In this industry making good connections is so important and more often than not leads to other opportunities. I did makeup on a fashion photo shoot with an amazing team a while back in Louisville, ky. Like me, our model Melanie Smith is a makeup artist in a haunted attraction. Her makeup manager at her haunt is none other than Aryn Fox from Skin Wars. I was happy to just be doing beauty makeup on Melanie because I don’t feel my body paint is anywhere near as good as Aryn’s work. Granted her style of body paint is just a different style than mine. She is definitely an artist I look up to though.
Towards the end of the shoot Melanie told me about this Gallery Hop that was happening in Lexington, Ky. Three O Studio was doing a nude photography exhibit and wanted to do something a little different to bring people in. They thought a live body painting would go well with the photos they were displaying. Melanie asked if I would be interested in doing the body paint. I don’t know if she waited until meeting me and working with me to ask and see if we got along first or it had just slipped her mind up to that point. I wouldn’t blame her for either. Her having worked with an amazing talent like Aryn Fox was definitely intimidating. With that said painting for a live audience was intriguing.
“I’ve been a body paint model numerous times, and most of them have been live paints. So walking into the studio, knowing that people would be stairing at me during the entire process, was just like another day at work for me. I had also worked with Matt before so I knew we would have a blast.” -Melanie Smith
After talking to Bill Cole the organizer I accepted the job. Other than doing the body paint live there was a huge catch. We wanted photographers in attendance to be able to have some time to shoot the final piece. In doing so I would only have about two and a half hours to complete the body paint live all the while people talking to me and asking me questions. I like a good challenge but I felt I had bit off a bit more than I could chew. I have felt that way before though and I have yet to not have it turn out well.
I was given free reign to paint whatever subject matter I pleased. Being given creative freedom was another reason I was interested in this job. I decided I would go with something abstract. It would be simple yet dynamic. With it being abstract no one would be able to see if anything was wrong because there would be no frame of reference. Not to mention if I screwed up at all I could work it into the finished work. Plus I love doing more abstract type work so I saw it as a win win.
Two days before the event I was sitting on my couch and I just started flipping through a coffee table book I have “Goth-Icky”. It’s a picture book filled with retro pop art Halloween designs by Charles S. Anderson Design Company. If you are a fan of Halloween I highly recommend it. Looking through the art work in the book it struck me. My model Melanie and I both love Halloween and doing something in that theme would be really cool. When I was painting more canvas I did a lot of cell shaded type pop art zombies and monsters so I was excited.
Since it was so late when the pop Halloween idea struck me I slept on it. The next day I starting sketching it out with a yellow high lighter and then refined the sketches with black marker. I would then run the sketches through a copy machine which would not copy the highlighter and leave me with just the black. I just kept doing that process until I got it right. Given the subject matter I knew people would expect more Halloween horror type colors like oranges, reds, purples, blacks and greys. I love all those colors and they were all my first instinct as well so that is exactly why I didn’t want to do it. I chose a kind of bubble gum and cotton candy color scheme using pinks and blues.
Pinks and blues aren’t typically a pallet I work with so I was hoping it would look cool because I had not sketched it out in full color. I talked it over with Melanie when she showed up to the event and she was totally game.
“I loved the concept Matt had come up with. We both work at different haunted houses and have a general love for all things creepy and Halloween. So when he explained we would be doing a vampire-esque paint I was all for it.” –Melanie Smith
Melanie is so easy going I think I could have told her I was going to paint her like a farm animal and she would have been game. I didn't want to use a stencil so I took my drawing of the head which was the right size for her body and I poked some holes in it. I poked the holes in the eyes, the teeth and the windows of the castle. I then placed it on her where I wanted it and painted through the holes on to her giving myself guidelines. Starting with the white and working my way to using the black last was strange in front of a live audience. I knew that the black paint at the end is what was going to pull it all together but the on lookers didn’t know that. It did bother me a little bit when people would show up and leave only seeing the white, blue and pink blobbed on before it really looked like anything. I was very happy with the finished piece and wish the people that left early would have stayed to see it.
“I love modeling paint because I am able to bring life to someone’s work. These artists spend hours on each paint, so I want to be sure to represent that character or theme to the best of my ability. But what was so cool about this paint was that it was already me. This piece had “me” written all over it: from the colors, to the design, to the crazy wild hair. It was so much fun to bring out that side of myself!” –Melanie Smith
I felt it very much fit my personality andMelanie’s as well. She seemed to really like the final look which is what I was going for. I knew if she was happy with it having worked with great artists before me I knew I had done a good job.
Every opportunity no matter how big or small can lead to your next great thing. Weather that opportunity be creative freedom, money, fulfillment or whatever just keep pushing forward. I’m not saying do things you have no interest in but do things out of your comfort zone that challenge and scare you. If you don’t learn or take something away from every gig you do you’re not paying attention.