This was an unusual booking; the client wanted ‘walkabout’ mobile painting at an outdoor event in Bath’s Southgate Shopping Mall.
I did a few mobile gigs when I lived in Hong Kong about 11 years ago, walking up to decorate guests at dinner tables or around in bars, and they never seemed as successful (to me) as when I have my kit set up on a table with a tall client chair. But I have done a few since then, so it can be done, but I had a think on a new kit setup…
I used to have the Snazaroo walkabout ‘ kit wheel’ which you gripped in one hand, but found that too heavy and cumbersome. Plus you really need both hands free, one to work, one to steady/ rest on the customer as standing people are even more likely to wibble about than seated!
So, I created a walkabout kit that fitted into an old face paint bag I converted into an apron, with a few extra bits. Not the most stylish but handsfree and pretty comfy apart from when I dropped it all at one point! I’ll tweak it a bit before the next booking as some things I ordered to make it didn’t arrive in time…
Basically its 2 of the magnetic panels I use in my face paint kit, taped together, taped onto 2 of the Ikea pots I sometimes use as brush holders which fitted tightly into the ‘apron’ pocket.
The paints (mainly one strokes and mini black, white & skin tones) I already have with magnets on their bottoms, so they sat nicely on the panels. The new Pixie gels I’d decanted into bottles that sat tip down in a nail varnish holder inside one of the Ikea pots, with space for brushes in the middle. A bag of sponges, a ring of stencils (I didn’t use either in the end) and a facecloth clipped onto the apron and my water spray & glitter were in a side pocket.
Helen’s red snazaroo wheel & my kit as we warmed up hands with hot mochas before the start!
I’d got the lovely Helen hired too, (she ended up with a tired arm from her Snazaroo wheel) so we arrived to find that it was outside and a bit chilly… a special Student Shopping Night promo in the Southgate Shopping Precinct. Its funny as I do lots of student club body art/ face painting bookings but sober, ready-to-shop students were very different! We started by working down the huge entry queue and did eventually have our own little queues going.
I stuck to using the new Pixie Cosmetic glitter gels around simple eye abstract or flowers as that is what most people wanted. All the stencils and extra paints I had squeezed in were not needed! Various acts and stalls were set up and the Scare crew from Avon Valley Wildlife & Adventure Park kept making clients jump, but we wanted to follow around their evil clown as he had a real flamethrower which was cosy!
The kit worked reasonably well but I need to re-think the brush holder being under the paints – my fingers got horribly messy as I kept having to grab the brushes by their painty tips to reach them. I have an idea for a brush holder for next time…
Not many photos as we were so busy & it was dark, but an interesting evening!
Well as usual Spooky Season is very VERY busy with me trying to fill as many bookings as possible.
For once I change my costume and was a Star-Wars dressed (my mum adapted the skirt from a lovely dress I found) Day of the Dead sugar skull. I made the flower headdress myself and created sleeves from fancy socks…
I’d left home early for a private face paint booking in Bath, then by 12 was setting up at the ‘Big Fish Little Fish” Family Rave to offer face paint & body art to the children and parents there.
Last pic of my work is from their website
I’d been asked to do a ‘menu board’ as that is what was usually offered at their events, and loved the FAB Wipeable Boards Sarah sells for this. The light wasn’t fab & I was too busy to take many photos but it was a great and very busy event.
Once finished I packed up and drove to Mambo’s Taunton – getting held up in RTA Traffic on the motorway I dashed my kit through the town to get set up on time. I had to re-do my kiddy-friendly sugar skull face as I’d messed it up in my dash.
Mambos’ had Katie Price (once aka Jordan) DJ’ing in their VIP lounge and a huge Voodoo Party going on – the decorations were fab. The staff had gone all out with costumes and some really got into their look! Even though I was painting outside, it wasn’t actually nippy until about midnight which was great. LOADS of sugar skulls requested, I’m glad to see that culture finally overtaking the vindictive Trick or Treat styles.
I also saw a lot of the usual awful stuff smeared on (cheap paints are pointless – hard to get on, impossible to make look good, often impossible to get off too even if they don’t look bright on!) but some pretty amazing DIY efforts too.
Sunday I had another party but can’t post the pics up of course, shame as there were some fun ones!
Hope you all had a fab time!
