Learning to Body Paint in 30 days 

Three weeks ago at the beginning of August I received an email in my inbox from The Living Art Show with information about their upcoming Body Painting Competition at the MuI Wui festival in Suffolk. I fired an email back asking if I could take part and before I could even think about what I had actually signed myself up for I had earned myself a place in the competition.

First of all let me start by saying I am not a body painter nor have I ever had enough body painting experience to consider myself one. I have assisted on a couple of body paints in my time and I had been to the Living Art Show before to do their social media for them back in my PR days but I had never actually done a solo body paint on my own, let alone taken part in something like this.

I’ve been dying to get more involved in body painting since becoming a makeup artist and I’ve been slowly working towards the goal of being able to join the MAC body painting team. I felt like taking part in the living art show would be the push I needed to actually start practising and by the end of it I would of done a complete solo body paint.

Once the reality of what I had done sunk in I had to find a model. Believe it or not finding someone to do this is a bit of a challenge because your asking someone to give up an entire day of their time to stand up half naked in front of a few thousand people to be painted for 8 hours, which is quite a big favour to ask someone!

Thankfully my friend Sam came through for me and agreed to do it and I was met with a sweet sweet relief that this was one aspect I wouldn’t have to stress about. However Sam is on a flight back from Stockholm on the Friday which is the day we were supposed to set off so we can be there prepped and ready on Saturday morning to begin the competition. So I now need to get Sam from Stansted airport on Friday night when she lands at 11pm to my house in London and then to Suffolk by 8am on Saturday morning to prepare for something I am completely unprepared for. I have to hope that her flight arrives on time and that we don’t get stuck in traffic on the way there Saturday morning. Did I mention that neither of us drive?

Ever the optimist.

I mentioned to my Dad that an airbrush would be handy but I have never actually used one properly before and I didn’t own any equipment for it. My dad decided to spontaneously buy me one for the occasion because he reckons he could teach me how to use one as he is a car paint sprayer and uses them all the time. If you haven’t realised already by now I like to over complicate my life and set myself unrealistic challenges so between me and my dads free time we had approximately one morning together so he could help me with this and the rest was down to me. No pressure.

The theme for this years body paint was cabaret and I immediately wanted to do a candy skeleton show girl complete with flowers and roses with a head to toe skeleton.

I’ve done a skeleton face paint a couple of times before but never a full skeleton body paint and I had never actually painted flowers or roses either but once my mind is made up there is no going back. I did get asked if I thought I had the skill level to do this and I thought about that for a second and realised that I probably didn’t but I was confident that I would learn and be able to teach myself and it will turn out like the masterpiece I imagined. Hopefully.

But first things first I needed to learn how to use my trusty airbrush. I say trusty lightly as Dad got it off eBay for less than £20 and I was hesitant that it would even work let alone work to a good standard. My dad took me along to his workshop so I could practise using my new spray gun on an old car door he had laying around. I expected to just turn up and casually start spraying some flower shapes or squiggles but Dad had bigger plans for me and I ended up sanding/ prepping and priming my door so I had a fresh surface to paint on. This would also give me practise using an industrial size spray gun because apparently if I learnt to use one of those effective then a teeny tiny one would be easy peasy.

Turns out I was a bit of a natural (flicks hair) and once I had baked my door (see above where I am standing in a giant car oven) I was ready to paint using my dodgy  little spray gun. I like to always read instructions on these things first but seeing as they were all written in Chinese I decided to maybe skip that step and just go for it. The little spray gun was actually way harder to use than I anticipated because it didn’t work properly and I found it difficult to paint in detail. I honestly thought it would be a lot easier to use than it actually was. I had a vision of this beautifully painted door with flowers and swirls that looked all cute and pretty but it ended up looking more like a vandalised car door that had been ripped off and left outside a rock show.

Additionally, my dad deemed my gun unusable because of the amount of excess splatter it produced and I actually ended up using his couple hundred pound state of the art airbrush instead. I hinted at borrowing it for my show but dad doesn’t trust me not to break it so he assures me he will find me another one I can use on eBay which doesn’t fill me with too much confidence but greatful for his help and dedication to finding me a good airbrush I leave it in his hopefully capable hands.

I felt a bit deflated after my first airbrush attempt and spent the next two weeks procrastinating and pretending I had more time than I did. When I finally did kick myself in to gear I decided to have a go at painting some flowers (see above). I actually used a diamond fx split cake for the one stroke effect and I feel like it turned out pretty well. Perhaps I’m better with a paintbrush than an airbrush?

Feeling a little more optimistic about my artistry I decided to give airbrushing another go with another new airbrush gun. This too also came from eBay but I just had a good feeling about this gun when I saw it. It has a bottom feed which I think is better for me for body painting and it came with a new compressor which seemed to work a lot better than the previous one. I had a little practise on top of some fishnets to see if it was any good, turns out it is!

This is the only practise I have had with this though and I’m not going to pretend I am now a competent airbrusher because I am definitely not! But I hope this will be just enough to be able to wing it on the day.

And my very last practise piece I did was this pretty poor corset interpretation so fingers crossed I don’t do anything like this on the actual day! I am the sort of person that learns from making mistakes so I’m praying that everything will go right when I’m there. But if not I need to remember why I am doing this and there’s nothing like a motivational quote from my good friend and model Sam;

“This is meant to be a boost for you, not a test of skill but a way of improving your skill”

Wish me luck! I need lots of it!


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