What is Fine Art Bodypainting? I intend to help as best I can to answer this mysterious question. Through considerable research and over ten years of extensive study and practice, it is my understanding that Fine Art Bodypainting (FAB) does not actually exist. I’m exaggerating of course but it can often feel that way when researching this ancient and most alluring art form. I’ve never once seen FAB listed as an art or art form on any mainstream or even alternative art resource listing ever. It’s existence as an art form has been and still is almost completely neglected. Now for the good news… I believe that the international art world is about to wake up to a new movement in contemporary art. If I’m correct, Bodypainting could soon become recognized as a legitimate and respected option for academic study, creative practice and sophisticated collection and exhibition.
The potential for a recognized Fine Art Bodypainting movement is a very exciting concept. It will offer limitless options to artists and art lovers that never existed before. Its inclusion in the art world will be the artistic equivalent of adding a new and unique color to the already magnificent rainbow. Imagine Bodypainting being taught in art schools internationally. Imagine the work of Bodypainting artists being hung in galleries and even museums near you. Imagine how lovely it would be to paint whatever you want, whenever you want on whomever you want and then to be paid well for your efforts. it is a dream that currently only a handful of FAB artists are actually living in. I’m very fortunate to be among that small group and I’m convinced that many more will soon follow. Today’s face painter for hire might become tomorrows Fine Art Bodypainter if they were to choose to follow that alternative path and in many ways very natural progression.
Contemporary FAB has strong roots in the 1960’s with artists such as Veruschka AKA Vera Lehndorff creating work that would ultimately be revered and hung in galleries worldwide. Veruschka’s work is very relevant, profound and significant. Ripples of her images are still deeply felt as her work explored and pioneered many of the themes still examined by many of today’s artists. I consider her the God Mother of contemporary Bodypainting and if this is your first time hearing her name I strongly suggest that you research her a bit and become familiar with her vast portfolio created between 1966 and 1980. Another powerful name to consider is that of Makeup artist Joanne Gair. Gair is responsible for some of the most iconic and beautiful bodypainted images of the 1990’s and her skillful work continues to this day. Both artists have books of their work and I recommend you give them a look.
In our next issue I’ll be primarily discussing the esthetic of Fine Art Bodypainting. I’ll explain the qualities and characteristics of subject matter, composition and pose that make a difference. I’ll help demystify what it is that makes the difference between a painting that is cool and a painting that is beautiful.
Fine art bodypaintings are just as varied in style and composition as any other conventional medium and along with this limitless variety comes a broad range of emotional connectivity with the viewer.
Fine Art Bodypainting is a distinctly beautiful and powerful art form that has the potential to outlive the artists and the models that create these passionate images. Through this column I’m going to share with you some key aspects to consider when creating a Bodypainting Masterpiece that will inevitably have a life of it’s own. History, Photography, Models, Esthetics, Commissions and Successful Marketing to galleries and clients will each be covered and examined. Each column will simply offer guidelines that I personally use and have experience with but by no means are the rule of art law. I’ve found that when it comes to fine art, nothing should be written in stone.
Photography is a great place to start our discussion. I believe it is common knowledge that photography can ultimately make or break a bodypainting’s quality or success. Dealing with professionals and professional equipment and studio space is an advantage that can be expensive but well worth your money. I initially chose to find and hire local photographers to capture my first 25 or so fine art bodypainted images. I paid them a flat fee to use their studio for the day and for them to photograph the progress and then the final image. This was between the years of 2002-2006 and I paid roughly $300 USD for each session/painting. Working with photographers in trade is another option that can help you save money but I always preferred the pay option as I felt it gave me more options and control. “You get what you pay for” is very often the reality but do your best to make sure you are happy with the end results or prepare yourself to make a change.
When I painted my first series of images I did have some very limited photographic experience and education but I didn’t have any professional equipment or experience with such equipment. I also knew enough to write up a solid contract agreement between the photographer and myself. It simply stated that I, the ARTIST would own ALL legal rights to the images captured of me and my work in all forms including negatives, film, prints, digital files and video. I did stipulate however that the photographer would be allowed to use these images for noncommercial applications such as display and even photographic competitions with my credit as the bodypainting artist. Always list everything in a contract. A well-written contract should help clearly communicate your business relationship and individual expectations without question.
It is important for you to realize when searching for and dealing with a photographer that it is you the Artist that is creating something “unique and special.” All you generally require of the photographer is competence, skill and professionalism. Never allow yourself to be intimidated by Photographers and the service they provide you. In our modern world photographers are abundant and readily available and very often easily replaced if you so desire. Establishing a good working relationship should be your goal as it is most beneficial for the both of you. A good rule that I established early for myself was to switch photographers as soon as they seemed to be a bit to comfortable or even bored by what I was creating in front of their fancy equipment. Always try to work with photographers that are excited about working together with you and that understand how special and unique your talent and painting is.
