One of the most common reactions that I get when I tell people that I paint human bodies is... "Do people actually hire you for that?" "What do you do with it?' or they are just overall intrigued. To be completely honest, the first time I body painted I didn't really know what it was myself. I had seen the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues with body paint and the infamous cover of Vanity Fair with Demi Moore adorned in a spectacular painted suit; this was not the type of art I wanted to create. I wanted to do something different, something more. I literally wanted to create fine art using the human body as my canvas.
Two beautiful models I recently painted in Bridgeport, CT
The art of painting bodies is quite unique because you are literally working with a living, breathing canvas. Throughout history, body art has captured how humans relate their experiences to their physical body. Examples of body art come in many formats, including tattoos, photographs, drawings, engravings, books, ﬁlms, sculptures, and paintings. This particular form of art goes back thousands of years and is perhaps one of the oldest forms of art there is. Holding very high importance in many different cultures, it is still practiced as ritual and healing practices.
I have embraced this ancient art by creating art or full canvas pieces on the body. My spirit often leads me into some form of tribal markings within my pieces which leads me to believe that my ancestors play a very significant role in the works created. I'm quite sure the reason this kind of art chose me is because I was very receptive to it. During the time that I started, I really needed a change in my life. It also helped me heal through some very trying periods in my journey of finding myself.
A watercolor painting by my daughter that to me represents how much art means to me
When I paint a human body, I am always aware that my subject and I are having a very personal and intimate experience. Painting a living breathing canvas is very powerful and energy is always exchanged; what I end up creating very often is coming from them, not me. I am no energy thief but I definitely love to be around and share positive energy with others. Occasionally I will work with someone who's vibe might be a little off but we make it work. I actually appreciate getting to know my models ahead of time. I often ask them questions to get a feel for what they like and dislike. During the painting process I also tend to have personal conversations with my models. We laugh, sometimes cry and always connect in some way. The experience is very therapeutic for me and I've learned throughout the last few years that the models find it therapeutic as well.
A body paint I completed in 2014 on model Jonnie Reboira who had been battling Alopecia for three years at the time. Shot by photographer Stacey Lopez.
The creative process of painting a live canvas isn't easy by far. Often times a model may be restless or need to take a break. I am always aware of their well being so I check in and ask if they need to walk, stretch, use the bathroom, drink some water. This is another reason I like to talk to my models ahead of time, so they know what to prepare for. It usually takes me an average of four to six hours for full body paint but that is never set in stone. I have created partial body art pieces in an hour or two depending on the detail needed, which is where most of the work is required. I always hope for my models to be on the same frequency with me because it helps to make the process go very smoothly. I don't usually even take breaks while I'm painting because once I get into my creative zone it's almost as if my bodily functions shut down completely until the piece is done.
Face Painting is a form of Body Painting and ironically it's how I got started. There was something about the brush to skin and the human connection that drew me in. Face painting doesn't require as much energy because I usually know exactly what I'm painting and the timeline is much shorter. Kids do get a little restless sitting for long periods of time so I paint little faces as quickly as I can. I have learned through trial and error how to prepare myself for either type of painting.
Two adorable little faces I painted at the 2015, Bridgeport, Police Union's Annual Barbecue at Beardsley Park
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Hafiz - body paint completed in 2013 on model Adara Holley. Photo by Shanna Melton