Silhouettes, an art form that originated in France during the 1700s, lead most to conjure visions of profiled men and women in powdered wigs. And while that is how the art form began, today's silhouettes, either cut from paper or painted, offer many artistic options for creating beautiful art to display in the home or to make for a gift.
Instead of making the more traditional black paper figure on a white background, a trip to the scrapbooking section of the crafts store can inspire numerous possibilities for images, colors and patterns. Why not use a bird to symbolically represent your grandmother, who loves birds, or a chess piece to represent your grandfather's favorite hobby? Or use the concept even more abstractly and create images that you simply find beautiful and compelling.
As far as paper color and design, it may be difficult to narrow down the choices because there are so many options -- I found it easiest to choose complementary colors in specific palettes.
When you are done, group the artwork according to colors or subjects. We grouped two images of nature on one wall, then grouped our more eclectic group of everyday objects on another wall. This project is so easy, you will probably continue to find other areas in which to apply this decorative art, like binders, small trashcans, canvas totes and more.
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What you need
Images for tracing (these were found on the Internet and from a book on silhouettes)
Your choices for colored, patterned paper for images and backgrounds
Craft knife with replacement blades
Glue, nonyellowing and acid free
Canvas squares and/or shadowbox frames
White Krylon spray paint, if desired for frames
Dried grapevine or other ornament for frame, if desired
1. After selecting the image, it may be necessary to enlarge it, using a copier or a computer and printer or scanner.
2. Next, place the decorative paper for the silhouette on your work surface. Stack on top of it, in order, the graphite-coated paper (transfer side down), the copied image and, lastly, the tracing paper.
3. Using even pressure, trace around the image with a pencil. (We used tracing paper because it preserves the original image in case we wanted to use it again.)
4. After tracing is complete, it is time to start cutting the decorative paper. If there is an interior space that needs to be cut out, such as the area between the bird's legs or the chair's arms, I cut those first, using the craft knife.
5. Cutting the rest of the image is done either with scissors or a craft knife. I reserved the craft knife for working on the smaller, more intricate features and used the scissors for more flowing, continuous lines. It is important to remember to work slowly and cautiously; the blades are sharp.
6. Once all of the cuts are made, the image is ready to mount on the background paper. Choose a pattern or color that offers high contrast, allowing the image to stand out. Also, to avoid seeing any of the graphite tracing lines from the edges, I used the flip side of the cutout design.
7. Cover the back of the image with glue and carefully place on the background paper. I pressed a blank piece of copy paper over the image to make sure the design was securely attached and to keep any glue from getting on my hands. This will keep the finished product clean.
8. I prepped the shadowbox frames with paint before mounting the artwork. For the shadowboxes, I used three coats of white high-gloss Krylon spray paint, letting it dry between coats. To finish the white frames, I cut a few tendrils from a dried grapevine wreath and glued them on using a glue gun. To create the illusion of a frame on the canvases, I painted the edges with black acrylic paint which I let dry for about 30 minutes.
9. The final step was mounting the art in the frames or onto the canvases. I used the same glue that I had used to mount the images onto the background papers.
What to do