Silhouette Drawings & Cyanotypes

Fourth grade learned about Victorian Era silhouette art. This popular and affordable style of portraiture required only a black piece of paper, scissors, and careful observation on the part of the artist. Some artists even built elaborate machines to make the process easier. Students used Makerspace to invent their own machines for capturing each other’s silhouettes. Then, using pictures taken in profile, students cut out their silhouettes and traced them to white paper. They filled their images with words that describe themselves.

With the advent of photography, silhouette art became less popular. One of the most direct ways to capture a photograph is a method called cyanotyping. All it requires is paper coated with the correct chemicals, an object, and 30 minutes in the sun. Students cut their silhouettes once again, this time out of black paper. We lay the cut silhouettes on top of the cyanotype paper and left them in the sun. The silhouettes act as a kind of stencil, preventing light from passing through to the paper. After 30 minutes the paper is washed in water to remove any residual chemicals, and left to dry. Some students added leaves and other natural materials to their cyanotypes as a kind of wallpaper to their image.    

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