This is the 3rd? time Paintopia has been to Professional Beauty North Manchester, and the 7th? Professional Beauty/ Warpaint Magazine event we have been honoured to work at. It is a huge show full of stalls promoting all sorts of beauty and spa products and courses, from nail art to fake tan, teeth whitening, uniforms and massage. This year it also included a hair expo, all held in the lovely converted Manchester Central convention venue.
I’d changed my mind on the train up so did my usual awful scribble (made worse by the train I say!) to text to Jennie & Grace. They had no idea what I was on about so after my annual cocktail at the PBNorth welcoming party, I sat down slightly tipsy with one of the wipeable bodyboards Jennie & I designed that she sells and painted it properly.
The 2 day event always runs from a Sunday. That first day Jennie & I usually bodypaint a demo model, following the same theme as the competition that we will judge on the Monday. We also do an onstage demo/ workshop. This time as the theme was USA, we decorated Gracie Bodypaint Model as our ‘American Pride’.
I had borrowed the amazing headpiece Jenny Marquis built for Gracie when they came 2nd in the Professional BodyPainter of the Year Category at Paintopia this year (her Gangs of New York paint for Paintopia’s Urban Jungle weekend).
So, we did Gracie’s face and neck as the Statue, mainly in Cameleon Celadon and Inkheart, which Jennie had to spend ages blending whenever I added or changed wrinkles on it.
Then I went on with a (very grumpy looking, sorry!) American Bald eagle over her chest. Its feathers I mainly one-stroked with Cameleon “Buzz” colorblock. I stencilled a hint of Native American dreamcatchers behind the eagle to denote the original americans who so revered wildlife.
On her lower half we went for a simple but sometimes badly-done and often requested paint; fake jeans. Jenny based in a pearly blue and then one-stroked on seams which I creased, highlighted and shaded. We thought the audience might like to see that as part of our demo, so didn’t finish off the legs to be able to continue them onstage.
I dyed my finger tips their usual blue by outlining everything in Cameleon Inkheart (my fave bluey-purple) whilst Jennie did clever things with lashes and the headpiece. A quick advert for the bodypaint stage shows on her back, and off we went. Some cabuchons for eagle eyeballs and Kryolan gems for jean-studs, then a few little freehand glitter tattoo highlights using the fine-tipped glue bottles and cosmetic adhesive I sell were the finishing touches.
Onstage I have no recollection of what we talked about; I know I made several ‘rips’ on the jeans to be a bit like the stars & stripes, but we didn’t finish off Gracie’s legs. By the end of our slot it was getting towards the close of day 1 so we went to get photos in the sales hall and outside. I have to say it is the best reaction to any of our paints we have had.
Everyone thought the ‘top’ was fab but didn’t realise the jeans were fake – Gracie had to keep moving the waistband of her knickers to show the paint line. One lady actually welled up which was a first.
It was also the warmest PBNorth we have been to, so after we packed up Gracie decided to walk back to our Melia Innside hotel in her paint, which gave us some fab photo ops!
We saw several cars circled back so they could film her, and a coach-load of oriental tourists were overjoyed and waving/ snapping pics like mad.
We headed to a location with interesting architecture we had found last year to get pics, and were lucky enough to be approached by a bunch of Instagram Photographers having a meeting!
Result!… headshot mikeycolebourne, blurred background JS_Spring, archway AndrewYee
Monday we had an interesting time judging the student and professional bodypaint categories. We were delighted that out of a large number of other competitors in assorted makeup and special FX genres, our winning Professional Artist, Cheryl Howes, won the overall top Professional award with her elegant Art Deco USA work on Debbie. Plus our winning student Emily Smith won the ‘Rising Star’ award as one to watch! She was amazing and so was her lovely dad who’d let her glue him into a fantastic home-made beak to be a bald eagle as part of her USA paint.
Huge thanks to Emma, Ali and Debs of Warpaint and all the lovely judges, we need to meet up more often!
Sun July 17th 2016
Much sooner than I hoped it was time for Art Couture Painswick (ACP) again- I’d been busy away painting nearly every day for 8 days, and with a sick toddler hasn’t finished the props I wanted to make for it.
ACP is a stunning biennial event in the scenic Cotswold town of Painswick. Streets are closed for the day and filled with food and craft stalls, whilst competitors in a range of categories wander the 10,000 crowds in the clothing and headgear they made from unusual objects.
Angela Youngs in her 2016 creation
The main stage catwalk and judging (by celebrity/ industry experts etc) is set up in the historic churchyard with its 99 yew trees.
