‘We Count on Them. Count Them In’
The Royal British Legion is the nations’ biggest Armed Forces charity providing care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present and their families. I was delighted and very proud to work on the ‘Count Them In’ campaign launched on the 16th of May 2016 which calls for the Armed Forces community to be recorded in the next UK census in 2021. At the moment there’s very limited information about where they are, or what their needs might be. So I was commissioned to camouflage 4 veterans using body paint into different locations around the UK to highlight the fact that they are currently invisible in the census amongst the general population.
All the veterans would be wearing a full set of clothing for the camouflage painting. This is much more difficult than a straightforward body painting on a model wearing only underwear. Clothing has folds and creases and has a tendency to move around, then any line work or details won’t match the original background. I was also aware that the painting would have to be done as quickly as possible, so I enlisted the help of my fellow artist and member of my Getmadeup team Laura Scimone to speed up the painting time.
Veteran Frank Simpson at The Portico Library, Manchester
Our first location was The Portico Library in Manchester. Laura and I hopped on a train from London to Manchester where we met up with and painted the lovely Frank Simpson, aged 61, from Salford. Frank had been in the Army since 1969 and was medically retired in 1985. Despite his health issues he was a fantastic model and great fun to chat with during the painting.
Veteran David Iveson at Cardiff Arms Park
Our second marvellous model was 31 year old David Iveson who served as a Lance Corporal and completed 2 tours of Iraq. Unfortunately David injured his back whilst on duty in 2005 and has never recovered. So Laura and I set off on the train, this time to Cardiff to camouflage David into the seating area at Cardiff Arms Park rugby ground. Again David was fantastic to work with. Once we had finished painting Laura and I stayed overnight in Cardiff as we needed to be on a very early train to Plymouth the next day.
Veteran Mike Jarvis at the Boston Tea Party Café, Plymouth
So the following morning we were up and about at the crack of dawn and back on the train for our trip from Cardiff to Plymouth to paint our third model Mike Jarvis. Mike had previously served in the Royal Navy and we met up with him at the Boston Tea Party Café. We camouflaged Mike as he sat at a table in the café to highlight his invisibility on the current census.
Veteran Darren Fuller outside the Houses of Parliament
Our final painting was planned for the day of the campaign launch on the 16th of May. We needed to get the painting finished for a 9 a.m. press call, so that meant setting my alarm at 3.20 a.m. We would need to be up and at the location ready to commence the painting at around 5 a.m. We met up with our final fantastic model Darren Fuller outside the Houses of Parliament. Darren served for 20 years in the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment. He was medically discharged in 2014 after losing his lower right arm during a tour of Afghanistan in 2008.
This final location was definitely one of the most challenging from a body painting point of view. It was pretty cold and blowy when we started, and semi dark so hard to see the colours properly. Then once the sun came up our setting was back lit, so again it was difficult to see exactly what we were painting. We were up against a tight deadline to complete the work by 9 a.m. so it was a fast finish against the clock to adjust the colouring to match the then more natural daylight.
A challenging but very rewarding assignment
Camouflage body painting can be incredibly difficult for the models as standing or sitting very still is a really important requirement. The veterans were all incredible considering some of their injuries meant that standing or sitting for prolonged periods caused a lot of discomfort!
One of the most enjoyable things about my job is meeting so many interesting people and when you are painting someone for several hours you really get a chance to know them! From hearing stories about their families and how their injuries have affected them to Frank’s absolute love of Game of Thrones!
Despite some of the hurdles that they faced on the painting days everyone was really up for the challenge! Getting a model with a great attitude makes a huge difference on a stressful job and I’m incredibly grateful for all the hard work these lovely men put into each day!!!
I think the dedication and effort put in by the models and everyone involved in the campaign really paid off. As soon as it went ‘live’ the campaign received a huge amount of press coverage, both in national newspapers where it was featured in The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent The Daily Star and numerous regional publications.
We count on them – let’s count them in.
People nationwide are being asked to show their support for the campaign and for more information or to support the campaign please visit the British Legion Organisations’ webpage here.