November 18, 2002
Have scissors, will travel
Photo by Bronwyn Wilson/Staff Photo
Woodinville artist Beverly Fotheringham demonstrates her hand-cut art of paper portraiture.
Artist Beverly Fotheringham will create elegant silhouettes at Eastside arts exhibition
By Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Writer
Quick with scissors, she snips from every angle. In less than a minute, Beverly Fotheringham produces the detailed likeness of a person's profile out of black paper. "I got it down to 40 seconds," she says of her best cutting time.
Fotheringham creates elegant silhouette portraits totally freehand. As she cuts, she relies on her knack for adept hand-eye coordination as well as her special surgical scissors.
"You turn the paper as much as you turn the scissors," she says. In addition to visual skill, the art requires plenty of practice, or as Fotheringham puts it, "practice, practice, practice." She explains, "It's like learning a new language —you know the words but you have to translate into scissors. It was very hard [to learn] at first."
She mastered the art while employed as a silhouette artist at Disneyland. During the time she worked there, she cut thousands of silhouettes for the Park's visitors, which included famous musicians, singers and other celebrities.
A Woodinville resident for nearly 15 years, Fotheringham continues to create on-the-spot paper portraits.
On Nov. 29, she will offer her hand-cut paper art services, noon to 4 p.m., at The Eastside Association of Fine Arts (EAFA) 27th Annual Exhibition in Bellevue's downtown Key Center.
The show will run Nov. 23-Dec. 7.
During Fotheringham's appearance, show visitors will have the opportunity to have their own image uniquely produced for a $10 charge, with a percentage of the cost going to EAFA.
She says that she didn't set out, in the beginning, to become one of Western Washington's few silhouette artists. Her background lies in fine art, having trained at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in the early 70s.
During that time, she eyed a posted notice for an art position at Disneyland. "I noticed the sign and I needed a summer job," she recalls. After submitting her application, she was given an assignment to practice cutting silhouettes from model samples. She returned in a few days to present her practice pieces. "You're hired, you start Friday,' she was told without further discussion.
For the next five years she cut and clipped portraits at the 'happiest place on earth.' While working in a theme park known for its long lines, Fotheringham didn't face many slow days.
"On my busiest days, I'd do 400 people in 8 hours," she remembers.
Her only obstacle? "Wiggling," she jokes, explaining that some children don't like the idea of sitting still and their portraits can take her a little extra time.
Fotheringham also does group silhouettes, such as two profiles of two different people like mother and daughter or a grouping of an entire family. Last summer, she was presented her most unusual request and cut the profiles of a devoted dachshund and its proud owner.
She explains the three types of silhouettes. "There were three different silhouettes in their heyday. There were painted silhouettes; there were silhouettes that were cut out—the black part on white; and there were hollow-cut silhouettes where you pasted the [hollow]cut-out onto paper." She adds that she specializes in the second type, black paper portraits in miniature Disneyland-size placed on white paper.
Silhouette art dates back to early civilizations. "It goes back to Etruscan pottery and Egyptian murals," says Fotheringham. "Also, caves found in France show simplified profiles of animals. The art reached its peak in popularity from 1770 to 1860, spreading from France and England to the United States. They were an inexpensive way to capture a likeness before photography became available at a reasonable price."
She goes on to say that the word "silhouette" was coined from a frugal French controller of finances named Etienne DeSilhouette. "The term was used for 'cheap' or 'common,'" she mentions.
Summing up the fascination people have for silhouettes, she says, "It captures a lot. It makes a very bold statement, contrasting light and dark."
While known for her artistic silhouette skills, she primarily focuses on her mixed water media paintings.
Her work captures an ethereal beauty, casting light on water in a variety of colored reflections or bringing out a Kodak brilliance of flowers in bloom.
She currently has work in several national shows across the country.
Also, her watercolor painting 'From the transparent to the transcendent' has been selected for the highly competitive EAFA exhibition.
With over 300 submissions, including work in photography, watercolor pencil, collage and etching, the EAFA will mount its largest show to date with works by national and regional artists. At the Exhibition's opening reception, Bellevue Mayor Connie Marshall will present awards to artists selected by show jurors.
The EAFA organization was founded in 1975 to further the artistic development of individual artists and to stimulate artistic communication, education and growth in the Eastside community. The organization currently has 250 members.
Fotheringham will not only show her silhouette work during an 'Artist in Action' demonstration at the Exhibition, but she'll also demonstrate her paper portraiture at the FrameWright Gallery in Bothell, Saturday Dec. 7, 2002, 10 am to 3 pm.
For those wanting further information on the upcoming EAFA Annual Exhibition beginning Nov. 29 in Bellevue's Key Center, contact Miriam Works at (425) 644-2641.