Image of the Month – A Silhouette of Michael Herbert by Charles Burns SGFA

Charles Burns "Michael Herbert"Charles Burns SGFA "A Silhouette of Michael Herbert"

Charles Burns SGFA “A Silhouette of Michael Herbert”

This is not exactly a silhouette, but what is known amongst us silhouettists as a portrait ‘en grisaille’. This started life as a freehand cutting – cut from laid white paper with scissors – which was then embellished using a fine graphite pencil and a magnifying glass. (The cutting measures about 2.5 inches high, so the drawing is quite small scale).
The whole process took about 30 minutes I guess. The subject is my friend and fellow silhouettist Michael Herbert, who is forever willing to listen to my slightly obsessive ramblings about the technical intricacies of cutting silhouettes.
I created a whole series of these cuttings, but have not yet found occasion to exhibit them. Being small they get rather lost in groups shows and large gallery spaces. This cutting has been mounted on blue paper for photography, although part of me prefers such cuttings unmounted; in this state one can hold them up to the light like a tiny miniature head, modelled in pencil. Viewed this way it seems like it might almost speak.

Profile of the Artist: Charles Burns SGFA is a silhouette portrait artist who based in Reading He travels to events all over the country taking his specially made studio with him. Differing from most artist studios Charles is able to take his wherever he travels as his studio is a specially-made jacket with secret pockets to hold scissors, paper and card: enough to cut 60 silhouettes without pausing to reload

Charles was born in London in 1961 and educated at Ampleforth, in North Yorkshire. Here he was taught by the sculptor John Bunting. Later, he attended art colleges in Exeter, Wolverhampton and Lyon, France, graduating with a 1st class Hons degree in Fine Art (painting) in 1984.

On leaving art college he worked for many years as a street artist in London’s Covent Garden, initially drawing 10-minute portraits in pencil and later cutting silhouettes. This evolved into working in entertainment and corporate events.  Charles has cut over 150,000 profiles, including two portraits of the Queen, President Clinton (while visiting the National Portrait Gallery) and the Duke of Edinburgh.

In addition to this Charles is also author of “Mastering Silhouettes” and is currently working on the documentary film “Silhouette Secrets”. Charles will be opening his studio as part of the Caversham Arts Trail:

Further information can be found by visiting Charles Burns’ website or by following him on twitter @roving_artist or

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One Response to Image of the Month – A Silhouette of Michael Herbert by Charles Burns SGFA

  1. brigdale says:

    Oh Charles what a beautiful piece of cutting and drawing, it’s fantastic how your scissors are like a pencil. Maybe you could send a high res copy of it to me for the next bulletin ? Thank you Charles.

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