Face Painting International Magazine
Volume 7  -  July/August/September 2003

Body Landscapes

Article by Mark Greenawalt
Face Painting International Magazine, July/August/September 2003

 The southwest has offered inspiration to countless artists throughout the ages. From the simplistic petroglyphs of the Native American Indians to the colorful Grand Canyon landscapes of modern day oil painters, the southwestern motif has blossomed into a burgeoning genre. But when you think of this style of art, face painting and bodyart may not be the first things that come to mind. They were, however, a significant part of the culture in the earliest recorded history of the region and now, with the advent of readily available theatrical face paint products, there is a resurgence in southwest-themed body art. 

Native American Tribes of the wild west, such as the Navajo and Apache, are often depicted wearing "war paint" to transform themselves to appear fierce. Their paints were made from natural elements such as white, red, and yellow clay, wood ashes, and black shale mixed with animal grease, but they weren't merely used for battle. Faces were painted for religious events and for honoring marriages, births, or deaths of family members. Today, annual festivals are held to celebrate the past where the ceremonial costumes and face painting are once again brought back to life. Symbols and designs used in their cultures are still emulated in contemporary art and architecture. 

Body art in modern popular culture has become more festive and fashionable, much to the chagrin of traditional native cultures who reserved it for sacred ceremonies. As in other parts of the world, face painting booths have sprouted up at all festivals, fairs, and other public gatherings. Of course sporting events are no exception as children of all ages get snakes painted on their face in support of their 2001 World Champion Diamondbacks baseball team. Bodypainting has also made its way into the posh night clubs for themed parties or as promotional events.

What the southwest lacks in wild party locales (such as Key West and New Orleans) it makes up for in world renown art districts (such as Sedona and Scottsdale). Artistic bodypainting images have found acceptance in numerous art spaces and it is not uncommon to find live body art demonstrations at gallery openings. Models are hired to have body murals of southwest scenes painted on their backs (or front torsos) while the onlookers watch the entire process. In fact, some of the more forward-thinking spa facilities offer bodypainting as a specialized treatment for their clients.

With numerous theatrical supply stores located in the larger cities, bodypaint is readily available and all types of artists are intrigued at the thought of working on living canvases. Thus the tradition lives on!

  The article above and the 5 associated pictures were featured in the Jul/Aug/Sep 2003 issue of Face Painting International Magazine.  Marcela Murad, the editor of the magazine had contacted me earlier in the year about contributing an article and some of my artwork in an upcoming issue and this was what I came up with.  Three of the images were completed exclusively for the project and the other two were choice selections from my portfolio.  Every picture tells a story and I have included them below.  I'd like to thank the models (Heather, Alison, Lynnette, Tawnya, and Myla) and the photographers (Jim, Steve, and Don) for helping make these images top notch!  Enjoy the stories...

Click on these thumbnails to go to each model's personal website

Now on to the stories...

This painting was done exclusively for Face Painting International Magazine and I was elated to get the chance to work with Heather Keckler.  Among her long list of modeling accomplishments is Miss Arizona for the 2000 Miss USA Pageant.  Her website portfolio at www.heatherkeckler.com shows her extensive fitness modeling tear sheets, photoshoots, and even a voice over credit on Megadeth's "1,000 Times Goodbye".  The photographer for this shot was Jim Goodwin whose on-line portfolio can be found at http://www.onemodelplace.com/photographer_list.cfm?P_ID=21045 .  I had worked with Jim on a previous project and was very impressed with his work and once again he came through with shining colors again on this project.

We did the shoot at Papago Park near the Phoenix Zoo during twilight hours.  The three of us had a little bit of a hike, some of it uphill, and it was pretty funny seeing Jim and I trying to keep up with Heather, the fitness phenom that she is.  I actually completed the painting at Jim's studio before we drove to the location.  The painting incorporates airbrushed Totally Tattoo paints with some paint brush detailing and a fair amount of "splattered" texturizing.

The painting itself is based on Native American pottery designs.  The center design is said to represent a butterfly, the symbol of everlasting life.  The other symbols are from Zuni pottery and represent clouds.  Jim has an extensive wardrobe collection at his studio and the dress that he found for this shoot was absolutely perfect.  To top it all off, we were actually able to find some rock formations that were similar in color to the dress and painting as the sun began to set.  The shoot was an absolute success and I plan to frame this shot and hang it in my own home.  Click on the pictures below to see a few more shots from the session and visit Heather and Jim's websites too!

Here is yet another image that was done exclusively for Face Painting International Magazine and I have been anxiously awaiting the chance to unveil it.  This bodyscape features the awesome skyline of Monument Valley.  These two monuments of stone are known as the "Mittens" because of their shape.  I have been to Monument Valley three times and during my last trip, I took a photograph (see below) and loved the image so much that I had to paint it.

I recruited the beautiful Lynette Brooks to be my patient canvas.  I had previously worked with Lynette at a CopperCon sci-fi convention and I have since worked with her for a Playboy Playmate Search and she has been a joy to work with every time.  The photographer that we invited to the dance was the widely published Steve Gladysz who did a fabulous job on short notice and a long drive.

For this painting I had Lynette lie on a table and specifically asked her to extend her right hand above her head and to keep her left hand by her side.  The intent here was to have her painted in the same pose that she would be photographed in so the image would not be distorted.  Unfortunately I didn't take into account how the curvatious female form changes from lying on her stomach to lying on her side.  The two monuments were perfectly vertical when I painted them, but as you can see they dipped towards the middle in the final shot.  Cest L'vie.

