Marjorie Williams-Smith started drawing from dried roses as a way to preserve the flowers given to her by family and friends. After several drawings, she began to see the beauty of the form – the rich tonal qualities, the textured surfaces, and the changes in color. Eventually the drawings of flowers began to take on metaphorical significance. They have come to represent faith, spiritual beliefs, and a search for inner peace.
Silverpoint has been her primary medium since 1985. Basically silverpoint is drawing with silver wire placed in a stylus holder. The paper is prepared with a ground of gesso, which gives the page an abrasive surface. This surface allows minute particles of silver to be left on the page as it is drawn. Lines drawn with silver can be incredibly thin – depending on the width of the wire used. Shadows are created by building hatched and cross-hatched lines. Over a period of time silver tarnishes causing the tonality of the drawing to change and become warmer and darker. Silverpoint is a slow process that requires a great deal of focus to control the marks, which can not be easily erased.
Williams-Smith most recent work involves experimenting with silverpoint on a dark background. When drawing with silver on a white surface, the marks appear gray. Drawing with silver on a dark background has the reverse affect. The silver appears lighter against the dark surface, so the highlights rather than the shadows must be drawn. Red Rose employs the use of silverpoint as well as copperpoint on black gesso. The copper appears red against the black background so it is perfect for the petals of the rose.