Our skin covers and protects our bodies. Few people realize that it serves another equally important purpose – that of a living canvas for our noble expressions of creative art. Since the beginning of time, humanity have used our bodies as a natural inspiration for both design and interpretation. We decorate it to share our own messages and stories, both fact and fiction. We use it to caution and warn, to amuse and to frighten or to beautify for the admiration of others
Body painting or body art has been around for hundreds of generations across the globe by almost every culture under the sun. It has been used for battle and for worship, for celebration and for rites-of-passage, for protection and for death rituals. Its uses both are and were as varied as are the experiences of life.
Before anyone scoffs and dismisses this as simply primitive, think about our current use of make-up. Cosmetics are a major industry today and billions are spent annually by women, and some transgenders, who would rather die before venturing out in public view without applying them. The use may be for a different reason but the concept (decoration) remains the same.
Some body painting creations assume the similarities of an artistic masterpiece and let us all know that it is most assuredly not a self-portrait (painted by the body wearing it). These creations clearly earn the honor of a copyright in and of themselves. When I see one of these, I can only stare in total envy and the unasked, and always unanswered, question is: “Who painted you?”
Some of the body masterpieces aren’t that difficult to understand. Above, with the appropriate accessory (apple), the temptation in the Garden of Eden is obviously discernible. Both the message (biblical) and the art is easy to interpret without too much thought. Again, my underlying question remains: “Who painted you?”
No one is that talented and skilled that it could possibly be done by the man who’s body also serves as the canvas. Even with the use of a mirror the artistry simply isn’t humanly possible! The body paint would smear before it had time to dry.
Anyone thinking about painting themselves for Halloween, or having a friend paint you, is advised to make a sketch of what you imagine yourself beforehand. This gives you an idea of what you need to do (if painting yourself) and most importantly, it gives your friend (if someone else is painting you), an idea of the task ahead. This is only fair and hopefully prevents any last-minute disappointments or surprises.
If your self-appointed artist isn’t a professional, not to worry. They’ll do the best that they’re able. Just remember not to initiate an argument while they’re concentrating on following your design. Body artists don’t grow on trees, you know. If a friend is painting you for free, be gracious and above all, be patient!
Author’s Note: Be a realist. Rarely does anything we mentally envision, sketch on paper and then attempt to create on our body ever match perfectly. Our bodies and paper are two entirely different surfaces.
For the first time amateur body painter, especially if you’re painting yourself, abstract is probably the best suggestion to offer. Avoid intricate details and focus instead on bold colorful as opposed to creating a visual arts masterpiece. Remember KISS (keep it simple, stupid). It’s only Halloween and not an art show. Afterwards, you want to go out and live your life, not having your bare body as a permanent exhibit at the Louvre Museum.
Before painting your body, there are a few body preparation techniques to consider. Thoroughly clean your face and body before painting. Skin pores need to be opened (using warm water serves this purpose) and exfoliated. Take extra care to rinse off all soap and any soapy residue. Keep in mind that facial skin is more delicate than our body skin.
Once the skin is completely dry, follow-up by applying a light skin moisturizer – one that is easily absorbed into the layers of the skin. Remember, the skin needs to breathe, too! A thick, heavier lotion isn’t necessary here. You don’t want the skin to be so slippery or so greasy that the body paint moves around, is runny and doesn’t adhere to the skin surface. Allow the moisturizer time to be absorbed into the outer layers of the skin – at least 20 minutes.
Bare practitioners particularly body painting creations as a Halloween costume. It allows us complete body freedom (no clothes, no costume) while being our natural selves. Body painting probably doesn’t conceal our true identity as costumes and masks but anonymity isn’t as important to us as adults or as naturists/nudists. The fun aspect for us is in the act of painting our natural canvas – our bodies.
Happy body painting!