As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

Silhouette Study 1- Your Portrait

Silhouettes have always amazed me because of their simplicity and ability to capture the essence of an individual. With today’s technology, there are shortcuts to creating a silhouette. However, back in the 1700’s in Europe when silhouette cutting all started, it took a lot of skill with the eye and the scissors. To this day it requires a lot of skill and very careful observation to the few remaining silhouettists who practice the art form. 

Ketut – The Medicine Man of Ubud, Bali
made famous by the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”
Photo taken during my recent visit to his home
This week (Feb 27 to March 3) is dedicated to silhouettes and the many ways to enjoy this powerful art form. First let us learn more about the history of silhouettes from Tim Arnold, America’s premier silhouette artist…

The History of Silhouettes
(Source: Silhouette-Man)

The art of silhouette cutting originated in Europe in the early 1700’s. Prior to the French revolution, silhouettists were hired as an amusement for the royal class. The featured artist would attend the many extravagant balls and cut out the distinguished profiles of the Lords and Ladies capturing the latest fashions and elaborate wigs.
Helen – an amazing woman
with great wit, humour and character
related to me by marriage
While the aristocrats were having their silhouettes cut out and eating like kings much of Europe was starving, especially in France. In the 1760’s the Finance Minister of France, Etienne de Silhouette, had crippled the French people with his merciless tax polices. Oblivious to his people’s plight, Etienne was much more interested in his hobby of cutting out paper profiles, the latest fad. Etienne de Silhouette was so despised by the people of France that in protest the peasants wore only black mimicking his black paper cutouts. The saying went all over France,”We are dressing a la Silhouette. We are shadows, too poor to wear color. We are Silhouettes!” To this very day the black profile cutouts are called silhouettes. Thankfully, the negative connotation no 
longer remains.
The art of silhouette cutting reached its “golden age” in the 1800’s. Many European silhouettists immigrated and became very famous and rich, catering to the American politicians and very wealthy. Others traveled to county fairs and small towns capturing the profiles and the hearts of countless thousands of ordinary folk. Silhouettes remain as popular today as ever. In fact, they have become one of the most collectable art forms. Unfortunately there are only a handful of silhouette cutters left, perhaps as few as 15 in the United States. We of the computer age may be seeing the last generation of silhouette artists.
I am no silhouette artist, but here are some shortcuts to mimic the art form that I’d like to share with you so you may enjoy making a silhouette portrait of yourself and those you love.
Using PIXELMATOR -Here’s how I made the silhouettes above:
  1. Choose photo (side profile).
  2. Crop to head shot profile.
  3. Using the polygonal lasso tool trace the head shot profile.
  4. Select background-copy and paste (this will transfer lasso selection to the background)
  5. Select fill tool and choose black colour. Fill the background copy which is now the silhouette.
  6. Crop white background enough to frame your silhouette.
  7. Print and post somewhere in your home for your amusement.
(If you feel adventurous, you may continue to add details to the silhouette, check out these samples on Tim Arnold’s website).

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This entry was posted on February 26, 2012 by in Create, Teach and tagged .
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