Nic Shilson is a face & body artists I’m great friends with, and I adore her fiancée Pete too. He is often her model. She started Body Factory Cornwall last year as a gathering of local body-painters, painting whatever they wanted and getting decent photos of it.
That rapidly expanded and this year she was hosting a bunch of painters from across the country.
Jennie & I travelled down together, and talked non-stop the whole way. The journey was fine, notably helped by us squeaking through as they were putting up barriers to close the road alongside Stonehenge for nighttime road works! It was bit scary us hurtling along the deserted road as a huge column of road vehicles came towards us, but we got to Jennie’s lovely cousin Johnny in the small hours.
Johnny was fab – took me on a tour of Cornwall and made sure I got to eat pasties (and fudge – sorry about the hypo scare, guys, but at least it meant I could eat sugary things!!!).
We met up with a bunch of painters near the venue that evening for a pub dinner, then went back to Johnnie’s to fret. I still had only a vague clue – the venue Nic had found was the atmospheric Bodmin Gaol, site of the last hangings in the UK. As usual I did a lot of research as it seemed daft to not take advantage of the history of the place as all photos would be there to.
I eventually found the story of Selina Wadge, an unmarried mother of two. She had a hard life, often having to ask entry into the workhouse to keep them fed, but kept her boys well even though the youngest, 2-year-old Henry, was partially crippled. It seemed she took up with a former soldier and got the idea (whether his or hers) that he would marry her if she got rid of her sickly son. The security that marriage would bring maybe caused her to drown the lad down a well in 1868, although she said her boyfriend did it. Her 6 year-old son John told the poorhouse staff what she had done, and she was eventually condemned and waiting to die in Bodmin. ‘Luckily’ for her the executioner there was experimenting with the ‘long drop’ method, which snapped the criminal’s necks as they dropped, killing them much more humanely than the usual slow strangulation did. She was one of the first to die that way, and the first private execution, but is said to haunt the Gaol still.
Johnny was rather worried, watching me as I cut a stencil to suit the vague ideas I had…. I wasn’t I prefer making it up as I meet the model!
We were painting in the pub which has been built into the centre of the old building, warm and cosy but not much natural light. It was a great day, with lots of idea swapping, shared problem-solving, and giggles. The food we ordered months ago was fab too!
I was painting the stunning Hayley Lanyon, and we had Claire Pick of Illusiondecorating the notorious favourite model of mine, Laurence, beside us. I’d finally made him his Superman-inspired ‘LL’ t-shirt (for lovely Laurence as whenever I paint him people seeing the pics just say, oo who’s he? Laurence? Lovely!). But I changed it to “LL BodyModeL. Jennie was trying her first solo body paint, on her soon-to be sister-in-law, a Tim Burton theme, and did really well.
I had cut a stencil of the main parts of a few words in elegant script, as I am rubbish at neat handwriting, and I used that to help create the words “1878, 8 feet into eternity’ on Hayley’s chest.
This was to symbolise the date of her death, and the height of the drop on the rope that killed Selina. I added the uneven stone block walls beneath it, over hand-cut breast covers, leading down to a devilish mask and flaming subterranean underworld on her knickers and legs. I stuck to a few colours, mainly reds and yellow, using mostly Grimas and Diamond FX paints.
On her back I only had time to do a fast impression of the poor son staring up at sunlight from his well. I added dripped black eye makeup and a rope around her neck, then embellished everything with some fine lines of glitter tattoo ‘blood’ to show the gruesome history soaked into the walls, using the bottles and tip I sell. A vaguely Victorian hairdo with a bird wing, and done!
We were supposed to find the 4 official photographers who were each set up in different locations around the site. Some artists had even ordered in amazing props – check out the spiked Harley!
We did find 3 photographers, but whilst waiting for the 4th, the very brave & patient Hayley got the shivers. We were down in a dungeon-like part of the building underneath where we had painted. I got chills too so we gave up and didn’t get those shots – only to find out later we’d been stood by Selina’s last cell!
We had to clear up fast as there was a private party setting up, and all retired to the main bar to relax. To my amazement, I won! Huge thanks to Nic, the sponsors and everyone involved.