Body painting is used for various advertising campaigns, music videos, television adverts, PR stunts etc. As a professional body painter out in industry you can expect to get jobs working on PR and promotional events by clients wishing to get press coverage for a new product or event, or for television advertising.
During my career I’ve painted literally hundreds of models in various locations around the world. So here’s a few of my hints and tips that should lead to a successful and pleasant body painting experience for the model, the artist and the client.
Absolutely make sure that you are using skin safe products! I cannot stress this enough! Everything in my kit was designed specifically to go on the skin. Just because a product is non toxic doesn’t mean that you can use it on the body; your insurance won’t cover you if your model has a reaction.
Care for your model
It is VERY important as a body artist to know how to look after your model and make sure that they’re as comfortable as possible. When you’re on a job with your model try to ensure that he/she will be warm enough. If you’re in a room or location that doesn’t have heating ask if it’s possible to provide portable heaters. I usually have foil blankets in my kit for outside shoots.
If it’s a very warm day ask that fans can be provided, so they don’t get too hot. If you’re body painting for several hours then there is a good chance that your model will need to sit down. See if it’s possible to have chairs provided for your model to sit on.
Do they have another job to go to afterwards? If so, they will need to leave with absolutely no paint residue on them. If there are no showers on-set, pack plenty of baby wipes in your kit to help with the paint removal from the skin. If there are showers available, remind your model to take along a wash kit containing shower gel, flannel, towel etc.
A silk/satin dressing gown can also be useful for the model if she needs to cover-up for toilet trips etc. and not smudge the paint. Flip flops are also handy for a model to take along.
Preparation for painting
There are things that your model needs to do to prepare themselves for being painted. Make sure they remove all their body hair. Women are usually fairly smooth, but men will need to at the least run beard trimmers over themselves as any body hair will catch on your brushes and it will be impossible to get clean lines.
Never ask your models to wax, more often than not they will come up in a rash or have broken skin on the area, making it impossible to paint on.
Make sure your models know not to put any products on their skin before getting painted. Unlike when you apply make-up, some products like moisturiser or fake tan make it extremely hard to get an even base coat as the paint does not stick evenly.
Also be aware of any contraindications that might prevent you from painting. Areas of broken skin, such as cuts or grazes. Any kind of infection or cold sores.
Sensitivity to the needs of your model
Some models can be a bit nervous before a body painting job, particularly if it’s their first experience of a body art shoot. I’m very sensitive to their concerns and I often find that a female model will feel much more comfortable once her breasts and nipples are painted, so this is always where I’ll apply the paint first.
I very rarely paint naked models, although I have had to paint detailed anatomical designs for Channel 4’s “Embarrassing Bodies” on sensitive areas. But, sometimes it is necessary to paint completely naked models. It’s then VERY important to decant your paint from its usual container into a disposable one so that you can throw away any left-over paint. I also prefer to use cheaper brushes that can be disposed of afterwards.
The Perfect Model
A good model is one that understands the process and can keep very still for long periods of time. It’s also good if they have a friendly personality and are easy to talk to. Body painting can last for several hours so some general banter and fun conversation can make the time pass much more quickly and pleasantly.
I can provide models for various shoots, but I would say that 90% of the models that I paint are usually provided by the client. Some of these models are incredibly tall and anyone’s who’s met me will know that I’m incredibly short! I can usually get them to bend down so that I can reach the tops of their shoulders and their faces. But if I’m doing camouflage work and they have to stand in one position, we have get really technical and I have to stand on a box so that I can reach them!!!
Body paint shoots often start very early and not all models will turn up having eaten properly or have had anything to drink. Some models deliberately avoid eating before a job as they think they might not look their best on camera. This can be a recipe for disaster.
I’ve been in situations where some girls have spent longer with their head down the toilet feeling faint and nauseous, than being painted. There have been times when I’ve actually had to dash off to buy breakfast for them. Once they’ve had something to eat and a mug of hot sweet tea, or an orange juice, they’re good to go and we can get on with the painting. But this seriously eats into the time and can affect the finished result, and is so easily avoidable. So I would highly recommend that all models eat a proper breakfast/lunch before a body paint shoot.
I like to take some snacks with me on jobs, things like bananas. I also have a supply of glucose sweets which I pop into their mouths frequently and can help stop models from feeling faint whilst I work.
Some models don’t want to drink a lot of water because they are worried about going to the loo and smudging the paint with their underwear. But it’s really important to stay hydrated. It is a lot easier to clean up some smudged paint around the groin than have to clean off an entire section because your model has fainted and ruined half your painting. I always tell my models to pull their underwear to the sides if possible when using the toilet and it very rarely results in any smudged work.
It’s also important to get your model to move around lots whilst you are mixing the paint or cleaning your brushes, quite often it will be not moving their feet that will cause your model to feel unwell, particularly if it’s a very warm location.
I ask my models to tell me as soon as possible if they start to feel unwell. If there’s a chair available sit them down. I’ve had situations where a very tall model has suddenly slithered off down the wall with me desperately trying to hold her up. And with a 6 foot plus model and a 4 foot 11 artist you just know it’s never going to end well.
Body painting artist becomes body painting model
I always wanted to have my own body painted and was very pleased and surprised to receive an invitation from the American artist Craig Tracy who I first met at the World Body Painting Festival in Austria on my second visit in 2004. So in March 2005 I travelled to New Orleans and spent a week with Craig sightseeing, eating and of course painting each other with the designs that Craig had worked out in advance.
The body painting collaboration was a unique experience for me and I think I definitely have more sympathy for my models now.
After this experience I can confirm that it’s quite difficult to stay absolutely still for long periods of time, particularly if you have to stand up. But no doubt like many of my own models, I found it absorbing to be able to watch and actually see the design taking shape.
Body Painting can transform people, they become part of the art work. You can see the shiest model come alive once they have been painted. It’s a really liberating experience and I would recommend it to anyone.