Ultimately I purchased my own professional photography equipment including lighting, then learned the basics of how to use the equipment and now I do 95% of a my own photography. I never call myself a photographer as I feel that it is it’s own pursuit, discipline and focus. I will still use professional photographers from time to time for very unique projects that might exhaust me with the painting alone. It’s great to have a fresh pair of skilled eyes when it’s time to do the photography. I also keep most of my photography very simple. Most often I use two umbrella reflecting professional strobe lights with each shoot and I try and paint so that the entire image is flat lit, meaning that I try and eliminate shadows as best I can by having a light on either side of the camera. I tend to hate shadows in my work but I sometimes make friendly with them.
The digital cameras available today are filled with hundreds of options that I never use and probably never will. Don’t let all of the options on these cameras scare you away. I promise you that I could have you feeling comfortable with the camera and the lighting equipment within two days. If you want to be serious about fine art bodypainting make it a goal to learn the basics of photography and eventually do your own when and if you choose to. I equate the effort in learning competent photography to that of learning how to drive a car. Hours of practice are needed but luckily with photography there is no life or death decisions required with every use. Practice, practice, practice.
One of the realities of being a bodypainting artist is that we never work alone. We are right there with our model and with our model we hope to create something special. This collaboration of time, talent and effort between artist and model will determine what is successful or not so successful about our work. Finding, choosing and working with the appropriate model is a skill that I hope to shed some much needed light on.
“How do you find your models?” is a question that I’m repeatedly asked. My answer has been roughly the same for the past 10 years, that being… “They find me.” Now, this is the good fortune of a very small number of artists but for those who are proactively looking here are some different tips to find models to work with. Friends and family can be a fantastic resource. Plant some seeds by letting everyone know that you are currently looking for volunteer models. As bodypainting artists we paint on one of the most plentiful resources in the world. Humans are everywhere so is sure to not overlook those individuals that you come into regular contact with. Several of my first models all worked together in the same restaurant that I frequented. I’ve also used friends of friends, other artists, girlfriends, ex girlfriends; several picture framers and a few total strangers that by chance heard of my aspiring work.
Online resources such as modelmayhem.com and onemodelplace.com can be very helpful once you have a few quality images of your work to show as examples online. These sites are a great way for models, artists and photographers to connect. You’ll need to join these sites and sometimes pay a fee but you should get your monies worth if you are ambitious and proactive. Remember, you offer a service and skill that is unique and often rare so it has been my experience that most models and or aspiring models would love the chance to be painted by a professional or aspiring bodypainting artist.
Paying your models is a very professional approach and it is not always a necessity but it is usually appreciated and respected. The difference between a professional and an amateur is often the involvement of money. The amount of payment will vary and change with time and circumstance. I always try to pay them more money than what they might have earned in a normal or non-modeling day of their life. I’ll also pay more for models that really go that extra distance for me. Remember to make sure that potential models know that you are willing to share the created images with them. I always give my models a signed print of the image and I do my best to treat them with the respect that they deserve. I also allow them to use digital files of our work together for any sort of self-promotion that they desire.
With each model that I work with I use a model release contract that clearly states that I alone will own the images and that I have their consent to paint and photograph them. You of course need to work with the laws and standards of your country and learn what is best to protect yourself and your work from any potential unpleasant legal complications. Photographers can help you to understand what is expected and required in your area of the world.
Models need very clear communication regarding what is expected of them and what the result of the work will be and what it will be used for. Advanced communication is imperative. Early in my career I created a two page model information sheet that would answer 95% of possible questions asked. Models will come and go but your art and personal integrity needs to be stable and uncompromising in order for you to have a trouble free and meaningful career. Do everything in your power to protect and make your models feel important and comfortable while working together and everyone involved will have smiles instead of regrets.
Question and Answer on Bodypainting
1. How did you start painting on people?
I had been a conventional professional artist for twenty years but I never felt satisfied with what I was creating and for that matter what most of contemporary art was creating. I kept searching for a style or a technique that would not only fulfill me but it would also contribute to the evolution of contemporary art. I was a professional airbrush artist in my mid thirties before I considered Bodypainting as the solution to my creative dilemma. I had painted on several bodies before and I had painted hundreds of faces most of which were done for either Halloween or for Mardi Gras. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana in the U.S. and we have the second largest carnival in the world. Our carnival is called Mardi Gras. I absolutely enjoyed working with and painting on people and it was the thought of taking Bodypainting seriously as fine art that really made the difference. Only a handful of artists had approached Bodypainting as fine art before me and this allowed me plenty of room to contribute. I became impassioned with the concept of devoting all of my energy to this art form and I’ve never been happier.
2. How long can a body painting take to complete?
The amount of time that my work takes to produce can vary greatly. Some of my pieces incorporate custom painted backdrops and these can easily take a full day of work to create and complete. Other images are more simplistic and require only a few short hours to achieve. My average Bodypainting takes about eight hours to complete and about forty minutes to photograph. Regardless of a particular painting’s complexity my work on the body must be completed in one waking period. To this day the longest that I’ve worked on a live body is thirteen hours. If I feel that a painting will require more time then is comfortable for both the model and myself, I’ll use an assistant to help speed up the painting process. I’ve only used an assistant a few times but they really did help move the painting along saving hours in the process.