I used mostly airbrushed Ben-Nye liquid make-up for the sky and flat terrain.  I then used a brush to do the monuments and clouds and once again a little splattering for effect.  I actually touched the highlighted sides of the monuments with a hint of fluorescent orange paint too.  Here is another picture from the session and the photograph that I took of Monument Valley.

Although this bodypainting session was riddled with surprises, it was a fun afternoon of intriguing conversation with fitness model (and super hero in cognito), Tawnya Gentleman.  My vision for this bodypainting was to recreate the beauty of flowers in bloom at the foothills of the Superstition Mountains on Tawnya's back and then photographer her at that location.  I had seen how splendid the poppies are in full bloom at Lost Dutchman state park the previous year and it was that time of year again so off we went.

O.K., so our first surprise was that there were no flowers in sight.  Apparently there was a dry winter that prevented them from flourishing this year.  Oh, well, the rising cliffs in the warm light of the setting sun would still create a great image, so we continued.  We found a cool location that had some character and a variety of desert vegetation.  I was working without my trusty airbrush equipment and had just packed a few colors of Totally Tattoo paints for the trip.  My goal was to make the image on her back match her surroundings as much as possible.

Now, next surprise.  The sky completely clouds over, the colorful landscape becomes dull, and there are even a few sprinkles coming down in ARIZONA.  Both Tawnya and I are very optimistic people.  Others may have called it a day long before we did, but there was that glimmer of hope that the sun would peak through at sunset and literally paint the sky.  Well, in short, it didn't.

To top it all off, I can't say that my painting was up to par, but luckily Tawnya was able to produce this elegant pose.  I added the tobacco gradient in post production to tone down the overcast sky and bring out the colors in the painting.

I had worked with Tawnya before during the LepreCon sci-fi convention and everything went perfect that time.  So, having a few bumps in the road this time doesn't seem so bad.  We plan to work on another project soon, so stay tuned.  Here is one more shot from the day.

This painting was actually my first bodypainting with a professional model and it was during the closing night of the 2001 Alwun House Exotic Art Exhibit.  The model is Alison who I have now worked with on quite a few projects and she is one of the best.  This painting took place in the Alwun House's backyard garden and was completed just before sunset and just in time to have her ready for the doors to open to the public.  This was a first-time-being-painted for Alison, but I think she really had fun with it as she walked around the party as living art!

The image in the painting is Cathedral Rock, one of the most photographed scenes in Sedona, Arizona.  I was using a photo that I took in Sedona as a reference (see below).  The paint that I used for this project was Ben-Nye, some of it airbrushed and some of it paint brushed.

Although it was "O.K." to walk around this party topless in the name of art, Alison was just a little uncomfortable with it.  I did a quick painting of a sunburst on her front torso and although it didn't really cover anything, it gave a sense of modesty.  In hindsight, I wish I had thought to put a pair of sunglasses on the sunburst, but it's a little too late now obviously.  Here is the reference photo of Sedona and another shot from the session.


I thought that Face Painting Magazine might want to put a little picture of me with the article so I sent them this shot.  Little did I know that they would make this a full page image.  Cool!!!

This picture features model/actress Myla Leigh Chenoa with a back painting of the Arizona flag.  I set up this photoshoot with photographer Don Crossland and the pictures were originally slated to be published in Phoenix Magazine's PHX FILES, a brief exposť on my artform.  When the original model had to cancel at the last minute, Don was able to entice Myla to work with us on the project.  Poor Myla was under the weather for this shoot and had to break a few commitments so I owe her a great deal of gratitude for toughing it out and working with us.  Unfortunately, Phoenix Magazine opted not to use the pictures from the session, stating that they were a little too racey (C'mon).  The irony is that they wanted to have one of their photographers take a picture of me to accompany the article and as fate would have it, I was under the weather that day.

Myla and Don both had a lot of fun ribbing me about my double breasted suit and ascot.  Someone even mentioned Captain Stuebbing from the Love Boat at one point.  Regardless, I was trying to set a very classy and upscale setting to match the demographic of Phoenix Magazine.  That is also why I had Myla bring an open backed evening ensemble.  My original vision was to bring the table, wine, and glasses along with us to the top of South Mountain so that we could do the photoshoot with the sparkling city lights as our backdrop.  The painting took a little longer than anticipated and we ran out of time to get there before the park would be closing.  We made the best of it though in Don's studio.  I particularly liked the yellow highlight with which he accented Myla's golden hair.

I encourage you to visit Myla's website at www.moremyla.com and see how many diverse looks she can conjure up.  Since the time that we worked on this project she has had a great deal of success at acting including the leading role in the movie Stalked! which is now available at video stores.

I used Totally Tattoo paint from Badger for the primary colors of the flag.  First to be painted was the blue with the upper portion masked and then I masked the blue and painted the upper half all yellow.  After that each red stripe was masked and airbrushed on.  Lastly, I used a brown face paint that has a tacky finish to paint the star and then dusted it with copper metallic pigment.  Oh yeah, and the wine was extra dry, courtesy of Don Crossland.  Here are two more shots from the session.


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Unless noted otherwise, Photography and Artwork by Mark Greenawalt c2003

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