Body painting, or sometimes bodypainting, is a form of body art. Unlike tattoo and other forms of body art, body painting is temporary, painted onto the human skin, and lasts for only several hours, or at most (in the case of Mehndi or "henna tattoo") a couple of weeks. Body painting that is limited to the face is known as face painting. Body painting is also referred to as (a form of) "temporary tattoo"; large scale or full-body painting is more commonly referred to as body painting, while smaller or more detailed work is generally referred to as temporary tattoos.
Body painting in human evolution
Joseph Jordania recently suggested that body painting, together with dancing, loud group singing, rhythmic stomping and drumming on external objects, was designed by the forces of natural selection as the means to reach the specific altered state of consciousness, battle trance through the ritualized activities. In this state group members were losing their individuality and were assuming a shared collective identity, where they were losing the feel of fear and pain and were fully dedicated to the group interests. This state was crucial for physical survival of the hominids in order to defend them from predators after they shifted from the relatively safe trees to more dangerous ground. As the first instances of the use of painting materials (ochre, manganese dioxide) by human ancestors predates the first cave paintings by tens or possibly hundred of thousands of years, some scholars assume that the painting materials were used by human ancestors for painting their own bodies.
Traditional body painting
Body painting with clay and other natural pigments existed in most, if not all, tribalist cultures. Often worn during ceremonies, it still survives in this ancient form among the indigenous people of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific islands and parts of Africa. A semi-permanent form of body painting known as Mehndi, using dyes made of henna (hence also known rather erroneously as "henna tattoo"), was and is still practiced in India and the Middle East, especially on brides. Since the late 1990s, Mehndi has become popular amongst young women in the Western world.
Indigenous peoples of South America traditionally use annatto, huito, or wet charcoal to decorate their faces and bodies. Huito is semi-permanent, and it generally takes weeks for this black dye to fade.
Actors and clowns around the world have painted their faces—and sometimes bodies—for centuries, and continue to do so today. More subdued form of face paints for everyday occasions evolved into the cosmetics we know today.
Modern body painting
There has been a revival of body painting in Western society since the 1960s, in part prompted by the liberalization of social mores regarding nudity and often comes in sensationalist or exhibitionist forms. Even today there is a constant debate about the legitimacy of body painting as an art form. The current modern revival could be said to date back to the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago when Max Factor, Sr. and his model Sally Rand were arrested for causing a public disturbance when he body-painted her with his new make-up formulated for Hollywood films. Body art today evolves to the works more directed towards personal mythologies, as Jana Sterbak, Rebecca Horn, Youri Messen-Jaschin or Javier Perez.
Body painting is not always large pieces on fully nude bodies, but can involve smaller pieces on displayed areas of otherwise clothed bodies.
Body painting led to a minor alternative art movement in the 1950s and 1960s, which involved covering a model in paint and then having the model touch or roll on a canvas or other medium to transfer the paint. French artist Yves Klein is perhaps the most famous for this, with his series of paintings "Anthropometries". The effect produced by this technique creates an image-transfer from the model's body to the medium. This includes all the curves of the model's body (typically female) being reflected in the outline of the image. This technique was not necessarily monotone; multiple colors on different body parts sometimes produced interesting effects.
Joanne Gair is a body paint artist whose work appeared for the tenth consecutive year in the 2008 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She burst into prominence with an August 1992 Vanity Fair Demi's Birthday Suit cover of Demi Moore. Her Disappearing Model was part of an episode of Ripley's Believe It or Not!.
Body painting festivals
Body painting festivals happen annually across the world, bringing together professional body painters as well as keen amateurs. Body paintings can also typically be seen at football matches, at rave parties, and at certain festivals. The World Bodypainting Festival in Pörtschach (previously held in Seeboden) in Austria is the biggest art event in the bodypainting theme and thousands of visitors admire the wonderful work of the participants.
