First Night Hartford — Face Painting Adults and the Final Faces of 2011

From a Monet painting of a Venice sunset

by Christopher Agostino

This is the only photo I have from the final gig of 2011, First Night in Hartford, CT. We were just too busy for taking photos. It was our first time at this event and we expected that with First Night falling on a Saturday and the weather so mild the place would be crowded. When we arrived the on-site staff warned us to brace for a long line. They were right. The moment they opened the doors we had a line filling the room we were in.

Facepainting for free at a well attended public event means the line will be an issue. We want to paint as many people as possible, we want to keep it all manageable so the people waiting aren’t getting annoyed and the client/venue remain happy. We had our sound system so we played music and I could occasionally talk to the crowd, tell them what to expect (that we would surprise everyone with the face we paint on them) and our two simple rules: we paint anyone over 3 (but no babies or toddlers) and we only paint full faces. We also had great help from the site staff, who managed the line so we could focus on the painting. A few hours into the event, the site manager came to me and said that line was so long they were going to tell the adults in line that they couldn’t get painted, so we could paint more kids. I told her that isn’t what we do, and I was glad that she was willing to discuss it with me. We feel that adults have as much right to be painted as kids, and we know how excited kids get when their parents join in—it makes it a memorable family experience. I suggested instead to place someone at the end of the line to tell people how long the wait was and let them make the choice to join the line or not. We wound up painting almost as many adults as kids, including some teens and adults that were there on their own without any kids to be painted.  Facepainting is not just for kids. Once the line was closed it took us an hour to finish everyone waiting. I painted about 30 people in that hour. Towards the end people were thanking us for staying longer than scheduled and many were saying it was worth the wait. It felt good to work that hard, paint that fast and transform so many people. So we went out of 2011 with a bang, not a bad way to end a year.

Here’s the sign we used for this event. Click on this link, it will open in a window than click on it again: agostinoarts_WorkOfArtSurpriseSIGN

From our years of very large events at the Bronx Zoo we developed a methodology for painting faces quickly, focusing more on the graphic design than on the details. Even working as quickly as we did at Hartford, each face is unique, and a bold, colorful design that people respond to. For an idea on how to simplify a full face design to paint it more quickly, see the post on a fast tiger face:

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