Photo by Tony Cook
I have been lucky enough to paint in the body art category every year since that was included. In 2012 I placed 3rd with my “Comedy Queen’ about UK TV comedies for the ‘Celebrating Britain’ theme.
The following year, again on model Laurence Caird, my Victorian Magic Man depicting stage magic & automatons from the 1800’s, won the Body Art 1st place!
This year the Body Paint Category’s theme was ‘Food For Thought’, so I based my design on plastic pollution in the ocean and how if affects sea-life which in turn affects our food-chain. I planned a huge neck ruff of recycled bottles, etc, but it wasn’t looking quite as I wanted. Its a bit tough to design things like that without the actual model to fit it too, and as the lovely Grace (god-mum of my toddler) was based in Norwich & I’m now in Bath, I wasn’t seeing her before the event. Or I needed the shop dummy to fit my props to that I typically sold when we moved to Bath as we didn’t have the space! But I liked the bottle-jellyfish I’d made.
We had to send in a statement about the artwork in advance, so this was mine – actually sent in a few weeks before, unusually for me, so I had a brief to paint to if not an actual design plan!:
“Plastic Soup/ All the Fish in the Sea
Only 5% of plastic is recycled, 1/3 escapes into oceans, a lorry full per minute. By 2050 plastic will outweigh any fish in the sea.
Marine creatures starve as it fills them, or strangle in netting and 6-pack rings. Bags look like jellyfish underwater, so if turtles catch one, their special throats, evolved to stop jellyfish escaping, mean they have to keep eating it.
Albatross eat fish eggs on floating objects. Toothbrushes, lighters, sanitary waste – all stuffed dead albatross chicks.
Ocean currents collect ‘plastic soups’ millions of kilometres wide, 5 swirling rubbish patches twice the size of Texas. The sea bed, Earth’s last frontier, is coated in tiny plastic particles.
Boyan Slat’s cleanup system, a floating barrier passively collecting rubbish for recycling, launches in 2020. But we need to stop plastic ending up in our oceans if we want to keep our seas and ourselves alive.”
Grace & Jennie stayed overnight at my mums’, then followed me over to Painswick far to early on a lovely sunny morning. One of the kind ACP volunteers jumped into my car to direct me to the competitors carpark, and luckily I bumped into a bunch of other painters who had already dropped off their kit who helped cart my stuff to the hall beside the Art Couture Gallery.
We had so much space to set up in- luxury! And ladies offering cups of tea etc.
I set up my kit, and as the briefing went on started attempting to add rollers and plastic flotsam to Gracie’s hair, which was allowed before the official start. The rules are only professional cosmetic products, only a small % of stencilling or prosthetics, and 6 hours with a compulsory break in the middle.
At 9.30 we started painting and I began to kabuki on colours in Cameleon white, yellow and celadon. I hate yellow so am trying to use it for once! I shaded the white neck / face with the Kryolan lustre powders in white & blue, dry (as they can be used wet).
We were closed to the public for the 1st few hours, out of respect for the models and to let artwork cover over underwear etc (even though all models wear underwear and female models have breast covers on) but I made sure I had blended colours on Gracies back too before the doors opened.
The turtle in yellow, orange, bollywood pink, purple & inkheart blue, I based on several photos I found on the internet and a bit of memory from living in Belize. From then until the lunch break we chatted to extremely interested public as I painted.
After snacks / lunch we started again but sadly I’d not switched on the plug so my camera ran out of battery & stopped taking time-lapse pics. I had planned to paint or make paper netting strangling the turtle but Gracie held a poll with the public and they decided I wasn’t allowed to! I did love the turtle too so I left that out.
On the back I painted a whale & baby and a colourful, healthy reef. I added freehand glitter tattoos over the abstract bobbly layer I had painted around her shoulders (to represent the layer of plastic shapes) and decorated that with glitters from Facade and Kryolan.
Her face I re-used some zombie paste prosthetics I had sculpted when Gracie was being Sc’Ariel at the Prosthetic Event last year. I added flat-back pearls and some heat fused film and then added more pearls and recycled plastic to her hair
I stopped painting about an hour early, after the public were ushered out, as I knew I would be a while sorting out the not-quite finished props.
After a lot of messing about we decided the bottle-ruff was too bridal if worn over Gracies head, and too awkward if worn on her shoulders. I also ended up ditching the isis wings, and stuck to the jellyfish, gems and beads, all made of plastic bottles or recycled from ornaments etc. It gave a slightly netted/ dancer effect tangled around Gracies arms and neck, but I loved it. Sadly (?) it was so sunny the glowsticks inside the jellyfish weren’t visible outside the hall though.
