Our goal is to surprise and delight the people we paint and the people who see the people we paint. To that end we work to keep facepainting an adventure, and because people like to be part of an adventure it puts them in the frame of mind to give us the freedom we need to be as creative as we want to be.
After I posted the previous video (“Faces at Play”), a facepainter contacted me to ask if we paint faces like that at regular parties or if I only paint like that for my storytelling shows. The basic answer is “yes”, we paint like this all the time, from small parties to public events. I thought I’d post this current example of the full run of faces at one event as an example of the process. Here is just about every face I painted, in the order painted, at one of my favorite Halloween events — the annual Masked Marvelous Cocktail Party at Materials for the Arts
, NYC. http://www.mfta.org/
For me, facepainting is a collective, kinetic art. More important than any one face I paint is the collective effect of all the faces I paint at an event. As important to me as the way a person I paint feels when they look into the mirror is the way they feel as they walk around the event and see how everyone responds to their new identity. This is the reason why the artist should take the creative control in the process of painting someone’s face, choosing the design to paint and surprising them rather than asking them what they want to be, or painting them to match a photo of a previous face design — to give the participants the experience of a real transformation. Their suspension of control, their giving in to an artist’s creativity, moves them further beyond themselves into this sense of adventure, this experience of having a new, surprising identity at the event, in much the same way as the traditional use of mask arts allows a performer to assume a supernatural identity in world theater and ritual (or in our modern special effects movies). My hope is to see the people I paint “inhabiting” the mask, bringing their new face/new identity to life, showing off, performing.
At the MFTA event a woman asked me how I decide what to paint on each person. Much of the process is intuitive, matching colors to their eyes and clothes, working towards the shape of their face, how their hair looks, etc., and I interact with each person, asking them a question or two such as “do you want to be nice or spooky?” As I explained to the woman, though, much of my process is like any artist working on a canvas in their studio: what do I want to work on, what are my current thrills and challenges, what can I paint that people will respond to, and even — just like a “real” artist — what am I trying to say with this painting. In the faces from this event, you can see some examples of what we call “classics” (face designs we know work, like the “Night Queen” and “Moon and Stars”, or something that I know a little girl will like such as the “Zebra Nose”) in combination with explorations of my current creative challenges, the things I have been working on (such as the use of fineart images as source material, like the Picasso and Matisse faces; the continuing effort we are all putting in to adding more figurative imagery, like “Swan Lake” and “Devil Eyes”; and my current attempts to “mash-up” these avenues of exploration into new Halloween designs like the “Zombie Attack” and “Picasso Zombie”). And from face to face I concentrate on creating diversity in style and concept so the faces are a surprise in the progression of designs, as well as individually.
Materials for the Arts
is one of the more remarkable organizations we have ever had the privilege of working for. They are a vital part of the arts and arts education communities of New York City, and just one of the venues that makes it so exciting to do what I do in a place so full of creative energy and artistic freedom as New York. Please check out their website: http://www.mfta.org/
From their web site:
Founded in 1978, Materials for the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, provides thousands of NYC’s arts and cultural organizations, public schools, and community arts programs with the supplies they need to run and expand their programs. MFTA gathers materials from companies and individuals that no longer need them and makes them available, for free, to the artists and educators that do. In the process, hundreds of tons are removed from the waste stream every year and kept out of landfills, which helps sustain our environment, promotes reuse, and reduces waste. MFTA helps artists realize their visions, provides students with a richer educational experience and furnishes businesses and individuals with a simple and efficient way to enhance the cultural life of their city.