The number one question I get asked whilst cutting silhouette portraits at events is ‘How did you learn to do that??’ The plain and simple answer is that I learned it all from my wonderfully talented Grandmother, Mary Lou Russell (1928-2009), an established painter and silhouette artist herself for more than fifty years. She was from Kansas, USA and would travel around the annual state fairs cutting silhouettes and charging per portrait. My grandfather, Roy Eugene Russell worked for Phillips petrolium and was stationed in London England for five years with his wife and four children before I was born. Mary Lou had a spell cutting silhouettes of the customers on the shop floor of Selfridges for a while before her husband was sent to work in Norway for the first ten years of my life. We would visit them during the summer holidays and grandma would encourage me to practise silhouette cutting on friends and family after the first one I cut of her at age eight turned out to be not that bad a likeness. I’d always enjoyed drawing people from a very young age so the transition from drawing with a pencil to drawing with scissors was a pretty smooth one. Who would have thought just how much this simple craft would influence the course of my life in future years?
My grandparents retired to Indiana USA in 1990 and grandma continued cutting at every given opportunity. They opened a bed and breakfast in their retirement home in Indiana and Mary Lou would cut silhouettes of all the renters and keep a copy of them in the silhouette guest book.