The French Body Panting Awards 2019
At the beginning of the month I competed at the French Body painting
awards, and was so excited to get the photo’s back the other day, so I
thought I would tell you all about it, from concept and design to the actual
event itself. For those of you that have been thinking about competing, I
hope this gives you a little bit of insight as to what goes on!
Competition is such a good way of challenging yourself, as well as learning
from those around you and getting to meet some awesome people! I did the
Amateur Brush and Sponge category at the World Body Painting festival last
summer, and I was determined to come back this year to improve my score,
however I just wasn’t feeling the theme (Galactical Zoo incase anyone is
wondering). I had a look around to see what other competitions were going
on both inside and outside of the uk and came across the French Body
Painting Awards, which is a World Body Painting Association Sanctioned
event and fell in love with the themes! When I signed up, the theme for the
Brush and Sponge category was ‘Poetry: The Power of Words’ and the
theme for the open category was ‘Spirituality: beyond the visible world’. I
loved the themes, I thought they had a lot of scope for creativity, but then
just before Christmas I got a very unwelcome email. The theme for the open
category had changed from ‘Spirituality: beyond the visible world’ to
‘Finland: a tale between nature and innovation’. I’m not going to lie, it left
me very uninspired, and I couldn’t get Monty Pythons Fish Slapping Song
out of my head for about a week.
One of the problems with themes that look really exciting is that it can be
hard to narrow your ideas down to one solid concept. I started sketching for
about 10 different ideas (I’m not even joking) before I settled on a concept
to match a design I had come up with. ‘The Ballad of St George and the
Dragon’ is written in poetry form and it meant that I could keep my idea
that was actually inspired by fairy tales and gender stereotypes.
I was lucky enough that Alex had agreed to come as my model for the brush
and sponge category, and had recovered from breaking his knee back in
November, so I was able to practice on him, which is the first time I have
actually practiced my designs on a human being rather than a practice
board before the event itself. I knew what I was doing and was able to
physically see the design, make some changes and prioritise elements that
would take longer to paint.
In the way that it can be hard to narrow your ideas down on a theme you get
very excited by, it can be quite easy to stay objective about a theme that
doesn’t inspire you so much. I decided to take my inspiration from the
Finnish composer Sibelius, who I knew a little bit about already having
studied for a music degree a few years ago. My concept was that Jean
Sibelius was an innovative Finnish composer who took inspiration from
Finnish nature and folklore and is credited with helping to give Finland a
national identity during their struggle for independence.
I then also decided that the auroras looked like frequency and liked the
story that the auroras are painted by the tail of an arctic fox. I didn’t have
the opportunity to practice the full design before hand because I hadn’t
managed my time quite as well as I potentially could have done, so I ended
up making some changes on the day, which I wish I hadn’t made, but I now
know how not to paint auroras!
The week before
I spent the week leading up to the competition refining my designs,
practicing elements of the pieces (although I wish I’d given more attention
to painting books and auroras!) and creating bits of costume for the Finland
piece, which I would be marked on for the open category. I knew we would
also be marked on SFX for the open category, but because Alex had to be in
work again on Monday morning (longest spring term ever!!) we had to catch
the last flight out on Sunday night, which meant that we wouldn’t be able to
stay long enough after the competition to remove any prosthetics applied to
my model. But I did manage to customise some shoes and I also made a glue
gun ice crown (I might have had a bit of a glitter incident whilst making this
When my alarm went off I think Alex was ready to murder me. Because our
flight had been delayed we hadn’t managed to have any dinner, and hadn’t
eaten since a quick lunch on Friday. We didn’t get into our hotel until
midnight, but we got ourselves to the convention centre on time (via Paul
the bakery) and made our way over to the body paint area. If you have ever
done the Pro Beauty competitions, it was almost exactly the same set up.
We signed in, we got set up, got to know our neighbours and recognised
some familiar faces. One thing I really love about body painting is that even
in a competition environment, everyone is really friendly. I then had a
sickening sense of realisation that I had left my DFX black and white and
home, and I knew I would have to adapt some of my elements to work with
what I had brought (literally everything else).
So we got going, there were only 2 or 3 of us that didn’t have an assistant,
and I really felt the struggle. I spent the first 2 hours painting armour and
although I knew it was a big chunk of detailed work, looking around it
looked as thought I had hardly done anything because I didn’t have any
background laid down.
The background was actually the last thing I started on, and had already
decided that I was going to change my background colour from red to green
to give more of a contrast (there was a lot of red before...). However, I made
a poor decision and decided to use the Superstar Golden Green and DFX
Metallic green, instead of a flat, brighter green, even though I had brought a
tonne of greens with me! NeverthelessI had committed to a poor decision
and had to roll with it. I was very tight for time, and as the end was drawing
nearer, my dragon scales got bigger, and I finished the last one just as they
We were number 14 so we had a bit of time to clear up whilst we waited to
go in to see the judges, and to think about what I was going to say to them.
