The Amazing Face Gallery

You are amazing — and so is your face.

You can be anything — and so can your face.

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see The Amazing Face Video on YouTube

My explorations of this “face on a face” imagery came as we started incorporating cartooning techniques into the faces we paint at events — particularly for clients for which it was helpful to be able to put characters and action scenes on faces (see  Knicks,   Citibank’s Winter Olympics event  The World Science Festival galleries). For the Summit Wellness Fair, for example, I would ask a kid questions about what they like to do, or want to be, and then put them into a picture of that activity on their face. Eventually I used the technique to tell this story about how I learned to facepaint, which I present as part of my StoryFaces performances and in arts-in-education workshops. Given that the idea of putting a face onto someone’s mouth is not a new one in facepainting (I have a traditional Chinese Opera design which uses this trick for a frog face that I’ve been imitating for years), I’m kinda annoyed with myself that it took me this long to start having so much fun with it.

These are some examples of the Amazing Faces I’ve painted.

Learn about all we do at:  agostinoarts.com

Learn about The Amazing Face Show

International School Artist In Residence — at Carol Morgan School

Christopher Agostino’s StoryFaces

Artist In Residence Programs for International Schools

Please take a look at the video Carol Morgan School put together regarding my Artist in Residence program there, originally posted at ow.ly/MS0Wv.

In April of 2015 I was at Carol Morgan School in Santo Domingo, DR for two weeks, doing StoryFaces  performances and workshops on visual storytelling with grades K – 12. The length of the residency allowed me to offer a wide range of options for the content of the programs, and, guided by input from the faculty, I designed separate programs for the Elementary, Middle and High School students – scroll down for descriptions of each program.

—-   Elementary School  —–

 Assembly Programs and “My Amazing StoryFace” Workshop

I asked to begin the Elementary residency with StoryFaces assembly programs for all the students. Seeing a live performance in a large audience generates excitement in the school for the full residency, and I tailor my story selection to set up what I will be doing with each grade in subsequent workshops.

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With the Elementary grades my focus was on exploring why we tell stories, how stories fill our lives, and how we can share our own story. In the performances I told mostly Fables and Animal Tales, and in the follow-up workshops with the youngest kids (K-1st) I showed them how to use their hands and faces (without any facepainting) to turn themselves into some of the animals from the tales. For grades 2-5 we did the “My Amazing StoryFace” workshop, which gets students to create a visual story about themselves through words and pictures, based on one of my original stories (see The Amazing Face Video) — including the instruction that each student was to take their visual story home to “show and tell” it to a family member, since one of the tenets of my arts-in-education programs is that stories need to be shared to keep them alive.

—-   Middle School   —-

Assembly Programs and Teacher Workshop

The Middle School grades each had a separate full length assembly program. These StoryFaces performances included a couple of the same stories the younger grades might have heard along with additional, different stories for each grade, featuring Hero Tales for the Middle School audiences. During a school visit I will tell many different tales in performances, as I like to get the students talking to each other, and to their siblings, about what stories they each saw, and sharing one they’ve heard. My performances have a “kinetic art” effect that extends beyond the assembly, as the volunteers I have painted in a show walk through the school throughout the day and other students see them and wonder what story they are. With the Middle School faculty (and also the Elementary faculty) I had the opportunity to do a fun workshop about my visual approach to performing stories, including some physical theatre performance techniques we all did together and the background for how I developed telling tales with facepainting.

—-   High School   —-

“Spirit Healing Mask” Design and Facepainting Workshops

SpiritHealingMask_CA-classCreatedExample_1504-cFor the 9th and 12th grades I did a very different program, doing two workshops with each class. The first workshop was a special presentation on the cultural use and significance of masks (based on the material in my book and my “Before Cave Walls…” program), which led into the students designing a “Spirit Healing Mask” — this is a design task I’ve developed to get students to work on communicating information visually, through signs and symbols, based on a traditional approach to mask design, and in reference to the role of masks in some cultures to represent ancestors and other powerful spirits that protect the people. In the second workshop, the students painted their mask designs onto each other’s faces.