3. What are the problems you encounter?
Unfortunately the current international perception of bodypainting is sadly a bit adolescent and most adults still live and deal with a childlike perspective regarding the human body in it’s unclothed state. My work seems to be helping to bridge this divide between nude and clothed and I’m hopefully giving the viewers of my work an opportunity to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the human body without the cultural stigma that nudity still presents to these otherwise mature adults. One of my artistic goals is to help relax the conservative restraints that often bind artistic creative freedom and expression. It is also my wish to have the fine art of bodypainting excepted and respected in the contemporary art world along side all of the more conventional art forms. The sometimes-narrow mindedness of those considered the artistic academic elite would stifle and retard meaningful growth and advancement of otherwise deserving art and artists. I intend to help earn the respect that this art form ultimately deserves.
Being a fine art Bodypainter offers me many unique and often unusual challenges. Pioneering anything can be a battle from time to time. I’ve had to be patient in certain areas of my career do to the lack of vision of others. Book publishing is a recent hurdle that I’m patiently looking to overcome. Large publishers are currently a bit hesitant in signing me a book deal because they primarily refer to established precedents and to date Bodypainting has no proven track record selling books. I approach each such hurdle that I encounter with the confidence built from overcoming previous obstacles. In the midst of dealing with such roadblocks I often smile and envision a time in the future where these little bumps are far behind me and in retrospect they’ll be fodder for amusing conversations.
4. What do you like about body art as opposed to more conventional painting?
In the past thirty years I’ve painted on almost every surface known to man and I can unequivocally state that nothing even comes close to the beauty and complexity of working on the human body. We are the most interesting and sophisticated entity in our known universe. I’ve chosen to not just artistically represent the human figure, I’ve taken it a step or ten further and I’ve purposefully decided to create directly on and with the beauty and soulfulness of the human being. There is no artist alive or dead that has ever worked on a more meaningful or intriguing surface then the human body. It is with this understanding that I have absolute appreciation for my good fortune as a contributor in what will soon be known as an artistic movement. It is an artistic movement that will help transform our cultural landscape in a most beautiful and meaningful way.
“Nothing even comes close to the beauty and complexity of the human body.” It’s an obvious relationship once you have cleared your mind of the inhibitions imposed on you by modern civilization.
5. Which of your paintings has most significance towards your life? Does any one of them change your life and belief? Can you explain and describe that painting to us? And how does it make changes on your life?
“Speed” is my favorite of my paintings. It’s a very simple and very complex painting. It deals heavily with contrast and harmony and it does this in a way that is subtle yet apparent. Notice the geometry in the background. A perfect circle, square and triangle, these shapes are also present in the cheetah as well. They represent the manmade and modern, this in contrast to the natural and primitive animal. “Speed” has affected my life in several positive ways with my favorite being that it is my ambassador. It speaks for me and it communicates quite well. It says to the world that this is something different and that it’s worth paying attention to. It boldly states that its creator is not to be considered common or simple and that seeing more of my work should be time well spent.
6. Do you have any favorite artists? Who are they and why?
I have several artists that are or that have been impact full in my life. The short list is artists such as Norman Rockwell, MC Escher, Boris Vallejo, Chuck Close, Robert Mapplethorpe, H.R. Giger and Gottlieb Helnwein. Each of these artists forced me to think. Each brought something to my life that had never before existed. Each of these icons expanded my universe and made me want to see more and more of their work. I am indebted to them all.
I’ve been influenced by them all and in many varying ways. The heaviest and perhaps the most profound influence on me came at a very early age. I was only twelve years old when I first became aware of a contemporary fantasy artist named Boris Vallejo. Boris is a modern master whose vision and ability altered my life when I was sixteen and seventeen years old. He painted the human body in a way that I had never before seen and it was such a breath of fresh air for me. Later while in art school I became aware of other classical and contemporaries that delighted my soul; Chuck Close, Maxfield Parrish, and Toulouse-Lautrec are among those that I truly respect and admire.
7. How did you get your first job/go about creating your first piece?
Regarding Bodypainting…. It all started when a man literally begged me to paint his face for a Halloween party. Once his face was painted and I had chance to reflect on what I had done, I wanted more. I knew that something very special had just happened but it would take another four or five years and literally a few hundred faces later that I decided to take painting on skin seriously.
8. Where does your inspiration come from? How and where do you design your work?
I allow my inspirations to come to me from all aspects of life and imagination. The natural world and the curves of the human body are my greatest inspirations. Sometimes I’ll see a certain curve on a body and I’ll feel compelled to explore it further with design and color. I’ll also find inspiration in concepts and culture. Something as simple as a certain color can motivate me to create. Look at the variety of my work and you’ll see what looks like several different artists work. I have no definitive style and that is very much on purpose. I love being free to explore as i wish without limits, restraints and conventional expectations.
9. Do you usually use woman as model?
I prefer working with women and this has so much to do with my heterosexual nature. I feel a bit guilty sometimes that I don’t work more with men but it all comes down to the fact that I get to choose how and what I do with my time and I absolutely prefer the company of nude women over that of nude men. I’m not the slightest bit homophobic either. It’s just a simple preference of one thing over another. I do feel that I’ll work more with male bodies in the future because it’ll force me out of my comfort zone and it’ll allow my work to grow and expand even more.
