Fashionable silhouettes

Tessa Asquith-Lamb led the first of the art classes I signed up for this summer at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre, entitled Fashionable Silhouettes. It didn’t disappoint.

The classes are themed around their current Coming Into Fashion – A Century of Photography at Condé Nast exhibition. The morning half of the workshop involved making silhouettes based on photos in the exhibition. In the afternoon we made collages using silhouettes and profiles.

To start with, we looked around the exhibition and picked 2 or 3 full-length silhouettes to sketch. I sketched these 2 seated women from photos by Helmut Newton and Edward Steichen:

130706 silhouette sketches

Back in the studio we created silhouettes of the images: draw over the sketches onto tracing paper; flip the tracing paper and lay it over black paper; draw over the pencil mark to press it onto the black paper. The silhouettes were then cut out of the black paper.

To do the cutting I tried both scissors and craft knife. Scissors held the promise of creating smooth curves, but I found this easier to do with the craft knife, which also easily outperformed when dealing with the intricate lines.

To finish the silhouettes, they were prepared for hanging by sticking a couple of strips of paper onto the back, and feeding string through the loops. A bead was tied to the end of the string to allow the silhouette to hang straight.

The key to creating nice silhouettes is to capture the details in the outline, for example, the grasp of a hand, or the direction of a glance. Being able to recognise the details brings extra life to the image.

Everyone’s silhouettes came out well:

130706 silhouettes1

Mine are furthest left, and second from right:

130706 silhouettes2

In the afternoon, we had a wide choice of materials to make collages with. The idea was to create silhouettes and locations for them. If we had time, it was also suggested to try adding a profile to the collage, although I didn’t get around to this.

My first creation was a simple abstract view of a room:

130706 collage1

For the second collage I wanted to try using some drawing too, but I didn’t carry off the mix at all well:

130706 collage2

I thoroughly enjoyed the class. The techniques are simple, and I can see that they have scope for producing nice images if done well.

It was also interesting to have worked closely with the silhouettes of the subjects in the source photographs. I’m sure I won’t be able to stop myself from examining the silhouettes of people in images for a while, and picturing how they’d look in different contexts. A good sign.



  1. Steve

    The abstract view of the room would make an interesting web site design for the right ‘arty’ person.

    • timhards

      I like that image. I think that with the sultry pose and the window/red walls combo, it is quite fitting for the current heatwave. It will be my desktop background until the weather changes.

  2. Pingback: Fashioning the Fantasy – 3D paper workshop | art fn

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