Portrait artist draws together fellow silhouettists on Zoom

Alison Russell organised the world's first virtual convention of the 'niche' art of cutting silhouette portraits

Alison Russell organised the world's first virtual convention of the 'niche' art of cutting silhouette portraits - Credit: Alison Russell

A Muswell Hill portrait artist has used lockdown to organise a virtual meeting of fellow silhouettists.

Until the pandemic struck, Alison Russell had enjoyed a 20 year career cutting free hand silhouette portraits at parties and events for corporate clients, royalty and celebrities.

But when lockdown called a stop to it, she was inspired to reach out via social media to hold the world's first international convention of people who practice the "niche" Victorian artform.

Russell, who has created portraits of Victoria Beckham, Princess Anne and Dame Shirley Bassey, said: "I decided that rather than becoming deflated by the isolation caused by our current circumstances, why not use the tools at hand to reach out beyond our own borders and boost morale by inviting silhouettists globally to unite online?"

Silhouette art was popular among Victorians and Edwardians as a quick and cheap way of documenting a loved one using just a pair of scissors, black card and a keen eye. But these artistic snapshots fell out of favour with the rise of photography and Russell says the practice has survived as a "novelty" performed at live events like weddings and corporate dos.

Examples of silhouette portraits which were popular during the Victorian era before the rise of photography

Examples of silhouette portraits which were popular during the Victorian era before the rise of photography - Credit: Courtesy of Alison Russell

Russell used Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook to contact 16 silhouettists from across Europe and the United States. Each artist sat in profile for five minutes while they shared how their love affair with silhouette cutting was first ignited. The rest of the group captured their portrait live and the resulting 15 artworks were then posted to keep as a memento of the gathering.

"It was incredible to hear how every silhouettist’s story was completely unique, no one had come to the profession from the same angle," says Russell.

Most Read

Not only did the convention offer an invaluable sense of fellowship but they have formed a society and pledged to repeat the experience next year. Russell adds that Zoom culture has offered a new outlet for their skills turning a potential constraint into an opportunity for growth which she expects to continue beyond lockdown.

"Zoom offers that opportunity for the element of surprise and wonder normally reserved for live events to live on remotely. We have found a new platform for our art and it’s taking the world by storm!"