10. For how long have you painted people, since when? Please tell us a story about how you started bodypainting.
I became serious about Bodypainting as a fine art ten years ago 2001. I’ve been a professional artist since the age of sixteen but it was not until the age of thirty-four that I considered taking bodypainting seriously. I had been unsatisfied with conventional art and the options that were mainstream. I found myself searching for more, searching for different options. With fine art bodypainting I finally found the perfect way to express my creative needs and desires.
11. Your works are not just simple bodyart, but the “chameleon” skin illustrations, where models are really very hard to observe sometimes 😉 What you try to discover in you art, what’s your philosophy? What this “chameleon” painting means to you?
I’ve established several guidelines for myself as well as my work that are specific and unique. I established these criteria to maximize my personal experience as the artist and to delight the viewers of my work. I’ve chosen to use a different body with each painting. This forces me to make the most of each painting, as I will never again work with that individual. This also keeps me from feeling safe, complacent or board with my model. I thrive on the variety and unknown involved in each of my paintings. I’ve chosen to not paint clothing onto models or paint models wearing clothing. I find painting clothing onto models juvenile and uncreative. Shame is another element I’ve decided to avoid. None of my models are covering up or hiding their bodies either with their arms or clothing. Another trap that I avoid is that of a style. I’m not interested in painting un creatively and repetitively. I chose to explore the limitless universe of my conscious and subconscious through exploration and diversity. Most artists restrict themselves to styles and subject matter to brand themselves as individuals. I’d rather not metaphorically sing the same songs over and over and over again for the sake of marketing my work and myself. Freedom is my philosophy and I express my freedom through the esthetics of beauty, mystery, contrast, harmony and diversity. My favorite aspect of my work and life is sharing. I love sharing what i do with others more then I love doing what I do. I selfishly thrive on the experiences that others have while experiencing my work. It fills me with joy when my work communicates with humanity. With my work I will sometimes play visual games with the models body and the viewers mind. I often want my work to visually entertain the viewer. Paintings where the creative painted image is more powerful visually then the body I’ve painted it onto are sometime very chameleon like. I want my paintings to be about my paintings and not the body that I’ve painted them on. Without the designs and paint my work would simply be nude photography and there are certainly enough nude photographs in our world already. These “chameleon type” paintings of mine are very popular but truly only represent about 20% of my work.
12. Have you ever painted men? Or yourself?
I prefer working on the female body for several reasons. Females generally offer a smoother more curvaceous surface to work with and the female body is socially more palatable. Male bodies communicate different messages and offer certain other obstacles. I’ve only painted a few men so fare but I do have designs and concepts for future male images. I’ve personally been painted about four times for different fine art projects. Each time I was painted it was by a different bodypainting artist. I’ve now learned that being the model is much easier then being the artist.
13. Have you ever painted for your projects famous people?
I’ve never painted a famous person. I do feel that the future will lead to working with and on celebrities. I’d love to take their identities and create my art with them.
14. Your works are very bright-colored and even aggressive sometimes. Your manner is recognizable. Do you think art must teach people something, or art only must provoke emotions?
I feel that art is without rules, definitions and constrictions. I also feel that art at its highest level does make people feel something. My favorite art makes me feel more alive. I try with much of my work to delight, surprising and intriguing the viewer and myself. I love color and the ways in which it communicates. I’ll sometimes create a painting specifically based on a singe color and it’s expression. Life for me is color.
15. What was the most tricky and emotional art-project to you? Maybe, with the newborns?
Hummmmm. Painting on Large bodies is very challenging. “Eden” is perhaps my most difficult painting to date. The models body was very powerful because of her exceptionally large breasts and creating a painting that minimized the visual impact of her unique shape was very challenging. The painting itself was also very difficult to accomplish. It was also very transformative for the model as well. She expressed to me that it helped her in many ways feel better about her physical self. Each and every time I work with newborns and their parents I feel a strong sense of privilege. I’m very fortunate to have people work with me the way that I do. The very first time I painted a newborn was perhaps my most unique experience. I felt as though I was walking on the moon. “Heaven and Earth” is my first painting involving a newborn and mother. I’ve since painted on five other newborns and each has been a small miracle.
16. You participated with advertising companies; please describe the most interesting experience.
I’ve just created the most exciting of my commercial bodypaintings… The city of Las Vegas hired me to paint their newest advertisement that will be released in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue March 2012. A full documentary was made of the painting and it was all very exciting. The image is painted on four Las Vegas Showgirls and I used three assistants on the project. To date this is the most professional and glamorous project that I’ve ever worked on.
In the summer of 2013, my human car paintings were officially released. This was a massive bodypainting project for the Fiat Corporation. The project involved creating two separate human cars, one with 16 painted bodies and one with 11 painted bodies. This project brought together all of the professional elements that an artist would hope for from an advertising commission.
