Charles Burns

Silhouettes and life studies.

In one way or another I’ve spent my whole life drawing people.  As a shy and awkward 1970’s teenager drawing was the one thing that seemed to connect me with others.  It allowed me to communicate (or at least to set down) my feelings about them, my fascination with the essence of who they were and my relationship to them. From an early age my ability to draw enabled me to make friends and helped to define my own sense of self.  In many ways it still does.

The activity of drawing can take many forms.  My favourite (reflecting the way I was taught) is to use a 3B pencil on paper.  Today, after many happy years spent cutting silhouette portraits, this is followed a close second by a pair of scissors!  Whether drawing or cutting I always begin a piece by just looking, then by allowing my hands to respond naturally to what I see.  The aim is always to reflect some aspect of the real person before me, I look for that essentially unknowable and mysterious personality that we all carry beneath the surface; the quietness of inner self.

The western tradition of drawing from the nude has long been important to me.  I experiment with a wide variety of styles and materials, from watercolour and collage to oil paint and digital media.  I sketch, cut, tear and paint my pictures, usually working with one method for six months to a year before moving on to the next.  In that time I may make hundreds of pictures, only a few of which will ever be seen in exhibition.  I’ve always enjoyed working fast!  In between, while waiting for new inspiration, I simply draw with a pencil.  This isn’t planned in a systematic way, as each new direction presents itself to me I tend to just follow it, but in the end I’m usually looking for the same thing.  All these media feel to me like alternate solutions to the same problem, that of how to creatively depict small moments of insight about real people in communicable form.  Each style brings its own failures and occasional successes, and each seems to speak to different people in different ways, but to me they are simply tools, new ways to tell the same story.

(Photos updated March 2012)


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