After the jury we got in the queue for photography. Alex had never modelled
at a public event before and the photographer was really great with helping
with poses. We then had a bit of an opportunity to have a look at what other
people had done (this is probably the most useful thing about competitions
as you can really see what really makes for a great design) before heading
over to the catwalk and presentation. I knew before I even booked the hotel
and flights that I wasn’t going to do well, so I wasn’t disappointed at all with
the results, I didn’t come last and that was good enough for me!
It was the same process as the day before, but on the Sunday Alex was
assisting me and we were painting a French model. I am VERY lucky that
Alex is a French teacher and could translate what I was saying to her. As
people started filtering in, I started recognising more people from the World
Body Painting Festival, including the 2x airbrush category champion who set
up next to me. I knew we didn’t stand a chance, which almost made it easier
for me to just enjoy the painting.
There wasn’t really much for Alex to assist me with other than changing
dirty water, but it was little things that were just time consuming like
painting music notes, snow on mountains, a bit of background work, as well
as bits he thought I should work on that really made me appreciate having
an assistant as well as having the ability to communicate with our model.
I actually finished everything I had planned with about 10 minutes to spare
so I went round looking for things I could add to help bring the design
together, like adding a few bits of one stroke to my models wrists and ankles,
and adding some extra shading to the arctic fox. I knew I had ruined the
auroras so there was nothing I could do about that and it wasn’t worth
worrying about! We then got packed up pretty much straight away after they
called time, and Alex made a translation of what my piece was about so he
could speak to the judges in French this time. There were only a couple of
us that hadn’t used prosthetics, and I knew that was going to affect my score,
but it would have been irresponsible of me to make and apply prosthetics to
my model knowing that we wouldn’t be able to remove them for her at the
end of the stage presentation.
A SATURDAY IN THE LIFE OF A FACE PAINTER – BY JANE HARDING
Hi everyone, how are you? Keeping busy I hope… I certainly have been, hence why I’ve not had a chance to write a blog in a few weeks. Over the Easter break (which falls a week later in Leicestershire, compared to the rest of the country); I worked 17 days straight at various events. Then almost as soon as that was over we went straight into the May bank holiday, so I feel like I’ve not stopped! I’m shattered, but you won’t find me complaining, I feel very grateful for being so busy.
Anyway, having read Joni’s ‘Day in the Life’ blogs (which I loved and if you haven’t read them yet, go check them out) I thought it was a great idea and so decided to write one too! If you’re anything like me, I love to hear about other face painters, what they get up to and how they work, so I thought you could never have enough of this kind of blog!
Are we sitting comfortably? Then here we go…
My Saturday funnily enough starts on a Monday, because this is when I send out a courtesy message to all my customers for the upcoming weekend. I reassure them that all is well, check any last minute details and provide an opportunity to answer any further questions the customer may have.
I then skip to Friday when I get all my kit ready to load straight into my car on Saturday morning. I also sort out any themed designs I might need and route plan so I know exactly where I’m going and when I need to leave.
Most Saturdays my alarm goes off and then Mark (my lovely man) brings me a cup of tea in bed, how lucky am I?! I give Ted (my Maltese fur baby) a full days’ worth of fuss and kisses, then get up! Lol… Pretty much all I need to do is get ready, make a packed lunch, load my car and I’m off! On this particular weekend I have 3 parties booked in on Saturday and 2 on Sunday.
If I don’t have any big events or corporate jobs booked in at the weekends, I generally have 3 or 4 parties booked in, sometimes 5 or 6 if I’ve been lucky and the timings all work out. But as I’m sure you all know, very often the times clash as most parties fall between 12 - 4pm. The biggest tip I can offer to you to try and increase your number of bookings on a single day, is to always suggest a time slot you can do, if an enquiry comes through for a time you’re already booked for. I frequently offer alternative times and days to customers when I can’t originally fit in and I’ve had a lot of luck with them being able to move the time or change the day, so this is definitely worth trying,
Back to my day… The first party is 11am -1pm, I arrive approx. 20mins early so I have plenty of time to get set up and start promptly. There’s not as many children as was initially expected so I’m really happy that I can spend a little bit extra time on each design, the parents opted for a Glitter Tattoo ‘Bolt on’ as well so every child has the opportunity to have a paint and a tattoo if they like. I even fit in a few adults; it’s a lovely warm up to a busy day.
