Gastrock talks about the art of silverpoint

By Page H. Gifford

When looking at Joseph Gastrock’s work, viewers would be surprised to know he was not formally trained as an artist but is self-taught. Gastrock has that rare gift for seeing what takes others years to learn in a formal setting.

As a child, he said he saw the ad for the Art Institute of America and took a chance, sending in a drawing. He didn’t hear back until one day a couple of representatives came to his house to discuss what the art institute was all about, apparently impressed by his talent.. His mother told them they couldn’t afford to send him to art school.

So Gastrock gave up the idea of pursuing art since his parents, like many of his generation, were of the mindset that art was not a viable career choice. He joined the Marine Corps and eventually worked for various companies doing information technology work and then worked for Triple  A for 40 years before retiring.

“I began drawing again at 52 and taught myself,” he said. In 2015 he decided it was time to take classes at The Workhouse Arts Center, formerly the Lorton Reformatory Prison. Gastrock studied painting, pastels, and charcoal with Patricia McMahon Rice at the center.

“She kept you moving,” he said. He then added another medium, becoming more popular nowadays – colored pencil. “Drawing is my strength, it is what I’m most comfortable with.” He noted that some artists struggle with certain mediums until they finally discover the one that gives them comfort and joy.

Even subjects can be something artists also struggle with, whether it is landscapes, the human figure, or portraits. Gastrock appears to be limitless in his talent to execute any subject, though his strength lies in rendering the human form and portraits. To do portraits well you have to capture the inner essence of the subject.

Gastrock, a member of the Portrait Society and Colored Pencil Society, has added one more medium to his list of favorites. Silverpoint is a little-known medium once used by the masters who drew in metals, including silver, gold, copper, tin, and lead. Similar to scratchboard, the artist uses a thin piece of wire held in a stylus to make marks on prepared paper. The result is soft, ghostlike images that give the subject a different feeling.

Recently a transplant to Lake Monticello from northern Virginia, he has been fixing up his house and spending time with family but it doesn’t keep him from drawing He wants to get his work out in the community for people to see. He is also a current member of the Fluvanna Art Association.

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