Watercolor Paintings & Silverpoint Drawings by Stephen Scott Young

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 Sotheby's 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 by Stephen Scott Young, 2009, watercolor, 19 1/4 x 22 1/2. Courtesy Adelson Galleries, New York,
Iron and Brick
by Stephen Scott Young, 2009, watercolor, 19 1/4 x 22 1/2.
Courtesy Adelson Galleries, New York, New York.

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 Young'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).

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.
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.

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

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M. Stephen Doherty

About M. Stephen Doherty

I've been interested in art since I was a child,  and I was fortunate to be able to take Saturday art classes at the Cincinnati Art Museum from the time I was 9 years old until I finished high school. I majored in art at Knox College and graduated summa *** laude, Phi Beta Kappa (proving artists can use both sides of their brain!).  I then earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from Cornell University; taught art in public schools, a community college, an adult education program, and a college; worked in the marketing department of a company that manufactured screen printing supplies; and was hired to be editor of American Artist in January, 1979.

Thomas S. Buecher introduced me to plein air painting and it immediately became a passion of mine because it got me outdoors and allowed me to continue learning when I traveled to judge art shows, attend conventions, give lectures, and interview artists. Over the years I've exhibited my paintings at Bryant Galleries in New Orleans, Trees Place Gallery on Cape Cod, and in a traveling exhibition titled From Sea to Shining Sea.

I've written 10 books on artists and art techniques and contibuted articles to magazines, websites, and exhibition catalogs. Now as I prepare for semi-retirement, I'm trying to hone my painting skills -- especially those related to painting portraits.

I've been very fortunate to have met thousands of talented artists who have enriched my life with their art, their friendship, and their advice. I am grateful to Jerry Hobbs and Susan Meyer who hired me in 1979, to the talented people who worked with me on the magazines, and to the artists and advertisers who supported American Artist, Watercolor, Workshop, and Drawing  magazines and the related websites.

I've also been blessed with a supportive, talented wife, Sara; a daughter, Clare, who works for an insurance agency; a son, Michael, who is a computer enginner in Austin; a son-in-law, Shawn, who can fix and carry anything; a granddaughter, Amanda, who has me wrapped around her finger; and my mother, Dotty, who has advised and encouraged me from the beginning.