Pretty colors, on Pretty people
When I was two, my mother took me and my brothers on a road trip to the country, where she met up with a few friends, and they met up with some other people… While on this trip some woman painted my toddler belly with a big sunflower, using tempera paint, and sent me off to play in the mud with a bunch of other filthy kids, with belly’s and faces all painted up. It was loud and it was crowded… we kids wound up running around naked by the end of the weekend… with mud and dried flaking paint all over us… This was my recollection of Woodstock. To many that weekend, Woodstock NY was an incredible music festival, however to my two year old self it was a mud-fest where I could cover myself with sloppy gooey paint and not get yelled at.
For years after Woodstock I would be chastised for leaving various shades of hand prints over the house. Finger painting became an obsession, one that was curbed when my paints “disappeared” one day. I was left sad and paintless until I stared kindergarten at age 5, and my teacher would praise me at how I was able to not mix up the paint, and how I had control over the lines… well dear teacher I had been finger painting for 3 years now… it was my passion and it was one I literally through myself (and my clothes and face, and belly, and arms, and the kids sitting next to me) into.
When I was 8, my brothers and I would go over to one of my mother’s friend’s house after school so we could be “watched”. I hesitate using “baby sat” as we weren’t babies… and I use the term “watched” in the loosest context. Technically Alice could watch us if she left the couch, but mostly we were left to our own hellion devices. So for the most part we would run through the woods, get filthy, and on one occasion painted. Alice decided on this day she would walk in while I and her daughter (one year younger then I) were “au natural” painting each other with water colors. She had greens and reds on her, and I was shades of yellow and blue. (Yes, they were blue even back then). I was given a stern lecture that boys don’t paint naked girls bodies, and that what we did was wrong… That one does not use fingers to water paint, and one does not water paint on the daughter of your mother’s best friend… her naked daughter of 7. I was given this lecture whilst the belt of reason was applied to my backside… although I believe the exact words were “Don’t you ever <whack>, ever, <whack>, do something so <whack> stupid, ever <whack> again! (emphasized with a big <WHACK>).
This may have actually drove me to face and body painting.
Ah yes, so in my late teens I learned how to do special FX… it was crude, but fun. I would work with liquid latex, and make masks and wounds for Halloween. Later I was asked to do some small makeup jobs for some local theater groups… and then as I got better at the theatrical makeup I was asked to do Halloween masks and makeup… It was fun… I picked up sculpting and other forms of mask making. I became focused on working with 3D forms of art and expression.
But something was missing.
After moving to the Pacific North West, the land of perpetual cloud cover, and getting back into theater and Halloween groups, I realized what that something was. I missed the bright colors that face and body painting had to offer… and soon picked up the childhood obsession that I once had. I invested in airbrushes, and liquid makeup. I got the best of the best body paint, and started to find models that were willing to bare it and share it. I took psychology classes in dealing with people, and read articles on how to put models at ease. I would take classes by various body painters, and I would practice the airbrush on various projects. I experimented with new ideas, and mixing the various forms of body painting techniques and types of body paint / makeup. After some time I then found an assistant and started to teach others the basics of body painting. I joined a small and growing network of resources, and found some of my work being praised by some really great artists. All in all I’ve expanded as an artist, and grown as a person.
Now I found myself trying to set up body painting sessions between models, assistants, photographers, and various others… all the whilst fending off male acquaintances who would like to “assist” in the painting of naked women. This last point is the most disturbing, for while I’m working on a model, I don’t see them as a naked woman. In fact I don’t have time to be appreciative of her form while I’m working, and many times will look back at my work and realize that the body I was working on was hot, or curvy, or stacked, etc… etc… What I find is that part of my brain shuts down, and the part that’s artistic takes over. I paint and paint, without noticing that this woman is either naked, or a thong shy of it. And I also realized is that this is normal for most artists, and that I like it. I like being swept up by the passion of my art to the point of losing any and all other thoughts. My base urges are replaced with a stronger passion… a passion to create… an inspiration to express… and by the need to paint.
Be it an animal, clothing that’s been painted on, or some modern stylized design…Body painting is less about the naked person, and more about the art that’s been put onto that person.
And for your entertainment, the World Body Painter’s Festival in Austria website: http://www.bodypainting-festival.com/