about silhouettes
My wife, sons and me
Silhouette art of animals and hunters has been found on the walls of caves in in France, Spain, South Africa and Australia and modern dating techniques show this fascinating art was created about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago. As you look at these charcoal and red and yellow ochre paintings, you gain an insight into the mind of the artist, of what his life was like, his myths, his culture and his incredible struggle to survive.

Then suddenly the thought hits you - someone, not too different from you stood right where you are standing now and using rudimentary tools and "paints" created what you have the privelege of beholding. A sense of priceless cultural value and imortance to all of humanity envelopes you.

As you examine these ancient walls further, you see the outline of the hand of the artist and smaller hands, perhaps his children, created by spraying a mixture of powdered ochre and water from the mouth.

Another realisation hits you - this hand silouette is the signature of the artist, a hand whose size and shape was unique to him, a hand that threw spears to hunt, gathered plants for food and medicine, a hand that built shelter, made fire and fed his children.

As early civilisation developed in Egypt and Greece, silhouettes can be seen in artwork and on pottery recording the history and culture of these ancient lands. With the invention of paper, early silhouettes were drawn with charcoal pencils or painted with a brush using an ink made of a mixture of beer and soot!

There is a form of artwork called by the German word, "scherenschnitte" whereby artists would use scissors and sharp knives to cut elaborate designs and scenes from mostly black paper. An offshoot of this artform was to cut people's likenesses from black paper. The then French Finance Minister, Ettienne de Silhouette (1709 - 1767) popularised this artform which is now known by his name, silhouette.

As only the wealthy could afford to commission a painter to create paintings of their family on canvas, the silhouette was known as the poor man's portrait. Travelling silhouete artists were popular in Europe and America, setting up at shows and moving on. Since the invention of the camera, the art has been in decline to the point that there are only about twenty-five silhouette atists in America, about six in England and a few in Europe.

However, now with the internet and digital cameras, the art is experiencing a renaissance. Instead of having to travel to new towns, today you can send profile photos over the internet and have an artist hand cut silhouettes and mail them back to you. Although having a silhouette done by mail may not have the same ambiance as having the silhouette done "live," it gives people in remote communities the opportunity to acquire silhouettes of themselves and their families that they may not normally be able to have.

Today, modern digital cameras take excellent shots nearly all the time and you may have hundreds of family photos, but do you have silhouettes?

I like to think of it as, "Analogue Art in Digital World."
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hand-cut silhouettes from your photos