Families will be flocking to Linda's Story Time on Friday, Sept. 9, from noon to 5 p.m. to meet master silhouette artist Karl Johnson, especially since "squirmy children are welcome."
Johnson is a third generation cutter of silhouette art, an art form that began hundreds of years ago before the camera was invented. It survives today through a handful of dedicated artists. The Silhouette is a nostalgic and unique way of capturing a loved one's image. What makes Johnson's artistry so incredible is that he cuts with sight in only one eye.
His two-dimensional world has not hampered his artistry. He has clipped thousands of subjects including some of Hollywood's biggest stars such as Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Cruise and Reese Witherspoon. He's high on the list of celebrity party hosts and is coming to Monroe as an off-shoot of a private event in New York city.
"My world is two-dimensional, rather than three, so I just see the shape of an object as a line," he said. "Without binocular vision, I focus on the outline and the shadow of a shape to judge distance," he said.
Johnson was born with vision in only his right eye. Diagnosticians believe it was the result of an infection his mother contracted while pregnant.
Because sight in only one eye was "normal" for him growing up, no one in the family even suspected his condition existed until he was 7. His mother just happened to overhear a conversation with his brother.
"Hey," Johnson asked, "did you notice how it's weird that when you close your right eye you can't see?"
Johnson was 12 when his father taught him to make silhouettes. He went on to study art and became a freelance artist. Some 15 years ago, he was hired to make silhouettes at a party for actress Mayim Bialik then in the sitcom "Blossom." He was a hit. Celebrities and magazines have kept him busy ever since.
While he will be doing classic portrait silhouettes in Monroe, he also does large-scale, full-body pieces, showing people "doing their favorite activities, such as dancing or playing sports." To create these large, intricate pieces, he works from photographs.
Not every child wants to sit still and pose in profile for the 90 seconds it usually takes Johnson to create a memorable work of art with a pair of German surgical scissors. Fortunately, fidgeting children don't faze the master cutter.
"Children are very sweet and cherub-like," he said. "Mothers want to remember them that way. Even if a child is screaming in front of me, their silhouette is going to come out very sweet.
"It's all about the details," he said. "I just work my scissors like I'm drawing with a pencil. Essentially I'm just cutting a line all the way around the outline, coming up under the chin, the lips, up under the nose … I always include an eyelash — that's kind of a tradition of mine."
Interested parties are welcome to watch the artist in action. Residents wishing to have a sitting with Johnson must make an appointment. Slots are limited. A classical portrait is $25. Call Linda at Linda's Story Time, 447 Monroe Turnpike, (203) 459-1579. For more information on Karl Johnson and his work visit www.cutarts.com.