Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Blast from the Past: A Pleasing Silhouette

[I originally posted this on June 28, 2013. Ironically, we are having just as cool and rainy a summer, even though I am now in Western Washington, and temperatures just recently shot up! Hope your summer weather is more moderate!]

Has your summer started oddly? Ours has. Normally we are at a sunny 90 degrees F by now in Eastern Washington, but we’ve rarely topped 70 and it’s been raining! Now I’m told we’ll jump to the triple digits by Monday. That’s not really conducive to summer activities either. So what would a young lady do in the early nineteenth century to pass the time?  She might have drawn a silhouette.

There's something elegant about a silhouette, as if the person’s character shines through when details are kept simple. Creating a proper silhouette, an outline of a person’s head and perhaps shoulders, was both a pleasant evening activity for friends and family and a lucrative business for some talented artists. The very best silhouette makers could look at a person and cut directly on black paper to match features. Some silhouettes were incredibly detailed, showing curls within hairstyles and even eyelashes. 

For those more inclined to do it themselves, whether from limited funds or a spirit of adventure, silhouettes could be created at home. All that was needed was a piece of pale paper either tacked to the wall or affixed in a screen and a source of light such as a candle or fire. The subject sits between the light and the paper, and an enterprising friend or family member traces around the lines made by the shadow cast on the paper. Once the shape was cut from the paper, you could either put the white silhouette on black paper, or trace around it on black paper and put the transferred silhouette on white paper.

While silhouettes are becoming a lost art, you can still find artists at country fairs, popular shopping malls, and entertainment venues.  This silhouette is of me when I was a baby. 

This one is of my husband when he was a boy. 

This is one of our youngest son, who is obviously a silhouette, er chip off the old block. [Update for 2022--Hard to believe he’ll be getting married in July!]

May you always create a pleasing silhouette!

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