17. Are not you sorry when the “picture” is being washed away?
I’m never bothered by the models washing away my paint, as the Chef is never bothered by the eating of the meal they created. My work is meant to be photographed and displayed as art.
18. What attitudes do people usually have, who see your works?
In my New Orleans gallery we have about one hundred people visit per day. In the six years that my gallery has been open, I’ve never has a bad experience. People seem to really understand and appreciate what my work offers them. I feel like the most fortunate artist in the world.
19. What are the prices of your photos of bodyart?
My work sells at different prices depending on the size of the edition. Prices range from $85.00 USD to $18,000.00 USD the larger prints are printed on Canvas and look amazing.
20. Can you paint a client if you have such an offer? And how much would it cost?
I do several personal commissions each year. Commissions’ prices range from $5,000.00 to $12,000.00 depending or a variety of circumstances. I enjoy commissions because they often take me far outside of my comfort zone.
21. What is usually the hardest moment and the most interesting moment in your work?
My work has many complications… Technically speaking the initial drawing or base sketch is the hardest aspect of the work. Drawing on a three dimensional human body is a bit crazy. I however love the craziness.
22. What was the work that took the “longest” time for the implementation?
Some of my paintings have full painted backdrops. The backdrop can be a full day of painting alone. The longest that I’ve painted on a single model is thirteen hours. The image is “Sphinx.” I’ve used painting assistants on other images that would have taken too much time otherwise. I’ve now only used painting assistants about six times.
23. How is your artwork exhibited (eg. editorial shoots, advertising, live exhibitions)?
I’m primarily a fine art Bodypainter and my work is shown and sold through art galleries and the web. My bodypaintings are recorded visually through photography and are then printed and exhibited as such. I have also been commissioned by corporations to bodypaint for both live events and national print advertising campaigns. Commissions are however a small percentage of my overall work. The mainstream art world has not yet had an appropriate opportunity to pass judgment on the fine art of bodypainting. I intend to create circumstances that make it impossible for the mainstream to ignore the inclusion of fine art bodypainting as a valid component of international contemporary art.
24. Do you find that the public generally enjoys your artwork or is it controversial?
People love what I do. My gallery is the first in world for this art form and people are not only being exposed to something exciting and dynamic but they are also purchasing it to take home and live with. A few individuals are deeply repressed and find my work a bit to provocative but this is rare and is becoming even more rare as our modern culture grows and expands it’s perspective regarding the human body.
25. Do you consider your artwork to be bordering the line of pornography?
In your opinion, what’s the difference?
The word Pornography has never been used to describe any portion of my work. Pornography by definition deals with sex. My work does not. My work minimizes the erotic intentionally. I find the erotic to be a bit too obvious for my creativity at this stage of my career.
26. Do you make your living from body art?
Yes. I have recently opened PaintedAlive Gallery. It is the first art gallery in the world that deals exclusively in bodypainted images. The images are sold as limited edition photos as well as canvas giclee prints.
27. Tell me a little about the forthcoming festival – the atmosphere, what you will be entering/judging, etc.
I’m always excited about the Festival. It’s such a wonderful event and the opportunity to see and participate in such an event is spectacular. Part of the Festival is artist and the other part is social because we are all like family there. I have friends that I miss seeing all year and then we are all together in Seeboden for the Festival. This year I am honored to be one of the judges.
28. What do you find most interesting and also most difficult about body painting?
The most interesting thing about Bodypainting has to be the challenges that we are confronting both artistically and technically speaking. The complexities of painting on a living, breathing, thinking, feeling, three-dimensional and sexually objectified surface are quite significant and plentiful. The most difficult aspect for me as a “fine artist” Bodypainter has to be educating others about the significance and validity of this art form. It takes time for some people to except something new even if it is actually very old. I want bodypainting taught in art schools and available for all art loves to experience and enjoy not just as a performance art but as a lasting visual image such as photograph and traditional paintings on paper or canvas.
29. What is your personal style? And do you have any ‘trademarks’ that you always incorporate into your works?
I paint in many styles, using airbrush, paintbrush and even finger-painting techniques. I find that universally in my images, sexuality is not on display. I try very hard to balance the beauty of the painted imagery with that of the form of the model. My work is not about the natural beauty of the model but instead it is about the visual dance between both the painted image and the painted subject.
30. Do you have any amusing or memorable anecdotes about body painting?
I love seeing the expression on people’s faces when they first realize what they are looking at. Many of my images take a moment to understand how and where the body is and it’s beautiful to see people experience a realization of what is actually in front of them. I love challenging the viewer to be open-minded about the nude body and to enjoy how I’ve colored it.
31. When did you first realize you had the passion for painting?
I’ve been an artist since day one. I have very distinct memories beginning around the age of four where I was greatly encouraged to continue to draw and paint. I have no memory of a time when I wasn’t an artist. It’s just always been understood that this is who I am and that creating is why I’m here.
32. How do you see? What is it about a scene or subject that speaks to you and causes you to want to paint it?
Ah, I love contrast and harmony. I’ve always been attracted to conventional beauty as long as it has an underling strength or power. My attraction to Tigers and other big cats would be a prime example of Beauty balanced with power. I also love mystery in visual images and I try and include a touch of intrigue in each painting that I create.
