Do you think silhouettes are old fashioned?
But if grandmother’s silhouette is the only one you have seen, (or George Washington’s), your misconception is entirely understandable. The scarcity of silhouette artists in recent decades is accountable for the fact that ever increasing numbers of people are totally unfamiliar with this beautiful form of fine art portraiture.
The truth is silhouettes are as contemporary as it gets. By capturing a person’s likeness instantly in the existing moment, they are always fresh and relevant to their time period. That they then live on to become family heirlooms or antiques, is because people absolutely cherish them – more than even photos or painted portraits !
Why? Here’s my theory:
The secret is in their simplicity and as the saying goes, “Less is more.”
A well cut silhouette is accomplished by and artist possessing excellent hand-eye co-ordination. Looking mostly at the subject rather than the paper, the profile is cut very quickly. The “essence” of the subject is captured – and the simple profile is often so unmistakably representative of the person that people are totally shocked !
Many times mothers literally burst into tears when they see their child’s silhouette – (tears of joy, not sorrow !). This is a phenomenon peculiar to the silhouette, difficult to explain and best experienced to be understood. The speed of the artist in capturing those qualities that make a particular person “uniquely them” (about five minutes or less), is amazing.
That this is accomplished without drawing or tracing but by cutting totally freehand with a pair of scissors is almost unbelievable. However the real “magic” is a “jolt” of emotion that people experience upon seeing the silhouette. It’s almost scary people say, or it’s more me than me !
If the lines are cut right, perhaps “less” can go wrong with the silhouette and “more” appears to be right. Painted portraits always seem to have one thing not quite right, an eye askew or the colouring off. Photos can be too candid and become outdated easily. The more elements involved, the more to go wrong. Hence, less is more !
This “moreness” quality actually increases with each passing year. The likeness often remains true throughout a person’s lifetime. The clothing and hair details, though portrayed, are subtle and less easily dated. This can produce the sensation of gazing at a frozen moment in time, but still strangely current.
Very magical !
Children who grew up in homes where family silhouettes were constant fixtures on walls, have helped the art survive. As adults, they will travel far and wide to obtain silhouettes of their children. A true story, told by a woman whose mother risked death by running back into their burning home determined to “rescue the silhouettes” illustrates this art’s ability to affect people on a very deep emotional level.
By having a silhouette fundraiser, you are offering a rare opportunity to your school or group. Those familiar with silhouettes will be thrilled to have the service brought right to their locale and those unfamiliar will have the chance to become acquainted with an incredible and affordable fine art that is truly unique and special.
My “contemporary” silhouettes will delight families now and for years to come. Archival quality materials ensure they will survive the years and be enjoyed by future generations as treasured family heirlooms.
There is an amazing documentary series called, "Walking with Cavemen" in which part of an advertising trailer has this hauntingly beautiful music, that in the first few bars, tells a story of looking back over aeons of time while the camera shot shows figures of cavemen walking across the face of the sun.
The viewer is blinded by the sun and does not see the details of each but rather the moving silhouetted figures that once lived, struggled to survive and died aeons ago. The film maker had captured perfectly the underlying theme of the documentary in a few seconds using silhouetted shapes that deeply speak to the audience of ages past.
Even if you had never seen a silhouette before, the audience automatically understands, if not consciously, but subconsciously what the film maker is endevouring to convey. From the time our ancestors first saw the flickering shadows of clan members projected by the light of fires onto cave walls, it seems we understand what the silhouette conveys deeply within our psyche. This understanding is what gives rise to the overwhelming emotional response when people see their loved ones in silhouette for the first time.
Fellow silhouette artist Deborah O’Connor of Rhode Island USA shares these thoughts:
Televison programs like “Who Do You Think You Are?” are enjoying great popularity as the audience comes to learn of the often remarkable and intriguing history of their favourite media celebrities. As riddles are solved and hidden questions are answered, these celebrities are deeply moved, sometime to tears, to learn of the history of a family heirloom which tells of the romance and passion, the trials and tribulations or of the despair and tragedy of the ancestors who once possessed it. In its day, the heirloom may have been a commonly available item but its original owner may never have given a thought as to how valuable and cherished it may one day become to future generations.
While we may enjoy silhouettes of our family members now, they will outlive us and become our gift to our children’s children and as they look back to their past, perhaps they will thankful that we took the time in our present to have an artist create them.
This website was designed by me using very sharp scissors and sticky tape. Copyright © 2011 by
hand-cut silhouettes from your photos