quite limited tonal range, so bold contrasts are really not possible (or very difficult) using silverpoint on its own. The problem of contrast can be mitigated by using a tinted ground, & also by using highlights (such as white pastel), or by introducing other media (ink, watercolor, gouache, etc.) to the mix.
Silverpoint was at its most popular during medieval & renaissance times. It became much less used after that mostly due to the emergence of the graphite pencil, with its ease of use & increased tonal possibilities.
Here is a small selection of my silverpoint drawings, which are mostly of heads:
Note: I was looking through my stats & noticed that something called BlogSurfer.us was directing people to this post, & if I give them a shout-out I will get more hits…we shall see…it’s an interesting page that automatically loads random (apparently) blogs.