F YOU have attended an event recently – perhaps a friend’s wedding or your company Christmas party – you may have been fortunate enough to meet a roving artist. If so, you probably came away with a small cut-paper portrait and thought it all a lot of fun.
Silhouette artists Michael Herbert and Charles Burns have been working together as “The Roving Artist” for over ten years, brought together by a shared interest in the little-known art of silhouette cutting. They have taken what is often perceived to be a lost art and re-invented it for the 21st century, combining traditional skill with modern and stylish presentation. Today they work at a wide range of events all over the country; it is not unusual for Michael to find himself at a wedding in Italy while Charles is working at a product launch in Birmingham. They also run workshops and give talks, while Charles has written a book on the subject: Mastering Silhouettes, published in 2012.
With his experience and expertise the likenesses are extraordinary. Working with just a pair of scissors, and a pocketful of paper, he will capture your portrait in just a minute or two.
Silhouette Secrets is a one-hour documentary about the art and history of silhouette cutting. The film is a journey back in time from the present day to the early nineteenth century. There he meets Moses Williams – an enslaved silhouettist from Philadelphia. On route he meets a World War I silhouette war artist and the Victorian artist August Edouart, the Frenchman who introduced the French word “silhouette” into the English language.
Charles also makes a parallel present-day journey to Houston, Texas, where he meets the world’s fastest silhouette artist and challenges her to a “duel of scissors”. This adds moments of jeopardy and pure entertainment to the film.
Among other celebrities the film features a cameo appearance by Paul Daniels.
The film came out at the end of 2015 and is currently doing well in film festivals around the word. It is hoped to announce a TV screening in the not-too-distant future. Latest information, and some clips from the film, can be found on the Silhouette Secrets Facebook Page.