33. What is the most rewarding aspect of your work? Can you tell us why you enjoy it, and what keeps you excited about coming into the studio each day?
I’m so very fortunate to have found Bodypainting as a creative outlet as early as I did. It’s allowed me to involve so many aspects of what I love to do and bring all of these passions together into my work and daily life. With that being said however my absolute favorite aspect of my work is the sharing that it allows me to do. I love sharing with viewers and collectors the very real and yet surreal moments of beauty and mystery that my work often involves. I also enjoy sharing with the models involved in my work. Their experience and pleasure as a transformative being is very rewarding in and of itself.
34. Tell us how you got involved with the “Save China’s Tigers” project and why?
In November of 2009 Li Quan founder and Director of the Save China’s Tigers foundation contacted me. She asked if I might create an image of a Tiger that might bring awareness to her organization and cause. I had just coincidentally returned from an artistic exhibition in Shanghai China and Tigers have always been my favorite animal so the idea of helping her with this cause seemed timely and very worthwhile. The image that I created for the project has been hugely successful and it’s now recognized throughout the world. I feel very fortunate that I was able to help. The South China Tiger piece is one of the most complex images that I have ever created. I worked about eight hours on the design and concept, eight hours on the background, and another eight hours on the actual bodypainting itself.
35. Tell us a little bit about your other creative projects. Are you working on anything exciting and new? Do you enjoy experimenting with different types of media? Or do you prefer to focus on one and master it? What are your plans, goals, and dreams for the future?
This is an extremely compound question…I’m always pushing my creative boundaries. I’ll continue to experiment with my work trying ever differing styles and techniques. I love traveling and I intend to do a lot more in the coming years. I traveled extensively last year sharing my art on four different continents. I have plenty more countries to explore and share with. Several different agents and producers in several different arenas are also now representing me. I have someone looking to sell me as a TV show and if this does happen I’ll have a much larger platform to share with. The idea of a TV show really excites me and I hope it becomes a reality. Pune intended…. Bodypainting is expanding globally and I hope to continue to be one of its strongest advocates. Books, Lectures, Exhibitions and even a few film projects have been presented to me. It’s all very exciting and I hope to continue to enjoy every second of it.
36. What do you like to do just for fun, just for you, when you’re not hard at work on another wonderful masterpiece?
This is funny because I really don’t have any substantial hobbies. I do love talking with people and I love spending time in my gallery. I also love traveling and day dreaming… I’m a huge daydreamer. Is sleeping late a hobby? I love sleeping late… I’m actually really good at it. Lot’s of practice.
37. How do you indulge yourself? Treasure yourself? Treat yourself like a king? What are your favorite luscious “guilty pleasures”?
Chocolate, Chocolate. Chocolate. I’m a lover of Chocolate. I very rarely wake with an alarm clock and I almost always sleep late. I almost never get out of bed before 11:00am, I also never worry about things that I have no control over. I indulge myself by painting on beautiful human bodies at will and then sharing my efforts with whoever cares to see. I live and work in one of the most culturally rich cities and neighborhoods in the world and I don’t allow anyone or anything to limit my freedom.
38. If you could travel back in time to visit your thirteen-year-old self, what advice or words of wisdom would you want to give him?
Nice question… I’d advise myself to take lots of photos and cherish each and every moment with close friends and family. I’d also advise myself to not become to attached with my head of hair.
39. What is your greatest source of inspiration?
I have a very personal inner spirit that wants for the exceptional. I absolutely desire to live passionately and this drive seems to be inherent to my core being. I’m visually inspired heavily by nature and culture and concepts such as truth.
I’m often inspired by a specific body’s shape or perhaps a unique pose. I’m greatly inspired by aspects of culture, nature and intellectual constructs. I try to allow inspiration to ebb and flow as it chooses but periodically I’ll still find myself in “need.” When this “need” happens I will then search deeply for inspirations spark. My searches can take years but more often then not I’ll find it sooner rather than later.
40. What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Never stop expressing yourself passionately and always be true to yourself and those that you love and respect.
41. What makes you laugh and shine inside?
When I think about my good fortune I often breakout into laughter and sometime blissful tears. I’m currently living inside of a dream and this dream is joyous and much appreciated.
42. It must be hard to find models to stay still for so long?
Finding models has never been an issue for me. I paint on people and people are readily abundant.
43. What are people’s reactions to this work – my personal one initially was that it was a picture until I looked more closely!
People seem to love the work that I do. I’ve never had a negative interaction regarding what I paint or how I paint it.
44. Where did you do this – in a studio, at your house – where?
My work is created in a professional studio and or on location in nature if necessary.
45. Who are the models? Do people volunteer to be in your art or are they friends of yours?
All of my models are volunteers. I never use agencies or websites to find them. In fact, they find me.
46. How many body paintings have you created throughout your career?
I have painted at least 300 to 400 bodies at this point in my career, but only about 100 of them were painted in the fine art sense. The others were painted for events such as Halloween or Mardi Gras/Carnival.
