Fifty Shades and a Square Meal

FOR THE LAST FEW WEEKS I’ve been toying with an idea for a new book. I’m thinking about a picture book, a “guess the silhouette” collection of cuttings. It’s the kind of book I hope somebody would love to receive in a Christmas stocking.

I’m currently in the process of putting together a first draft. A few of the illustrations will be on display on our stand at the Square Meal Venues & Events show in a couple of weeks. They’re quite fun, would you like to come and see them? I’m looking for feedback and criticism, so do get in touch if you are able to join us.

Cutting Shadows

Over many years of cutting silhouettes I’ve been fortunate to meet and cut many interesting and well known people. Of course I have a copy of their silhouettes! My plan is to compile fifty or so of the most recognisable or famous profiles, each within a traditional decoration border. A caption under each will tell the reader when and where it was cut, but not who it is. That will be up to you to figure out (although I will perhaps include a list of answers at the back).

A Fifty Shades illustration: a pair of famous silhouettes cut at a black-tie dinner
A pair of shades cut at a private black-tie dinner last year. These are perhaps some of the easier silhouettes to guess!

It’s quite a simple idea for a book. What do you think? The title I’m toying with is (don’t laugh) “Fifty Shades”

Fifty Shades?

In late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century England silhouettes were known as shades, or shadow portraits.  The French word “silhouette” was not adopted until the mid nineteenth century. A pompous but talented French artist, August Edouart, was the first artist to refer to himself as a “silhouettist”.  He did this to give his cuttings a more refined and cultivated air, and to distinguish them from what he considered “inferior English shades”. Despite this, I’m a great fan of Edouart’s work. He pioneered the freehand cutting technique for making silhouettes which i still use today. So there is a sense in which the book’s title will be a homage (or perhaps a friendly repost) to him. However, that isn’t the association which will spring to most people’s minds when they hear “Fifty Shades”!

One of Fifty Shades: Head of a woman in an ornate frame.
One of the trickier of the fifty shades in the book, cut during a luncheon at Pinewood Studios.
Can you guess who it is? If so, please share your answer below

This history will be explained in detail in a learned essay at the beginning of the book: an entrée which I imagine most readers will skip to go straight to the main course. This will be the fifty shades themselves, and the fun to be had in guessing who they are.


I haven’t yet found a publisher for Fifty Shades, so I’m weighing up the options. Should I self publish or seek a traditional publisher? On balance I prefer the latter option, but its a question of finding the right one. If you know of anybody who might be able to help please let me know, or forward this blog to them. In the meantime watch this space for further updates.

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Paul Carr
Paul Carr
4 years ago

I’m guessing it’s ‘Mrs Brown’.

Robin Macdonald
Robin Macdonald
4 years ago

Mrs Brown?
The books a great idea.
How about a peel off label for the answers so you don’t keep peeping.

Andi Reiss
4 years ago


Great idea….perhaps some publishers to connect with:-

Kerber Verlag
Medina Publishing (have recently published Ray and Caroline’s novel Picasso’s Revenge)
Foyles (have recently published Trevor Moore’s book Words in Pain: Letters on Life and Death)

Happy to put you in touch with Ray Foulk, Caroline Foulk or Trevor Moore if you like.

Hope this helps in some way, and trust all is well.

Kris and I will try to make Square Meal on 18th or 19th September.

Your ‘mystery silhouette’ cut at Pinewood looks uncannily like my mother, although since she’s been nine years passed I suspect it’s someone else; James Bond?

Best wishes

Andi & Kris

Susan Lacey
Susan Lacey
4 years ago

A great idea, Charles, and would make a wonderful Christmas gift!

My guesses for the Shades above are:

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie
Duke & Duchess of Cornwall
Brenda Blethyn

Graham Harding
Graham Harding
4 years ago

Great idea for a book. I agree with the previous answers of Fry/Laurie Charles/Camilla – will need to do some research to validate the fifth answer.
Keep cutting!

4 years ago

One Shade of Black… xx And thank you for your attending two wonderful weddings in our family. The silhouettes you did on both occasions have pride of place in our home. I agree with Susan re: who they are. Whicg brings me to my next comment:
The only reason you didn’t win the scissor silhouette fastest contest is that she did more than you in the time but your silhouettes actually looked like people…

Niki Clarke
Niki Clarke
4 years ago

This must be Hilda Ogden.

charles bird
charles bird
4 years ago

Great idea,
Mrs Brown

1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Burns

Germaine Greer?

Anne Jones
Anne Jones
4 years ago

Great idea – good luck with it. I got Fry and Laurie and Charles and Camilla. No idea about the fifth one! A lady of mature years but ….?! Anne Jones

Ted Stuessy
Ted Stuessy
4 years ago

I do hope you write this book Charles -it’s a wonderful idea!

3 years ago

I didn’t understand the whole idea ( language limitation on my side) amazon has a self publish service. I bought a watercolour book and the quality of the paper was ok, thin but I like the colour. they print and send on-demand anywhere.
I just bought your previous book, have a little look into it, and I am loving it.

I'd love your thoughts, please comment.x
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