This was the first time I ever painted a Thor design. It was a special request from the guy who wanted a superhero who has a beard. Off the top of my head Thor was the only one I could think of, and thanks to the Onalee Rivera FABATV class I watched and using my Onalee Hero Pallet, I was able to keep the customer very happy.
Time to pack up and get going to my next party… and as with many parties I am set on my way with some food for the journey. Literally one of my favourite sandwiches ever… fish fingers with pink ketchup and a can of Coke! Mmmmmm
I quickly eat my sandwich in my car, set the Satnav and I’m off! The next party is 2pm – 4pm, I arrive as planned 20mins early, unload my car again (seriously, this loading and unloading is the hardest bit for me! Lol) meet the parent, start setting up… as normal a small crowd of children stand around watching. I encourage them to play and promise to tell them as soon as I am ready. I don’t know if it’s just me, but normally they prefer to just stand and watch anyway… so I make sure I put out my design choices for them to look at and encourage them to choose, in the hope they will know by the time I’m ready for them!
This party’s a busy one, 30 children in 2 hours. I’m a pretty fast painter, so I don’t restrict my choices for a party of 30, I use my full word banner and normal designs. I then decide how detailed or basic each design will be based on how well the child is sitting. If they are the perfect model I can whip out most of my full designs in 3mins, if they struggle to keep their chin up or constantly move around I will leave off some line work or highlights etc. They still look fab and the child goes away having had an enjoyable face paint.
Party number 2 done… pack up, load up and on to the next one! The last party of the day is 5:30 – 7:30pm and across the other side of the county so I have enough time to travel over without rushing. Again I arrive 20mins early unload; it’s a new venue for me so I find the area I’m supposed to be in, it’s a huge children’s zone, with slides, soft play, ball pits, climbing walls and more! This party’s a big one… there’s a lot of adults around helping with what looks like a banquet of food, the professional photographer comes over and introduces herself to me which is very lovely. I start to set up as one of the parents find me, I’m informed there’s approx. 60 children (almost double than I was originally informed), but many of those are under 3 years (who are not old enough to be painted) and they are very understanding that not all children will get painted.
Needless to say, I display a limited range of my fastest designs and paint like the wind! I paint solid for the 2 hours, I barely even notice when the photographer is over my shoulder taking snaps. I’m sure she got some amazing shots and promised if she could get permission she would send me some *fingerscrossed! Half way through the party the food is ready and OOOO EEEMMMM GGGGGG… It smells incredible! So I am super excited when I’m given a big takeaway box full of food to take home with me… this is definitely one of the big perks of being a Face Painter! They gave me so much food I share it with Mark when I get home… at least I don’t need to make dinner! lol
With there being so many children to paint, I closed the line around 15mins before I was due to finish, I had 5 children in line which I got finished a little after my official finish time. But as I didn’t have another party to get to, I was happy to stay just to finish those in line, I often find this little bit of flexibility and kind gesture is noticed by customers and much appreciated, as it certainly was by the parents at this party. They couldn’t thank me enough. All in all a very successful day!
Obviously I have the dreaded car load and unload again, then drive home... my lovely Mark comes out to help me unload my car for the last time today, we eat the delicious food and then it’s time to clean my kit… ugh this is literally the last thing I want to do right now, but it’s all got to be clean and ready for tomorrows parties.
By about 9pm I’m finished, I spend some time with my boys, cuddles with Ted, double check where I’m going tomorrow and then bed… this Face Painting lark is hard work!
There we have it, a Saturday in the Life of me!
Oh and if you were wondering… no, I didn’t eat my packed lunch, I took that with me the next day! Lol
PRODUCTS USED IN DESIGNS:
Onalee Hero Pallet
Leannes Neon Rainbow
TAP Fairy Stencil
Sillyfarm Rainbow Cake – Crystal Water
The Life of a Face Painter (continued)
Friday evening and it’s an office job – painting for a charity fundraiser, the place is nice and the people who booked me are lovely, I’m offered Prosecco and as much food as I can take home. A few women come to get glittered and as the drink flows the men approach. They ask for the usual silly things which I laugh off. More drinks and the requests go something like this;
“Do what you like but with pastel colours and stars. No glitter but make me look sparkly. Nothing too big but go WILD! Not bright or patterned but make me stand out. With turquoise and gold and pink and some lilac. And some of that yellow. And that silver. But not round the eyes, mind my brows and not in my hair. Make it subtle.”
I do my best, everyone seems happy and I leave with two bags of delicious vegan curry.
Saturday morning and I’ve been booked for a Fun Day, I’m there on time and sit for an hour and a half with no customers, thirty minutes to go everyone wants a face paint and even though I go as fast as I can I end up having to turn kids away to get to my next booking. Out of my control and unavoidable but still embarrassing.