47. Have you ever had any famous people contact you about your work or buy any of them or commission you etc.?
I’ve had a few brushes with fame. Let’s just say that the rich and famous enjoy my work in due proportion.
48. Through the last decade (the year 2000 to the year 2010), what is the biggest and most important change towards you?
I’d have to say both my personal advancement and involvement in the art of bodypainting and my simultaneous use of the Internet. Without my use of the Internet I’d not be painting on bodies the way that I do. The web has been an invaluable tool for inspiration, research and connectivity to other like-minded bodypainting artists globally. And remember, without the web very few individuals outside of my city would have been able to see the work that I’ve created. Bodypainting and the web are both interconnected and both considerably changed my life in the past decade.
49. Through the last decade, what are your favorites in the fields of technological inventions, digital gadgets, movies, literature, animation, design, fashion, architecture, and so forth? Could you please tell us respectively in those different fields?
High speed internet, IPhones, Avatar, Chuck Palahniuk’s book called Fight Club was my favorite read in the past decade, Almost all modern animation impresses me and again Avatar would be tops, I’m loving almost all contemporary design. Apple computer hardware and software are favorites of mine regarding design, In the world of fashion,,, I enjoy most the overwhelming variety of designs and options for the modern individual, Modern architecture delights me so. I’m a fan of most all-contemporary architecture.
50. Through the last decade, what are your expectations in the next ten years?
I’m looking for everything good to come my way in the next ten years. I’m excited about my work being show in galleries in every major city in the world. I’m ready to author books on my art, Bodypainting itself and photography. I’m hopeful of having my own television show. I’m also optimistic about the possibility of starting a family of my own.
51. What is it about the surface of the human body that fascinates you and drives you to use it as a canvas?
Its ALIVE and limitless in it’s potential. The 3d aspect alone makes the human body exception to work on but it’s the fact that it’s alive and complex that really inspires me. It requests to be painted and it then thanks me for the experience. Humans are exceptional in so many ways. Nothing compares.
52. Do you consider your artwork to be a resistance (like tattoos) of the acceptable social boundaries of inscribing the body? Please explain your answer
No. I find my work to be the most traditional art in the world. Indigenous people from all over the world whom live in warm climates bodypaint. This art is as old or older then expressions such as music and spoken language. Bodypainting in the modern world is just novel because our civilized cultures have been sexually repressed for a few thousand years. The natural state of nakedness was not accepted and as a result bodypainting was non-existent or it only existed in private situations. My work follows in the footsteps of thousands of bodypainters before me. My culture is more complex and as a result my work is sometime more complex then my predecessors.
53. Does your work ever reflect or become representative of your personality?
I am a complicated person and my art comes from my soul, mind and spirit. The work and the artist are one and the same. The images that I create are my babies.
54. Would you consider what you do to be a choreographed or improvisational process? For example: do you design the projects on paper first and then apply them to the skin or do you improvise straight onto the skin?
Most are the results of planning and designing. About 10% are spontaneous. I enjoy them both.
55. Would you ever permanently tattoo your work onto body? Or do you prefer the less permanent nature of body paint? Why is this?
I have no tattoos and I don’t connect my work to tattoos. Bodypainting is like casual sex and tattoos are like marriage. Both can be successful & both can fail. Bodypainting is painless and limitless. The two are very different and should be.
56. How do you ensure the preservation of your work?
Photography and printing do for my art what Sound recording and playback devices do for music. We live in special times where recordings live longer then we do.
57. What is one thing you wish you knew before entering into this industry?
Hummmm. I wish I had been less intimidated by contemporary fine art. Galleries and the whole contemporary fine art world seemed very distant and click-ish and I wish I would have know that I could just do my own thing and me myself and sill be appreciated and accepted.
58. What is the best part about your job?
Tremendous Freedom. I have the freedom to be. The freedom to express, the freedom to explore and many, many more freedoms that are not common in conventional career options. I wake when I choose, Sleep when I choose, eat, work, travel and play when I choose. I love the freedom.
59. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Great Question…. So many good fortunes have come my way. I was just asked to have my first solo show in a prestigious New York City gallery for late summer or fall of 2013. That felt like a dream. I’m sure the show will be another highlights that will then in turn lead to more highlights.
60. If you could start your career again would you do anything differently?
Yes… I’d get out of my own way faster. 🙂 I tend to get in my own way when it comes to selling my work. I’ve learned to let the painters paint and the sellers sell. I spent four years representing myself and If I had to do it all over again I’d cut that time in half.
61. What piece of advice would you give someone going into the industry?
Start yesterday, be yourself and really try and contribute and expand the vastness that is contemporary fine art.
62. Why do people like to paint body?
Bodypainting is enjoyed for many reasons. It’s part of our historic past. All of our ancestors bodypainted, today we really enjoy that fact that it’s human and not digital. We also enjoy that it’s not conventional. Painting on flat lifeless surfaces such as canvas, paper and wood cannot compare to the beauty and complexity of the natural human body. We are the most interesting and soulful creatures in the known universe. Nothing even comes close.