We all trooped out into bright sunshine to applause from the waiting public which was fantastic.
Following Paul who was once again our charming cheeky Town Crier, all body artists took their models through the streets and across the churchyard to the photo rooms for official shots. Grace & I then took a few photos and she posed for the public in the churchyard.
The models were then presented onstage whilst our design statements were read out.
Whilst judges deliberated, and the other category awards were given, Paul took most of the models (some couldn’t walk too far due to the heat or uncomfy shoes or props) on a tour of the churchyard, streets, and finally the main road.
I really loved this paint and was a bit over-excited through the whole day. I’m so happy that it turned out like I had imagined (and that now it is out of my head I will sleep a bit better!).
Huge thanks to all the staff, sponsors, volunteers, organisers, the hugely appreciative public, and of course my genius model Gracie! Also my mum who wrangle my 2 boys (the toddler being hot & sticky & awkward!) all day….
I will add a timelapse etc video when I finish it…
I’d been invited up to do a quick demo body paint at Art Couture Painswick as the BBC wanted to film a time-lapse to promo the vent on their social media. None of the usual models were available at such short notice mid-week, but luckily Sally the ACP Body Art Co-ordinator had the details of a member of the public who’d been so impressed by the photos in the ACP gallery he volunteered his body!
I drove up on the 1st sunny day we had had in ages, and met Libby (the director, who rather marvellously had the winning paint I did on Laurence at ACP 2013 on her business cards ), Sally, Bob the model and Hayley from the BBC.
As I’d only had a couple of days notice and was painting every day that week, I had made a quick stencil of the ACP name & date, and that was about it.
I wanted to depict all the themes for the different categories as well as advertise ACP so designed a slightly circus/ festival themed ‘poster’ on Bob’s torso, with rainbow rays coming out behind it. Clouds blended the white poster into this colourful background to represent ‘flight’, areas of cogs and machinery were for ‘Moving Parts’, green leaves meant ‘Food For Thought’, the body art category, orange brickwork and ‘splats’ for ‘Graffiti’, and Blue bubbly splooshes for ‘Underwater’.
Bobs neck was bright pink and had the stylised ACP face on it. I finished this off with a circus top hat I made for Grace at the Professional Beauty London Excel paint, but removed the flowers etc to add a colourful ACP flyer to.
Hayley edited it all into this video, and not only was it on BBC Gloucester’s sites,
but national BBC picked it up! Great for ACP and thank you to everyone involved.
I’d got to Paintopia by Tuesday evening to help Jennie & the rest set up.
Wednesday was helping host the Pre-Paintopia workshops with the amazing Madelyn Greco (headdresses) and Maria Malone Guerbaa (animal transformations).
Thursday I was the runner for the brilliant Kryolan masterclass whilst typing up the running order for festival announcements.
Thursday evening, more and more artists and models were arriving for the first ever Paintopia UV Jam. I’ve worked in UV clubs a lot doing small bits on the faces & bodies of clubbers, and done a couple of UV backs on clients, but had never had the chance to do a full UV body before.
The lovely Grace had asked if I would paint her, and then arranged a vague collaboration with a Dutch artist Tanya Hommes and her local model. I’d already thought we’d maybe do something on a Tim Burton theme as grace & I loved his work, and set the Oogie Boogie UV scenes from a Nightmare Before Christmas as our idea.
I’d not had time to sketch and hadn’t done more than print off some reference photos, so started with a giant Oogie Boogie on her front. Her hair was already slicked back with clay from the look by Gemma Horner at the Masterclass, so I decided to attempt a Jack/ moon look on her face.
I kept stopping to do announcements or find things for people, and soon realised I wouldn’t have time to do a full body. I drafted in the fab Jade to fill in the black around my outlines, and cut back my vague plans to get a finished paint on Graces front and legs.
David Cook and the crew had set up the stage Mik painted and it looked amazing.
The UV lighting was super-bright when it came on and the artwork was brilliant. Everyone whooped it up and had a great time, a super way to kick off the festival.
I shot a small timelapse and some videos of it here
I was delighted when TRO, a great PR/ Experiential company I have worked with before (they hire me to paint for a week most springs at a Volvo stand at the Camping & Caravanning expo) contacted me about working for them at the Isle Of Wight Festival.
