Silhouettes 101~or~Go With the Flow

In my last post I opened my big mouth and said I would show what my cutting process entailed.  Up front, I want to say that very often the scissor artist (well, me for sure) has to deal with mistakes.  Things get lopped off or over-cut and that’s just part of the challenge.  So when I chose this silhouette of a boy and girl riding a kiddie jalopy, I’d hoped this one would come out in what passes as “perfect” for me.

It didn’t, but I’m using it anyway.

By way of disclaimer, this silhouette is one of the group of 1920’s kids that I used to do exclusively in pastels.  Cutting this one in black belatedly showed an error in its design, which I “fixed” after it was finished by gluing a very thin piece of black paper to cover the back of the offending area.  It just didn’t “read” right for me, but now it does.

Hey, poop happens.

Anyway—to begin—this first photo shows the design printed on the back of the silhouette paper.  (This paper happens to be 8″x8″ square, which isn’t a real convenient size because trying to get it to go through my printer correctly is a challenge in itself.)  But we move on.




The next photo is the paper after being trimmed with just regular kitchen shears.  The idea is to remove enough excess paper so you can get as close to the design as possible.  At the top are my Gingher scissors next to a ruler for size context.  You can see that they are very pointy.  As Martha Stewart says, it’s a good thing.




I think the most important tip for cutting is to be sure to start with the smallest inside cuts first.  The reason for that is the more paper you cut away, the floppier the silhouette gets, so you wouldn’t start with cutting the border outline first.  Having enough uncut paper around the small inside negative spaces (the spaces created by the solid positive spaces) is really necessary.  If you had to go back and cut those areas after most of the other ones were removed it would be difficult.  The paper would bend or tear and….just trust me.  Cut the small spaces first.  I pierce the middle of the space with the tip of one of the blades and then start making tiny cuts toward the outline, following it until the entire space is cut.



After cutting the smallest inside areas, I usually work outwards by cutting the ones that are a little larger.  Here I’ve done all of them except for the wheels.



Next the wheels.



Then I cut the large inside space between the wheels.  You can see that I did this in pretty much one piece.  The grass was cut using a kind of slashing cut, not in one continuous cut.  Whatever works, I say!  Also, if I’d cut this area first before the insides of the wheels, imagine how hard that would be.  Oy.



So then, I like to start cutting the border outline with the heads.  That’s usually the most difficult part and I like to get it out of the way first.  Also, remember, I still have a little more paper left and that helps keep things from getting too floppy and unmanageable.



I finish up by cutting the remainder of the outline, removing the bit underneath that’s still shown here.




I always go back and tweak things here and there.  That’s where I decided to add the piece under the girl’s leg to make it “read” better.  As I said, this hadn’t occurred to me before with the pastel silhouettes, but it was more obvious with the black one.  My own worst critic.  But, you know, it’s okay.  It’s the overall impression that counts.  Hand-made art has imperfections.  As RuPaul says, can I get an amen up in here?

boy girl jalopy


Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum

I had always done this particular silhouette only in pastels, so doing this one in black was interesting for me.  I get a whole new perspective on it—and I like it!

Next time I hope to be able to show a little of the process that goes into the cutting of these.  No Youtube videos, but maybe step-by-step photos that reveal how I go about getting from the uncut piece of paper to a finished silhouette.  We’ll see…  🙂

girls marching


Down the Rabbit Hole

As promised, here are some smaller versions of the Alice in Wonderland silhouettes I did for my granddaughter’s bedroom.  Hers were in pastel pinks and blues, but I like these done in red just as well.  (If I do say so myself, ahem.)

These designs were inspired by the original illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s book, not the Disney version—which I do like as a movie—but we felt these have more of a vintage look to them.

The next post will be a couple of larger, full-length silhouettes of Alice, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter on my favorite medium—velvety black silhouette paper.




All About Eve

I came across some Victorian designs a while back that featured women and letters of the alphabet.  Perhaps they were meant to be bookplates, I’m not sure, but with a few modifications here and there I thought they’d make nifty silhouettes. This one is “E,” obviously for Eve (you know, the one who rode to church on a dinosaur with her hubby, Adam?)  It depicts her downfall, with that furshlugginer apple in her hand and the serpent s-s-s-lithering around the letter, thoroughly enjoying what he hath wrought.  Put the blame on Mame, boys.  Or in this case, Eve.

And where’s Adam?  Probably went off to name all the animals in the world, or something exciting like that, and left her at home with the snake.

Isn’t that just like a man?



Highbrow Meets Low Tech

I did a series of famous composers silhouettes, maybe ten years ago, at the request of my daughter.  She was going to the furniture market in High Point, North Carolina for her design job and needed what they call “smalls,” or decorative items, to round out their display.  These silhouettes were mounted and framed individually in really cool vintage looking black frames with red and gold accents.  (I couldn’t afford them, but they made the silhouettes look extraordinarily nice.)

This set I cut yesterday and today.  They’re mounted in groups of three for the sake of convenience.  The largest ones are about 3 1/2 to 4″ high.  If you would like a close-up view, just click the image.  Ignore the white spots. There might be cat hair and lint on the scanner screen.  Just sayin’…