Body painting festivals that take place in North America include the North American Body Painting Championship, Face and Body Art International Convention in Orlando, Florida, Bodygras Body Painting Competition in Nanaimo, BC and the Face Painting and Body Art Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Fine art body painting
The 1960s supermodel Veruschka is often cited as being many body painters' muse. Her images in the book Transfigurations with photographer Holger Trulzsch have frequently been emulated. Other well-known works include Serge Diakonoff's books A Fleur de Peau and Diakonoff and Joanne Gair's Paint a licious.
Since the early 1990s body painting has become more widely accepted in the United States, and more and more body artists are beginning to come onto the national community.
In 2006 the first gallery dedicated exclusively to fine art body painting was opened in New Orleans by World Bodypainting Festival Champion and Judge, Craig Tracy. The Painted Alive Gallery is on Royal Street in the French Quarter.
In 2009, a popular late night talk show Last Call with Carson Daly on NBC network, featured a New York-based artist Danny Setiawan who creates reproductions of masterpieces by famous artists such as Salvador Dalí, Vincent van Gogh, and Gustav Klimt on human bodies aiming to make fine art appealing for his contemporaries who normally would not consider themselves as art enthusiasts.
Body painting in the commercial arena
Many artists work professionally as body painters across the world. Their work is seen regularly in television commercials, such as the Natrel Plus campaign featuring models camouflaged as trees. Body painters also work frequently in the film arena especially in science fiction with more and more elaborate alien creations being body painted. Stills advertising also used body painting with hundreds of body painting looks on the pages of the world's magazines every year.
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, published annually, has in recent years featured a section of models that were body painted, attired in renditions of swimsuits or sports jerseys. Sometimes accessories are used such as bows or buttons. Some allege this allows SI to skirt their own no-nudity guideline.
In the 2005 Playmates at Play at the Playboy Mansion calendar, all Playmates appeared in the calendar wearing bikinis, but Playmates Karen McDougal and Hiromi Oshima actually appeared in painted on bikinis for their respective months. In October 2005, the Playboy magazine cover featured a foldout of two models (Sara Jean Underwood and Victoria Thornton) wearing only body paint. The February 2008 cover of Playboy magazine featured Tiffany Fallon body painted as Wonder Woman. These covers and other body paintings done for Hugh Hefner's parties at the Playboy Mansion are created for Playboy by artist Mark Frazier. Michelle Manhart, Playboy model and former Air Force Staff Sergeant, recently posed in body paint for the cover of a 2008 pin-up calendar (published by Operation Calendar).
With the success of body painting, this has led to publications on this art form and also Illusion Magazine which is aimed to painters for all abilities, showcasing work around the world.
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Face painting is the artistic application of cosmetic "paint" to a person's face. There are special water-based cosmetic "paints" made for face painting; people should ask before having face paints applied what products are being used. Acrylic and tempera craft paints are not meant for use on skin and are not acceptable, nor are watercolor pencils or markers. Products not intended for use on skin can cause a variety of issues ranging from discomfort to severe allergic reactions. Just because the product is marked "non-toxic" does not mean it is meant to be used on the skin.
From ancient times, it has been used for hunting, religious reasons, and military reasons (such as camouflage and to indicate membership in a military unit). Recent archaeological research shows that Neanderthals had the capability and tools for face painting; although they are no longer considered a direct ancestor of homo sapiens, they lived alongside them in some areas and it is a reasonable assumption that humanity has painted faces and bodies since the very beginning. Although it died out in Western culture after the fall of the French aristocracy, face painting re-entered the popular culture during the hippie movement of the late 1960s, when it was common for young women to decorate their cheeks with flowers or peace symbols at anti-war demonstrations. The popular TV variety show, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, featured bodies painted with comedic phrases and jokes during transitions.
For several decades it has been a common entertainment at county fairs, large open-air markets (especially in Europe and the Americas), and other locations that attract children and adolescents. Face painting is very popular among children at theme parks, parties and festivals throughout the Western world. Though the majority of face painting is geared towards children, many teenagers and adults enjoy being painted for special events, such as charity fund raisers. Face painting is also a part of cosplay practice, and is enjoyed yearly by people who dress up as zombies to dance with the annual worldwide "Thrill the World" event on the Saturday before Halloween.