“Spirit Healing Mask” Design Workshop: To start, I ask each student to identify some social concern they would like to help solve — it can be anything, from the obvious ones such as “ending war” to smaller scale concerns, such as “helping stray dogs”. Next they determine what “powers” a “healing spirit” would need to achieve this task, and I present this via the idiom of modern superheroes —i.e., would your Healing Spirit need to be able to fly in order to end war all around the world?  The students then choose a color or graphic symbol to represent each of the powers or “attributes” their character has, and they design the mask using those symbols — this step moves the design beyond an illustrative approach towards symbolism and abstraction, as the mask will communicate information purely through colors and graphics, giving students an experiential understanding of the thinking process that underlies visual arts, including modern art, and also allows any student to make a successful design regardless of their drawing skills.

BlackBoardInstructions_designingSpiritMask_1504-cThe completed designs can be the basis for making a physical mask, which some schools have the students do with their art teachers after my visit. The process can also include a writing assignment —  the 9th grade students wrote essays to accompany their designs, in which they were to describe the social concern, find media links to examples of this problem, and develop a storyline for how their Healing Spirit will solve the problem.

Facepainting Workshop: Masks are meant to be worn, it completes the transformation the mask is created to achieve. In the 2nd workshop, I demonstrated how to use makeup to paint a face, and then the students worked in pairs as each student painted their Spirit Healing Mask design onto their partner’s face, and then was painted by their partner in return.

SpiritHealingMaksWorkshop_a_1504-cEveryone had a lot of fun in these sessions, and it was exciting to see full classes transformed in these strange and powerful designs. In a facepainting workshop the interaction between the students is as important as the results — the goal is not to create great faces, it is to explore this collaborative process and their own creativity, and to experience the transformation of self-identity that comes with wearing the mask. I encourage the students to wear the painted face through the school day, so their peers can see it, and to know the “story” of the Healing Spirit they have become. SpiritHealingMaksWorkshop_b2_1504-cThe whole process was documented in photographs, including posed images of the finished faces which the school planned to display after my visit. A great advantage of using symbol-based designs is that there is no concrete expectation for what each face should look like, since these are invented symbolic beings, so success doesn’t depend on a student’s painting skills.

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—-   My Goal for Residencies   —-

Plus: Bringing Some Magic into a School

StoryFaces offers a uniquely flexible platform for arts-in-education programs, incorporating Language Arts, Social Studies, and Visual Arts in an entertaining format that captures students’ attention and therefor allows me to generate real educational content, at any grade level. I want to inspire students in my performances, to get them thinking about a wider range of possibilities to communicate who they are, to see the connection between their lives today and the full human experience expressed in our stories and our art. To help them find a way to share their own story.

An important part of my role in a school is also to share my personal story, to let students see what it means to be a professional artist — how it can be a valid career path to follow your own dream and make your own way — and to talk with students about the kind of work I do before the performance they see — what a working artist’s process is like. I talk often about my love of books and how much my career has depended on the reading I do, how it has led me on this adventurous exploration of world cultures.

I also like to bring a little magic into a school in a very old-fashioned way. Part of the role of masks and transformational makeup in traditional cultures was to show the people that forms can change, that to understand the true nature of something you must look beyond form — that we may all be more than we appear to be. I think this is a valuable, positive insight to share with kids, and that they experience this in some small way when they see a classmate visually transformed into a tiger or an ancient hero, and as they see students with painted faces incongruously walking through the school hallways.

See the new video: What Is A StoryFace?

Learn about all we do at:  agostinoarts.com

Animal Surprises at the Bronx Zoo — Facepainting Gallery

We had a team of 6 artists at the Bronx Zoo for a company’s family outing this past weekend, which gave me a chance to do some more specifically animal and nature themed facepainting then I get to do on most of my gigs these days. Although at our zoo facepainting concessions we post a list of about 40 animals for people to choose from (just a list — no photos), at our special events there we prefer to be more adventurous by surprising people with the animal we turn them in to. We ask each participant if they want to be “nice” or “spooky” and then surprise them with the transformation. Here and some of the faces I painted myself over the 4 hour event. (You can click on the photos to see the names I give the face designs.)