Next job a birthday party for a three year old. I spend the entire time asking children ‘lift your head up a little bit, lift your head up a little bit, lift your head up a little bit..’ I’m bent double and decide to sit on the floor instead. Everything that can go wrong does. I spray glitter in a child’s eyes, I do my best dinosaur and the kid shakes his head in the mirror, I run out of white. I RUN OUT OF WHITE.
Shut my case and sprint to next job.
Birthday party for a five year old. Standard designs; rainbows, dinosaurs, superheroes, unicorns. No drink offered. Must admit I’m getting a bit thirsty, have been going for 7 hours now and could do with a coffee. Get corrected a few times by kids who tell me my designs are wrong. Even though I’m wearing my branded T shirt with my name on it I’m constantly referred to as the lady. I feel I should own a castle somewhere.
Sunday. My regular lunchtime restaurant job that I love. My instructions today are specific; a cupcake in a blue wrapper with pink icing, rainbow sprinkles and a cherry on top. Two unicorns (one boy, one girl) and they have to be in love please. Half an avodaco on a gold background. A plate of spaghetti bolognaise.
I do my best but the male unicorn looks keen, the female seems resigned and the pasta just reminds me of the day my dog ate some string.
I’m asked to paint Aurora on an arm but as I start a queue forms so I panic and go too fast, I don’t wait for my paints to dry and her features blur horrifically. Again, I do my best but she looks like she’s suffered a mild stroke. The child looks confused and walks slowly back to her table.
Next job a birthday party for pre-teens and teens. The teens ignore me and stare at their phones. I do my jolly talking and the birthday girl gets a colourful design with metallics and gold lips. The teens look up from their phones. I end up painting black tattoos on their faces and arms and am kept busy for two hours. They are all polite and sweet. I’m offered tea, coffee and help with my case. Drive home happy but pretty exhausted.
Open the door. My kids are still in their pyjamas from this morning. ‘What’s for dinner?’ they ask.
A WEEKEND IN THE LIFE OF A FACE PAINTER
It’s an after-school kids’ party at a restaurant that has a soft play area, the place is closed to the public and the mums sit at the bar drinking wine, the children are excited and queue up for their numbers, I get to the promised 20 expecting an extra 2 or 3 but today it’s ok, no surprise additions. The 2 hours pass quickly, Spiderman, Batman and unicorns get painted fast and sweated off even faster. I’m not offered a drink but never mind. I paint all the kids, close my converted bass guitar case and leave on the dot.
is a wedding Reception at a fancy hotel. I arrive during that weird lull between the food and the disco, I look for the bride and can’t see her but find a bridesmaid who screeches in excitement and leads me to an incredibly dark corner to set up. Little girls in cream dresses circle my table. Its too dark to see and I ask for a light, someone appears and turns an overhead spot in my direction, it does nothing but cast a sharp shadow on peoples’ faces. I find my headtorch and pull it on. I look like an idiot but at least I can see. I paint all the kids and do some glitter and with fifteen minutes to go start to think about packing up, I’m tired and everyone’s now drunk. Then a guy in a grey waistcoat appears, weaving his way towards me, tie around his head, pint in hand, mates in tow. I wait for it. One of the men puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out his wallet, he sways and nearly falls backwards, everyone laughs. He lurches forward waving money in my face “I’ll pay you 30 quid to paint a penis on this guy’s forehead.” As usual I decline his kind offer. Long ago I accepted out of embarrassment and inexperience and when I’d finished the blokes fell about in hysterics then told me they didn’t have any cash.
Kids birthday parties. Straightforward. A few kids sneeze in my face, some of it goes in my mouth. Hosts are nice, ask if I’d like a coffee or tea, offer food and cake. A good day’s work done.
Saturday night is a house call to paint a masquerade mask – I always get nervous doing these, I’m not overly confident with intricate line work especially when it has to be symmetrical and the person is depending on you for a great end result. So I do what I always do, get stuck in and hope for the best. Thankfully she likes it and I even get a tip. Phew.
My regular lunchtime restaurant job, I love Sundays, it’s a great gig and I’ve been doing it about 3 years. I do 12.30-2.30pm and on special occasions like Mother’s Day and Easter Sunday I do double shifts. Sometimes it’s non-stop with the same children asking to be painted between courses, other days I may paint one unicorn in 2 hours but I get free coffee and the ocean views are beautiful all year round. Today I paint my regular customers and some new ones too. During quiet moments I practise roses on my arm, I paint rose after rose, they all look the same and I don’t like any of them.
3-4pm. A rare bump paint. I hardly do any of these, don’t know why, it’s just not really taken off here. I work on the floor, knees folded under and get pins and needles after about 2 minutes. The only other position is to paint with my legs open wide. I choose pins and needles.