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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Invasion of the Body Painters (By Omri Malul for The IDEAL Magazine)

Words/Images: Omri Malul
The IDEAL Mag | August 2012

If you ask Michelle Heffner, a Maryland body paint artist, what are the things that make her nervous, aliens is not one of them. Actually, she just recently created one in her studio.

Every profession has its own little pet peeves. Writers have writer’s blocks, actors are scared of blanking out on their lines, and body paint artists’ worst enemy is… hiccups. “In body paint, peoples’ faces are the most intimate part, and a hiccup is one of the things that make me nervous when I work on a face,” Michelle says as she draws another green, glowing vein on the model’s mug. Then she smiles and adds, “Bad breath is another one.”

Full body painting is a lengthy process. Each project is different, but they all take hours to complete. You start with the base coat, usually in darker shades, first face hairlines, then face and then body. Feet and palms are last. The design comes next. “I usually use an air brush for the design,” says Michelle. “It is the most complicated and refined tool to deal with, but it is also the most rewarding in terms of details.”

But before the first drop of paint is dispensed, there’s research. On average, it takes Michelle about a week to prepare a design. Nature is the go-to resource for inspiration. Then comes Google. After that, she finds the right model. Usually, male body paint models are very hard to find, but not only because there are more female models than males, or because males are usually less comfortable posing in the nude. “It’s the body hair,” explains Michelle. “Males are not very willing to shave it off, a necessity in this art form.”

The art of body paint is gaining momentum and slowly becoming more recognized as a mainstream art form. A testament to that is the world’s first collective body art gallery ML, located in Philadelphia. Their mission is to free body painting from its general perception as an over-sexualized fringe art and bring it into the realm of respected fine art.

Painting mostly faces and bodies for events, Michelle would like to have the opportunity to do more abstract, fine art projects. Wishing body paint was more respected, her goal is to bring this art form to peoples’ walls. An alien walking in suburban Maryland may be that first step for human kind.

Kryolan Professional Make-up: Michelle Heffner
Model: BlueRiverDream


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