Li Chi Slays the Dragon — from Bodies Alive!

 

 

See the video: Li Chi Slays the Dragon from Bodies Alive! 

An ancient Chinese legend brought to life on painted bodies.

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Li Chi Slays the Dragon is one of the stories I tell most frequently. Mostly as a StoryFace, illustrating the tale on the face of one volunteer as I tell it, but, once upon a time, I had the chance to expand the story onto a cast of performers as a tale told with painted bodies. This video is from that performance at the Face and Body Art International Convention in 2008, as part of the Bodies Alive! show we presented there. I was joined in the painting by Christina Davison, Sara Glasgow, and Jennifer Wade, with help from some volunteers, and in performance by Blair Woodward, Cully Firmin, Rebecca Reil and Chloe Agostino. See my StoryFace version of Li Chi live at PIFA. Learn about the Bodies Alive Show. Learn about BodyStories.

My specific inspiration for how to take a legend like this and turn it into a sequence of images on painted bodies came from a puppet show I saw at the New Victory Theatre by Ping Chong, adapting to the stage Japanese ghost stories from the classic movie Kwaidan. Ping Chong’s stage design re-created a cinematic style, varying the size of the puppets and the perspective of the settings he placed them in to do closeups, or long shots or tracking shots, to tell the story sequentially — like in a movie.

The development process included sketches of the body designs which I scanned and then moved around in photoshop to create a rough storyboard, plus some color and design tests done in the course of my regular facepainting gigs. To help the performers understand the visuals that their painted bodies would create on stage, I sketched the designs onto T-shirts for them to wear during rehearsals. Included here are the studio photos taken at FABAIC by Rich Johnson, plus some of the other images created during the process, and since.

learn about all that we do at: agostinoarts.com

Related articles

Hero Tales! — for Library Summer Reading Programs

A new StoryFaces show for this summer’s Every Hero Has a Story theme:

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My favorite stories to tell to children are traditional hero tales — the original Superhero stories — especially those that feature young or small protagonists, like Li Chi Slays the Dragon, the 2,000 year old tale from China about a brave maiden that saves her village, or Punia and the King of the Sharks, a Hawaiian tale about a boy who battles a shark. The reason Punia is so brave is because he is small — which is a wonderful encouragement to give to kids, that even the small can be heroes, as in Aesop’s Fable The Lion and the Mouse. In The Amazing Face, my newest original story, we see an audience member’s inner hero come to life on their own face. StoryFaces shows are a surprising combination of storytelling and visual arts that fully engages the entire audience.

Adventure tales about heroes were the original motivational speeches, passed down through generations to inspire listeners to reach for the stars and become the hero in their own lives. For this summer’s reading club theme, my Hero Tales! show will include some of my favorite hero and adventure stories — connecting these traditional tales to our comic book Superhero culture. A wide variety of tales are available to suit the age range of your audience, including samurai adventure tales for older kids. If I’ve been to your library before, I keep a record of what I’ve told, so that I can always return with new stories for your audience.

See the new video: What Is A StoryFace?

Always new stories. Always exciting. As much fun for adults as for kids.

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And for your Summer Reading Club Party or Special Event:

Become Your Own Super Hero with Transformation Facepainting

Our Transformation Facepainting can bring any kid’s inner hero out, with surprising facepainting designs based on the special things they already do and what they dream of becoming, or maybe we’ll invent a brand new super hero just for them. What you don’t see at our Become Your Own Super Hero events are spiderman or batman faces — we want every participant to become their own unique hero for a day.

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And also for this Summer’s Hero theme:
 

   Our BODACIOUS BOOK SHOW:

Jack in the Beanstalk 
The show about Reading that everyone loves.
Featuring a special hero theme version of The Have You READ It? Game Show
learn more at: The Bodacious Book Show
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Agostino Arts Theatre has been presenting programs in schools, libraries, theaters and other venues throughout the Tri-State area for nearly 30 years.

Learn about all we do at:  agostinoarts.com