My lovely friend Jennie Roberts of Paintopia was hired to come as the 2nd artist. That was fabulous as we have hardly seen each other in months, even when at the same events, as I’m always painting and she’s hosting, etc.
The months before, with Paintopia, then IMATS and several other big events, was so busy I hadn’t really looked closely at the booking details until we had met up in Southampton to get on the IOW ferry on Thursday evening. Expecting a B&B or whatever as there weren’t many big hotels, (we knew it wasn’t a tent behind the festival stand), imagine our shock & delight when we drove down to the south of the island, up the longest private drive ever, to see we were staying in a mansion!
We didn’t need the travel kettle Jennie had packed for late night cups of tea at all – fully equipped kitchen, games room, gym, TV room, dining, sitting and play rooms…. Amazing! We met a few of the TRO & BA Staff, and a couple of the DJs, before heading off to bed quite late.
The next morning we got some more directions and headed back to the north of the island, calling in at a supermarket on the way to buy some snacks and lunch to have onsite. Sadly the rest of the crew were held up (taxis didn’t arrive) and couldn’t meet us with the electric golf cart at the staff parking, so we ended up having to haul our gear, including hot and wet weather gear, just in case, for a good 30 minutes. Very thankful we had our trolleys! We passed various parking areas, camp sites, tepee and yurt glamping zones, tent areas and then finally into the festival itself. It all seemed very clean and tidy and I loved that they had sniffer dogs on duty. Thank goodness it was dry – dust I can stand, it would have been impossible in thick mud like Download Fest had that same weekend!
Another 10+ minutes of trekking through the various festival zones and we finally found the huge, intriguing British Airways Arena tent. All you could see was a check-in desk with a queuing system in place, just like in an airport.
The idea was that at the desks, after being asked by real BA air hostesses where you were going and getting a special luggage-tag wristband, you crawled though the luggage carousel and entered a party. A uniformed customs official (a dancer) put you in the body scanner, activated by your wrist band, which took infra-red style photos and videos you could download later, then you walked in through the departures board to see a DJ on top of a pile of suitcases, surrounded by fun free activities.
There was a speakeasy bar where answering destination riddles won a cocktail from that city. A spin-to-win board where prizes ranged from blow-up airplanes to free flights to CapeTown. A ‘selfie’ fuselage, Caribbean massages, a ski-lift photo booth again with downloadable videos & pics & props, and beside that, a Bedouin tent from Marrakesh with free face & body art inside by Jennie & myself.
We had been given lovely kaftan tops to wear, which whilst nice and colourful & cool in the heat, were white… not always the best choice for face painters though!
All with real flight crew in uniform, and a bunch of amazing dancers who constantly changed costume to match different Gatwick BA destinations. It seemed risky – no advertising, nothing to be seen but the check in desk but we loved it.
On Friday we took part in the ‘flight parade’ to drum up interest. All the glam air crew in matching Union Jack Hunter wellies and uniform, guided by all the dancers in ground-crew jumpsuits & high-vis with glowing plane-directing paddles, were walking in formation through the festival handing out some tickets.
Jennie & I were supposed to be quickly painting things on interested people as we passed. We soon realised that even just a stencil & puff of glitter put us miles behind the crew, so were always madly stencilling, glittering then running to catch up. Back to the arena tent and we opened at 4.
The idea was to reward the curious, and oh my goodness did we! The music was fab, we were jigging away as we painted, and the noise when someone won a set of international flights was insane. Jenn and I were flat out, sticking to 3-minute-or-less fast designs, chatting to everyone we painted and asking them to take a selfie, and they all thought the whole thing was amazing.
We were supposed to be painting to match BA destinations, but as they fly everywhere we could and did do just about anything.
Day of the dead sugar skulls for South & Central America, USA stuff (inc film/ hero faces), jungle animals, tropical flowers, snowy things….
The staff finally managed to shut down our queue so we quickly packed away and stuffed kit behind the scenes so our tent area could be used by the public.
The aircrew and dancers still looked immaculate and were working away in a huge happy crowd. We went to find a very late tea, then walked to the far end of the festival to see the last few songs by the Stereophonics.
We were going to wait to see Faithless but were so tired we gave up and started the trek back to the car. We stopped to buy churros- I love them – and for the 1st time were shocked by the giant size of the helpings – we only finished 1 portion, they are usually smaller & shorter! Faithless came on nearly an hour later when we got back to the car, exhausted, so I’m glad we didn’t hang about. As it was, by the time we’d got home, showered, cleaned brushes, stencils & sponges and got into bed, it was after 2 am! The rest of the staff started arriving then too.