There are many kinds of face paint, including:
- Designs that include the emblems of favorite sports teams, cartoon characters, and other designs that are "cute" or otherwise appealing to the young.
- Dramatic designs that appeal to all ages.
- Costuming designs which transform the wearer into someone/something completely different, such as Jack Haley's silver face makeup as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.
- Designs that endeavor to color the face in such a way to indicate solidarity with a cause, usually the outcome of a sporting contest or membership in a group.
Popular face painting designs include:
- Tiger – This design, in most cases, consists of a body of orange and yellow paint, with black stripes painted on. Details include bushy eyebrows and a muzzle or whiskers, alongside a black painted nose.
- Clown – This design, in most cases, consists of a body of white painting. With shapes and features such as a red nose or bright eyes the model is made to take on the features of a circus clown.
- Spider-Man – This is a body of red paint with white eyes and spider-like black patterns on the model's face. Similar to that of the mask worn by Spider-Man.
- Dog – Commonly a dalmatian, this design is white with large black spots on the eyes and cheeks. A black nose is added along with whisker pores. A tongue is commonly added to give the effect of the model panting, similar to that of a dog.
- Butterfly – A design consisting of the body of the butterfly being painted on the nose and the wings added across the cheeks. Wing patterns vary.
- Cat – Many designs may feature under this heading. It could be a plain black tabby cat or a wild leopard. Either way, it usually consists of a neutral body of paint with bushy eyebrows and a muzzle.
It is common to find if someone is dressed in an animal costume, a black nose will be added alone to give the impression of an animal face and not just body. Sometimes, a full face is added or sometimes none at all.
Most theme parks have booths scattered around where a person can have a design painted on their face. A similar activity is the application of "instant tattoos", which are paint or ink-based designs that are put on as one unit and removed by means of water, alcohol, soap, or another mild solvent. More elaborate temporary tattoos may be made using stencils and airbrush equipment.
Use in military
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It is common in militaries all over the world for soldiers in combat scenarios to paint their faces and other exposed body parts (hands, for example) in natural colors such as green, tan, and loam for camouflage purposes.
Use in professional wrestling
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In the late 1980s, American professional wrestler Steve Borden, under the stage name Sting, wore colorful striped face paint as part of his ring attire, in the National Wrestling Alliance and later, World Championship Wrestling. In the mid-1990s, the Sting character was modernized along the lines of Brandon Lee's The Crow, with black and white face paint usually following a pattern similar to that of a scorpion. Upon joining the nWo Wolfpac stable in 1998, the face paint was temporarily altered to red and black.
In 2002, WWE superstar Jeff Hardy began utilizing face paint in different variations. Upon being drafted to WWE's RAW brand in 2002, Hardy began wearing neon or ultraviolet body paint, that would glow in its color under UV lighting placed on the entrance stage. Upon entering TNA Wrestling in 2003, Hardy's face paint took on a more luminous quality, before being quietly retired in 2006, upon his WWE return. In 2008, Hardy resumed using face paint as part of his ring attire. Hardy continues to use face paint as a key part of his act, though he no longer wears it in on-screen non-wrestling segments.
In 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Women's Champion Melina was painted gold with glitter flames and barbwire by artist Mark Greenawalt. She posed with her title belt.
Lately, "glitter tattoos" have been gaining popularity. These are made by applying cosmetic-grade glue (either freehand or through a stencil) on the skin and then coating it with cosmetic-grade glitter. They can last up to a week depending on the model's body chemistry.
Modern water-based face and body paints are made according to stringent guidelines, meaning these are non-toxic, usually non-allergenic, and can easily be washed away. Temporary staining may develop after use, but it will fade after normal washing. These are either applied with hands, paint brush, and synthetic sponges or natural sea sponge, or alternatively with an airbrush.
Liquid latex may also be used as body paint. Aside the risk of contact allergy, wearing latex for a prolonged period may cause heat stroke by inhibiting perspiration and care should be taken to avoid the painful removal of hair when the latex is pulled off.
