Body & face painting artist, Ashley Pickin shares her tips of the trade.
What got you interested in body painting and when did you first try it?
I think that I first got into body painting like most of the other face and body painters that I know, I was volunteered for it. I'm an art major at Old Dominion University and when you're an artist, everyone assumes that you will want to do anything and all things artistic for them. So for a local parade about four years ago, someone handed me a face painting kit and said, "here, you can draw!". Then I started doing it for tips at a local restaurant and then I found the whole indie world of face and body painting, and I've been really involved in it ever since!
Who do you usually paint?
I very rarely paint my friends! I wish that I could paint them more often though because so many of them are really beautiful. Most of the time though, I paint children. Children's birthday parties are my bread and butter, and I love them to death. But, I really get excited when I get the call to do a body painting on an adult. Adults sit so still and they offer a much bigger canvas and a chance for me to really get creative.
Who do you practice on?
I don't really practice on anyone. Every once in a while I'll practice on myself, but I don't paint myself very often. I'm near sighted and it's difficult to get the details on my face without knocking the paint brush into the mirror over and over. For practice, I mostly use a dummy head to paint on, or I just draw designs out on paper.
What designs are your favorites?
I love, love, love to paint abstract designs, that we in the face painting world call Beautiful Nothings. They are made of swirls and curls and squiggles and I'm really into bright colors and glitter. Glitter makes everything better. The most unusual thing I ever painted.... It's not really an unusual design, but an unusual gig. Once I was hired to face paint all of the staff at a bar as Kiss characters because they had a band called Mini Kiss playing that night. Every member of the band was a little person, and I have to say that it was a surreal experience.
For what kind of occasions could someone get painted up like this?
Gosh, I paint all year long. I paint at bar/bah mitzvahs, cocktail parties, malls, festivals, trade shows, convention centers, daycares, craft shows, birthday parties, bars, clubs, baby showers (belly painting,) weddings, cinco de mayo, Easter egg hunts, Christmas parties, Purim parties, sweet sixteens.... you name it, and I've probably painted at it. Of course, I love Halloween because I really get to do the creepy stuff, which is a lot of fun.
What tools and paints do you work with?
I really want to take this opportunity to say something about face paint. Face paint is not actual paint! It is water based, cosmetic makeup which is approved by the FDA for use on skin. I see a lot of folks out there that use acrylics on kids faces, and that is a terrible thing to do. There are a lot of people who are allergic to acrylic paint, and there is a chance that they could have a bad reaction. There are a lot of great face paint products that can be easily purchased online, and some are relatively cheap. Okay, I'm off of my soap box now. When I'm out painting, I like to a variety of brands of face paint. My favorites are Wolfe FX, Fantasy World Wide, Paradise, Fardel, Kryolan, Ben Nye, and Mehron. I apply most of the makeup with sponges and paint brushes, though some of it can be used through an airbrush, which is also a lot of fun.
Do you design on paper beforehand, create stencils or do you make the designs up as you go along?
Most of my body paintings I make up as I go along. Sometimes I'll do a quick sketch beforehand just to get an idea of where to place different parts of the design. When I do airbrushing I make stencils and then outline the designs by hand with a paintbrush. I keep a scrapbook of ideas and sketches and design ideas. It's a great thing to look through when I'm trying to come up with new designs.
Do you have any tips or advice for someone who wanted to try this at home?
Sure! Try it, it's fun. I recommend first and fore most, that you should get professional makeup. It's safer, and it just looks and handles way better than the cheap stuff. You can go to websites like profacepaint.com or sillyfarm.com to order some. I also suggest joining one of the online forums to meet up with other local painters. Go to a face painting jam, or if you can afford it, a convention. There is a ton of free information online, the Snazaroo website has a TON of free contests, photos, and a great FAQ section that will answer almost any question that you can think of. You can also contact me through my website or my blog and I'll help you out the best way I can.
Why not give this a go for yourself with Ashley's how-to for Mardi Gras Face Painting.