Saturday morning we were quite stiff from the unusual working position – the bedouin cushions & settees had looked so nice we had put away our usual chairs for customers the day before, and we felt the difference! We breakfasted by the fish pond on the verandah (!) chatting to some of the crew, which was lovely, and had a short walk around the grounds. After debating getting a taxi in so we had less distance to walk now we didn’t have kit, we decided we might want to pack up after work tonight if we didn’t want to go back into the festival on Sunday. Realising all the bands started after our ferry left on Sunday, we had to do the long walk from staff parking again.
No flight parade this time, but word had got around, so there was an even longer queue to get in all day, as people returned or joined out of curiosity.
By the evening, staff removed one of the luggage crawl-ways so people could just walk in when tagged, which meant more were allowed in, and the party really kicked off.
They had to shut off entry to our facepainting queue a long time before we finished, but there was so much else to do people were OK with that. I also went round when we had cleared the queue with all the pre-glued bling I had made, and stuck that on people who hadn’t been painted.
The photo-booth people very kindly offered to drive myself & our kit back so they could see where to go when they had to pack at 1 a..m. so we trundled through the busy crowds at about 10pm.
By the time we returned to the BA Arena, Jennie & I went off for an amazing Thai takeaway whilst seeing a bit of The Who, after which she charmed some T-shirt sellers into a large discount on festival tops for us.
Then as we had promised, we returned to the BA tent to find the biggest party in full swing. There were even some Who fans we had painted the Who logo on there – they went to watch the band and after a couple of songs decided the BA tent was more fun so came back!!
We met the Dickson Brothers from Kiss FM who were lovely, (and huge heroes of Jennies eldest daughter), and the off-duty staff were all joining in too. We bounced around to their fantastic set with the public & staff until the brilliant ‘shut down‘ (click that for a vid clip) with air hostesses, DJ’s etc showing everyone the exits, emergency safety talk style, and had a lovely lock-in with the large crew for a while. Jennie was even allowed to try on a real air stewardess hat.
By the time we got home and into bed, 1 wee bird started singing. As I mentioned it to Jennie, the whole lot started… been a while since anything except the baby had me still up at dawn!
Anyway we visited my brother-in-law on the way back to the ferry, and filled up with coffee for our drives to different sides of the country.
A totally amazing 3 days… bookings like this are what makes the hard slog ones worthwhile. An amazing event with a brilliant team, we can’t say enough about how good the experience was and are so glad it was so well received, and got into the press.
I’d just moved to Bath (boo – bad timing with Paintopia coming up!) so drove back to Norfolk on Monday night in torrential rain and crashed in Jennies’ office on her very comfy Tim Burton sheets.
The next morning, still in rain, I drove to Kings Lynn to take a booking I’d managed to squeeze in whilst I was up. The WWF-UK had contacted asking if I could create Guido Danielle or Emma Cammack style hand-art on a school they loved working with.
They had hired Anna Lingis to do studio shots of some hand-imals, and I was to do my own launch examples on kids. We agreed on simpler faster designs as I know the exquisite examples they sent me took hours, and didn’t think I or the children would have the patience/ time.
The school was amazing, all decorated throughout with various themes, from Bewilderwood stairs mural to a Hogwarts library – and the headmasters’ hall was entered via a Tardis then became a Dr Who homage!
In the hopes it would brighten we decided to set up under their outdoor eco pod, a sort of large wooden open gazebo (sadly it rained harder). I had a small group of Year 3s to decorate and they set to on their ipads (every pupil gets one) to look up images of their favourite animal, preferably from the endangered list WWF-UK had sent.
I began with a panda on the back of a hand, and was able to chat about the pandas I saw every week with my youngest son when we lived in Hong Kong and had a season ticket for Ocean Park there.
A lot of the time it was so warm that keepers had rigged up ‘refriger-rocks’ that the pandas lay on or hugged to cool off. The kids googled to find out what pandas ate when they couldn’t answer that one.
Next came a snow leopard.
Colin, who was on my Biological Imaging Bsc with me many years ago, became a wildlife film-maker who shot a stunning episode on them, so we chatted about those too. I couldn’t quite recall what eye colour they had& the photos I had varied, so we went yellowish but now I’m thinking blue….
After that I did a mountain gorilla. I knew a bit about them from researching an unused design for the Norwich GoGoGorillas statues I painted for Break Charity/ Wild in Art.