63. What kind of paints they’re looking for (animal, human beings, nature, abstractions…)?
My collectors have very varied taste in art. Nature images are my most popular but I’ve also sold many images that are abstract and design oriented. I paint what I feel and my collectors collect what they feel. I choose to not have a fixed style of technique so my work is very versatile and varied.
64. How they react when they see the result?
Most everyone that sees my work reacts with an open mouth and then a smile. My models LOVE being painted and they love the results. They are almost always surprised that it’s actually their body that they are looking at. It’s fun for me to see their expressions.
65. You are making true optical illusions. Where do you find inspiration for them?
The shapes and curves of the human body mostly inspire me. Concepts and design patters will also inspire me. I allow my inspiration to come from any and everywhere. I want to have complete freedom in my art and being open to inspiration is a huge part of my happiness and success.
66. The difference between the canvas and human body?
No comparison. The human body has a soul and endless curves. With limitless three-dimensional possibilities the human body is to a flat lifeless canvas what space is to our earth. Nothing comes close to the human body.
67. Why did you choose the latter?
I was searching for the perfect way to express my creativity. I wanted to offer something special to myself and for those who see my work. I found that Bodypainting was an art form that had not been fully explored especially in the realm of fine art. I love every aspect of what I’m doing. Bodypainting the way I do has no negatives. I’m the happiest visual artist that I know.
68. What kind of models do you prefer?
I use a different model for each painting so I do my very best to maximize the individual body that I’m painting on. I love curves. Curves offer me so much in the way of inspiration and design. I also love to paint on interesting people, as I will spend an average of eight hours working with them. Kind and educated models are my favorite. I talk with them throughout the painting so a good conversation literally helps make the day even more of a pleasure.
69. Do you paint too fat and too old people? Is that difficult?
I choose to paint on bodies that do not distract from the art. I’ve worked with very large bodies several times and they are often more difficult to work with because I need to create a design that balances out the visual power of their unique shape. I’ve purposely painted several bodies just because of the challenge that they offer me. If you look at my work I hope that you never really see the body in a way that overpowers the art that I have brought to it. Balance and harmony are often my goals and if a body commands too much attention then i have failed. I’ve not yet worked with the old but I am very excited to. I believe that they will offer me great challenges in many ways. We have six billion bodies on our planet and I’m excited to explore and create my art on a great variety of them.
Have you been in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina? Is this experience influence your art? And what about your life? How did you survive, do you often think about it? I was living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. It was a very difficult time. I compare it to the tragic untimely death of a family member. I was an evacuee for one month during and mostly after the storm. The storm was a monster and it destroyed much of my city but I’m something of an optimist warrior and I do my best to find the positive in the circumstance it forced on us. As time passes I think of Katrina less and less. I’m a smarter, stronger, and more experienced person because of that experience. You know the expression, «What does not kill me…»
70. Do you think that you could explain why it is the body that is so important in your work? How did it start? Or were you always fascinated my body?
The human body has always fascinated me and it’s significant, presence and it’s history in art is meaningful and profound. Simply stated,… It is us. Painting “on” the body is the oldest form of painting. I believe that it predates cave painting by hundreds of thousands of years. Most indigenous cultures still bodypaint. I found it through a personal search to be creative and connected to something that was capable of keeping me interested and passionate for the rest of my life.
71. Do you have a favorite body part? If so what is it and can you explain why?
Hummm. I love the lips and stomach best I’m not sure why exactly but they both make me smile.
72. Do you use music while creating your art? Do you have a ritual that helps you create?
I’m always listing to music. Music is a huge pleasure for me and it accompanies me wherever I go. No Rituals….
73. How long does it take to prepare for a new project?
Preparation for a new painting usually takes about 3 days. Designing and then putting all of the pieces in place before paint ever touches skin usually takes more time then the average person might think.
74. Are all of the project your own ideas or do you have anyone that gives you any suggestions, fans, friends etc. If so who?
I’m the creative force behind my work. I do except commissions however so in creating a commission piece I’m then in a situation where I’m collaborating with the client/model on subject matter and color scheme. We’ll work together to find a pose and painting that makes everyone involved deeply satisfied.
75. Can you work any day, any time? Or do you have to be in the mood for creating?
I’m comfortable working at anytime but I do prefer nights and evenings. I like to take it slow in the mornings and really not feel rushed or pressured to have a painting done at a certain time.
76. Do you set yourself deadlines? Or are they set for you? Do you find deadlines stressful?
I enjoy stress and find certain stressful projects useful but I much prefer to paint in a more casual and comfortable way. I’ll set time guidelines for each painting but I allow the painting itself to let me know when it’s finished.
“I’ve released PaintedAlive as an experiment of sorts. I’ve done my best to make this first book of my work affordable, globally accessible, and dynamic. My hope is that PaintedAlive will find it’s way both into your hands and into your homes. The book is filled with brilliant color, iconic images, mysteries and creative and personal secrets. Nothing was held back in the creation of this book yet it will hopefully leave you wanting and hoping for more.” ~ Craig Tracy