Manufacturers of widely available professional body and face paint include: Ben Nye, Derivan, Fardel, Grimas, Kryolan, MAC-Pro, Mehron, Smiffy's Make-Up FX, Snazaroo and Wolfe Face Art & FX.
The same precautions that apply to cosmetics should be observed. If the skin shows any sign of allergy from a paint, its use should immediately be ceased. Moreover, it should not be applied to damaged, inflamed or sensitive skin. If possible, a test for allergic reaction should be performed before use. Special care should be paid to the list of ingredients, as certain dyes are not approved by the US FDA for use around the eye area—generally those associated with certain reddish colorants, as CI 15850 or CI 15985—or on lips, generally blue, purple or some greens containing CI 77007. More stringent regulations are in place in California regarding the amount of permissible lead on cosmetic additives, as part of Proposition 65. In the European Union, all colorants listed under a CI number are allowed for use on all areas. Any paints or products which have not been formulated for use on the body should never be used for body or face painting, as these can result in serious allergic reactions.
As for Mehndi, natural brown henna dyes are safe to use when mixed with ingredients such as lemon juice. However, a commonly marketed product called "black henna", is not safe to use because the product has been made by mixing natural henna with synthetic black dyes containing PPD, which can cause serious skin allergies, and should be avoided due to the substantial risk of serious injury. Another option is Jagua, a dark indigo plant-based dye that is safe to use on the skin and is approved for cosmetic use in the EU.
"Hand art" is the application of make-up or paint to a hand to make it appear like an animal or other object. Some hand artists, like Guido Daniele, produce images that are trompe l'oeil representations of wild animals painted on people's hands.
Hand artists work closely with hand models. Hand models can be booked through specialist acting and modeling agencies usually advertising under "body part model" or "hands and feet models".
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Body painting figures prominently in various media.
In 2009, New Zealand national airline Air New Zealand created a television commercial and a safety video, featuring airline staff (including CEO Rob Fyfe) wearing body-painted uniforms. It was part of the company's "Nothing to Hide" campaign, to promote its difference from low-cost airlines with its fully inclusive fares.
- Blacklight paint
- Body art
- Clothing-optional bike rides
- Make up
- Mehndi (so-called henna tattoos)
- Special effects
- Temporary tattoo
- World Body Painting Association
- Joseph Jordania, Why do People Sing? Music in Human Evolution. Logos, 2011
- E.E. Wreschner, R. Bolton, K.W. Butzer, H. Delporte, A. Häusler, A. Heinrich, A. Jacobson-Widding, T. Malinowski, C. Masset, S.F. Miller, A. Ronen, R. Solecki, P.H. Stephenson, L.L.T. & H. Zollinger. 1980. "Red Ochre and Human Evolution: A Case for Discussion" [and Comments and Reply] Current Anthropology, 21, No. 5, Oct. 1980:631-644
- Bednarik, R.G. "The global evidence of early human symboling behaviour". Human Evolution 12, #3:147-168
- Montañez R, Dinhora (2013). Diario del Huila, ed. Body painting, el arte de la poesía corporal: Sobre el trabajo de Mao Mix R. Neiva.
- "Body Painting: History, Origins, Types, Methods, Festivals: Tribal Art". Visual-arts-cork.com. Retrieved 2010-09-10.
- Basten, Fred E. (2012). Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World. New York: Arcade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61145-135-1.
- "Make-Up Illusion by Joanne Gair". Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- "Body Painting: Masterpieces by Joanne Gair". Art MOCO: The Modern and Contemporary Art Blog. 2007-07-22. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- "Joanne Gair: The Art of Illusion". Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- Snazaroo USA Acrylic Paint FAQ Retrieved on 2008-05-26
- Metin Tolan - Geschüttelt, nicht gerührt, Piper Verlag
- "Color Additive Status List". The Food and Drug Administration. December 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- "Summary of Color Additives for Use in United States in Foods, Drugs, Cosmetics, and Medical Devices". The Food and Drug Administration. March 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- "California Proposition 65 Update: Lead Limits for Cosmetic Products". Hong Kong Trade Development Council. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- The Henna Page – PPD Black Henna Retrieved on 2008-05-26