Then a jaguar. I was lucky enough to grow up in Belize near the worlds 1st Jaguar reserve and had read Alan’s book on it. I’ve never seen one wild, just a fresh footprint so new it was still filling with water on a soggy jungle path.
The dolphin was harder; it was an awkward pose to fold in fingers and open the ‘mouth’ but it just about worked. I didn’t want all the pics to be of the back of hands so was trying to be a bit more creative! Again we’d played with wild dolphins in Belize so I could talk about them.
Then I had daft stories about tigers ….
…. and giraffes from when I was the Education officer for Banham Zoo & Africa Alive.
A quick elephant finished off the designs.
By that time we were all wet and frozen as the weather hadn’t improved, so the kids went off to their late lunch.
But very happy to do something so creative and fun that would also be used to help save species.
#WearItWild is on Friday 27th May and we’re challenging you to get creative and #GiveAHandToWidlife.
The photos on here were taken by myself, assorted press and the lovely ladies from WWF-UK.
More press here
Now, when I started this ‘habit’, like many face painters it was my fun hobby and partially funded by my proper day job (running a Nature Reserve as an Education & Visitor Centre/ SSSI).
This was in the days before Facebook when the internet was quite ‘new’ and only 1 face paint chat-site existed. Libraries only had the terribly basic & dated old books by a certain paint company which did not impress me even as a beginner. Pretty much everything was suck it and see, trial and error….
This kind of advice I don’t mind giving out for free as it saves wasting a lot of money. I plan to do a whole series as I am repeatedly getting asked it and don’t always have time to type huge answers especially on my phone.
I don’t bother going on many of the myriad Facebook pages/ chat-sites now, I find it too annoying that a loud % will ignore or shout down any sensible advise/ experience, and declare that they are right despite never having tried it/ their ideas being downright dangerous.
Having always worked for big companies, (the Natural History Museum, 3d Adventure & Education/ Superchoice, The Suffolk Wildlife Trust, etc), I was used to corporate branding, and knew the usefulness of everything being matching and easy to identify. It was also a distraction disguise as a couple of times I had kids who I’d painted at events locally knock on my door asking to be painted, which is not ideal in a child-safety paranoid culture.
So, as my first big successful face had been a self-painted tiger (as in I face-painted it on myself to transform my own face), I went for orange, black & white as my colours.
My marvellous best bud Jake of JP74 created a cute ‘cats-creations’ logo for me in tiger stripes. I had an orange folding table, painted picture frames and a stand with tiger patterns to match, and had black or orange shirts printed up with my logo/ website. I had that photo blown up as a car sticker and orange & black car lettering. And, as at that stage like many beginners I still accepted pay-per-face bookings (where I turn up, charge the public per face and give the organisers a fee), I needed a matching gazebo.
As I worked for a national charity I had already met the wonderful new ‘pop-up’ gazebos that were slowly replacing the old-style slot-in pole ones. So I started researching prices for them.
One of my earliest corporate bookings was painting in a well-known DIY chain. Sadly their colours were orange & black too and I kept getting mistaken for staff! Plus that was the end of my orange T-shirt, I hadn’t realised how badly facepaint stained bright colour shirts before then. Anyway, they had an orange gazebo on sale which I snapped up.
My first day’s work in it showed me how useless it was; I could hardly tell the difference between my colours, and as to blending, I couldn’t see where the colours were on a face let alone blend neatly. (It was also rubbish and broke the 1st time I took it down).
I tried again with the replacement I was given; but no, just look at the tint on my own skin. It did make me start to plan the ergonomic paint layout I now use though, as I realised I had to place paints in a pattern that meant I knew which was which just by where they were, not the colour. That gazebo also broke on 1st take-down so they gave me a green one. Don’t ask – all kids looked like sick zombies in that light even when they were butterflies etc. And it buckled the 2nd time I was putting it up. I even tried a clear ‘greenhouse’ for night-time outdoor bookings – not good for shade of course, and smelly!
Work then invested in their own navy and blue popup gazebos, which taught me those colours were no good to paint/ photo under either… soooooo what to look for?
My colour adventures continued in Hong Kong, as you can see, where organiser had to provide me with shade/ shelter as like most I relied on public transport, and HK is not big on wheel-accessibility either. This is the ‘whitest’ I could get a photo under a green tent and its still not quite right.
