Blog: @silhouettist

A modern-day silhouettist tells his story.
Charles Burns writes about his explorations into the art and history of silhouette. His mission is to bring this often-overlooked art to a wider, appreciative audience.

Prosopographus: the silhouette automaton

Prosopographus: the silhouette automaton

As an artist interested in science I'm aways fascinated by weird pseudo-scientific ideas of the past, especially if they involve silhouettes. Once which caught my eye recently is the Prosopographus. In this post I'm going to take you back in time to see if it can be brought back to life. I’m looking for ideas to help me design a silhouette machine. A 200 year anniversary. I’m going to take you back exactly 200 years.

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Fifty Shades and a Square Meal

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.   (more…)

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Opening my Creative Space

Opening my Creative Space

May is here, so I’m opening Mays Barn (my own creative space) to exhibit a new series of silhouette paintings and prints. Do you think I should invite Theresa May? (more…)

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En Grisaille Portrait Silhouettes

En Grisaille Portrait Silhouettes

I began playing with an en grisaille portrait many years ago. At the time, I was experimenting with traditional techniques for adding gold details (known as embellishing) and began scribbling pencil notes on my white copies. I began to find these white copies more interesting than the finished silhouettes! (more…)

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Should an Artist Recycle their Art?

Should an Artist Recycle their Art?

Yesterday I spent the whole day recycling art…...or at least preparing to. There’s an awful lot of it! So I’m writing to ask for help. Can you give a painting a new home? Could you take delivery of a drawing or two?

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Mays Barn 2019 Studio Catalogue now out

Mays Barn 2019 Studio Catalogue now out

I'm happy to announce that my studio catalogue for 2019 has now been launched. Click here to download your free copy! (more…)

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Trench Life in Silhouette

Trench Life in Silhouette

After watching Silhouette Secrets, recently launched on Amazon, people often ask: what sparked my interest in silhouettes? It isn't such an easy question to answer.  However, my mind often returns to this silhouette, which has been in my family for years. It may well be the first silhouette I ever saw. (more…)

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Our Paul Daniels cameo

Our Paul Daniels cameo

Our film Silhouette Secrets includes a cameo appearance by Paul Daniels.  This interview - our Paul Daniels cameo - was a late addition. We were looking for a magician to talk about Dai Vernon, the celebrated father of close-up magic, who earned a living as a street silhouettist during the Great American Depression. (more…)

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A silhouettist’s approach to data protection

A silhouettist’s approach to data protection

What should a silhouettist's approach to data protection be? This question has been much on my mind recently. I'm not alone; the launch of GDPR in Europe – and the subsequent wave of reply-or-unsubscribe emails – has got everybody thinking. What kind of data do I use? For me, the question has caused me to reexamine some of my most fundamental ideas about the role of silhouettes in society.  (more…)

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Sarah Harrington’s hollow-cuts

Sarah Harrington’s hollow-cuts

I recently came across the work of a talented silhouettist called Sarah Harrington.  She was a professional silhouettist who worked during the latter part of the eighteenth century.  What struck me about about her work (apart from her obvious love of hats) is that they're all cut inside-out! (more…)

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Caversham Arts Trail: Once a year I become a cat

Caversham Arts Trail: Once a year I become a cat

Once a year I become a cat. Well, it’s an acronym, of course. CAT stands for Caversham Arts Trail, which is the annual open-studio event for artists based in Caversham.  (more…)

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Mays Barn: a silhouettist’s studio

Mays Barn: a silhouettist’s studio

In Emmer Green, at the bottom of the garden of an unassuming 1920’s semi-detached house you’ll find Mays Barn. It was quite a find! I always tell people we bought the barn and the house came with it! But why is it there? (more…)

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A face-on silhouette or two  (you mean, not in profile?)

A face-on silhouette or two (you mean, not in profile?)

“Can you cut a face-on silhouette?  What happens if I'm not in profile?”   For years, like most silhouettists, I tended to avoid these questions.    (more…)

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Can a shadow survive a fire?

Can a shadow survive a fire?

If you have ever seen my film, or heard me speak, you will know the story of how I taught myself to cut silhouettes by studying the duplicate albums of Hubert Leslie. (more…)

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A Paper Anniversary silhouette

A Paper Anniversary silhouette

One year on falls the paper anniversary. A little over a year ago I was booked to attend a wedding at the Savoy, London. It was a wonderful event and I cut some memorable silhouettes, including a three-minute cutting of one of the most complicated hats I've ever seen. (more…)

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The Importance of Silhouette Repertoire

How many ways cut I cut a silhouette? To be honest, I've let count. Soon after I cut my 50,000th silhouette I realised repertoire was everything. Since then, I've made it my ambition to cut or paint every kind of silhouette I can imagine. Here are some of them.

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