Silhouette art has some obvious features in common with relief block prints. The black and white without halftones is the most obvious point, so that things are defined by edges, and everything must stand against its opposite for a background. Also, of course, those silhouettes that are actually cut from paper share with carving a block the idea of cutting away whatever is to end up white, and leaving behind whatever is to be black.
I like the look of silhouettes, and this past Christmas my aunt gave me a book illustrated by Agnese Baruzzi. I’m always talking about “black and white,” but Baruzzi’s illustrations are crazy, bright color combinations. Some are black on a rich colored background, but others are purple on lime or magenta on orange. The especially nifty thing about this book (and some of the others illustrated by Baruzzi) is that each page is double-layered: a background page and a die-cut silhouette overlay so that you really do get the texture of the cutting. I’ve picked a few of Baruzzi’s illustrations involving fantasy themes, plus the number book below, which I just really like.
A silhouette artist whose work is especially gorgeous is Niroot Puttapipat, who does use black and white (though often with punches of red or another color), and who works in the Golden Age style reminiscent of Arthur Rackham. Like Rackham (and Baruzzi), Puttapipat also has done plenty of work illustrating folk and fairy tales, so of course I’ve chosen illustrations for this post accordingly. I believe that Puttapipat does not actually cut paper for his silhouettes, so he doesn’t have the carving in common with relief block printmaking, but it would be interesting to experiment with this style in a block. In any case, the thought process of planning a picture with only black and white is the same. How much pattern do you include? What detail lines can you get away with leaving out? What composition shows all the necessary elements of the picture to best advantage?
Puttapipat and Baruzzi have very different styles, but both are a lot of fun to look at. Both have a magical feel. And both very much please my block-print-loving eye.
[Pictures: Bear, silhouette in ink(?) by Niroot Puttapipat (Image from The Artworks);
Two-page spread from Pinnochio, silhouette in die-cut paper by Agnese Baruzzi, 2013;
Single page from Aladdin, silhouette in die-cut paper by Baruzzi (Image from KidsReads);
From The Firebird, silhouette in ink(?) by Puttapipat (Image from The Artworks);
Double page from Count!, silhouette in die-cut paper by Baruzzi 2013 (Image from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast).]