After trying a 4 different cream or white popups from various places (1 wouldn’t open when it arrived and the other snapped a pole the first weekend), I listened to my dad ‘always get the best you can afford’ and invested in an expensive professional white one from GalaTents. It was much heavier, much stronger and I could JUST put it up on my own. But it was quality!
It was brilliant – in the end that did me for 4 years of bookings and then was borrowed by family when we emigrated to Hong Kong. I hear it stayed up year round for a while, in windy Norfolk, had lots of use for 2 more years and it was up for a year covering our woodpile when we moved back. Finally a storm flipped it 2 years ago when it was in our garden; the frame was fine but it needed a new canopy. Definitely buy the decent stuff!!! Or get clients to put up a luxury one like this…
However, if you go to any festival/ event, 99% of the tents will be white. And the whites/ cream does get so grubby so fast and isn’t that easy to wash. Ditto any mould stains – very visible.
I then spent 4+ year painting daily, full-time, at a Norfolk visitor attraction.
They went from having me in a treehouse (where many people with kids couldn’t get to me as had buggies – plus do you realise how much big trees sway? Like boats!),
to having me under a large green umbrella (wet & windy)
to giving me shelter walls, then finally, a marvellous, lit, round-a-tree-house with electricity. Still a bit breezy but my fave ‘gazebo’ so far…
I’d love to get a custom coloured tent, or striped, or anything with a random colour mix but those are outside my budget especially now I rely solely on face & body art for my income.
I was then booked by KJ Entertainments to paint alongside her which was fab. I arrived to find they had put up a bright yellow tent and winced. KJ saw and said she knew, she’d had a moment of madness/ forgetfulness when replacing their kit that year and was really regretting it.
Everyone had jaundiced skin even when the sun wasn’t out and we had to take photos outside not under the canopy if we wanted them to look normal, even photoshop didn’t help that much. Spot the diff in the 4 faces- 2 inside, tried to correct with much computer fiddling, 2 outside…
Looking through my archives I realise that even though I did use take a photo of every face (I had my 1st digital camera! – & wanted to be able to email them to clients, have them to see what to practice/ change etc), I deleted nearly all of them as the colours would not go back to reality under the tinted light….
It was KJ who put me onto black as the colour of choice, she was going back to that with her next tent.
So, I tried a smaller black tent. Until now I’d had 3mx3m gazebos, which TBH was more space than i needed and cost more at events charging by size of pitch. I found a 2.5 m (cheapie) popup in black on Ebay and thought I’d try it. KJ was right – its great to paint in.
So far it has done multiple VW festivals (most in mud & rain, 1 in a scorching hot dry & dusty range of fields), massive music festivals and several smaller occasions.
It didn’t feel too hot inside and many commented on the coolness of its shade at the dusty week, whilst I painted with the sides rolled 1/2 down watching the white tents around me turn brown with the dust. Mine stayed looking smart and still stood out from the pale crowd.
The big Beautiful Days fest was a total washout with torrential rain and much mud; we actually squished in 3 painters as the other one bringing a gazebo couldn’t make it in the end, on a 2 way slope, not an ideal pitch!
But even in horrible weather we could see to paint apart from when big thunder clouds had people switching on head torches- but that wasn’t just in our tent, they put on the ‘street’ lighting too as it was so dim!
Sooooo, although there are a huge range of colours now available in a huge range of popups now, listen to the old hands; unless you invest in some lighting systems (more expense & awkward to get charge/ power plus some fest won’t let none PAT tested things be plugged in, etc); unless you are an excellent photoshopper/ don’t take pics, painting in most coloured gazebos is difficult and most photos will be useless.
Stick to white, cream or (my personal fave), smart dirt-hiding black! And go for the most professional-weight one you can – it lasts longer (many of the cheapies don’t last 2 trips out),and it is heavier so less likely to flip (I have seen that happen a lot).
Tip: DO Invest in at least heavy-duty tie-down kit & leg weights, either the bags that hold litre bottles per leg (I get cheap spring water/ soft drinks & drink them through the event, replace with non-drinking water if that is all that is available), or the screw-together plastic ones that hold water/ sand. Etc. Many events now insist/ check your gazebo is properly secured, there have been too many accidents/ scares with gazebos taking off ( I have seen it many times, not fun). the flimsy cords most come with are like tooth-floss holding back an elephant and pointless. I have changed the thin lines with stronger UV/ day-glo cords too as well as weights and tie-down straps, with heavy duty ‘screw-in’ ground pegs. All helps!