Halloween 2015 — Face Painting Gallery

#transformationsny

Some of the designs I explored during Halloween season. We had been doing Halloween-themed events from the start of October, and it kinda crept up on me. After the first weekend I took some time to make sketches for faces using the cartooning/animating techniques I’ve been experimenting with for my StoryFaces  performances, and trying to use the mouth and nose in more playful ways.

 

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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.

LIChiSlaysTheDragon-2015_BodiesAlive_title1

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.

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Henri Matisse The Cut-Outs — Transformations Gallery

Matisse - The Circus, 1947

Matisse – The Circus, 1947

Matisse — Jazz

It is easy to be inspired by Matisse. Seeing Henri Matisse the Cut-Outs exhibit at MOMA, the exuberance of color, the freedom of forms — you want to be able to paint like that. The later rooms with the wall-sized works, and especially the photographs of how his studio was so full of this art as he created it — you want to live in rooms like that. I walked out of the exhibit wanting to play with color, to hold it in my hand and create pure forms with it as he did. Even if you don’t like Matisse, you have to be inspired by the absolute passion he had for creating art, so undeniable that it that led him to invent a new way to make art when he could no longer paint. MatisseCat_6g-fhd4--040727_agostinoartsChapter 10 of my book is titled “Matisse’s Cat”, in reference to the inspiration I draw from these struggles of great artists to find a way to satisfy that passion, and Matisse particularly because he spoke of the struggle, and left us evidence of his explorations and battles with line and form and color. I was writing about my own struggles to develop new cat face designs, particularly one based on a statue at the Bronx Zoo of a puma coming down a cliff, and in this iteration I had simplified the puma shape so much that it reminded me of a Matisse cut-out, and that encouraged me to loosen my hold on the realistic image and pursue it’s essence instead. This is the encouragement I take from Matisse: aim for the essential.

Matisse — Blue Dancer

We paint faces mostly with pure color. You might do blending in the sponge work, but then the imagery on top is usually solid colors with minimal shading — so the Cut-Outs relate directly. In adapting the Cut-Out figures to a face you have the additional playfulness of trying to fit his forms to the shapes of the face, which becomes an exercise in the fundamental skill of placing a flat image over the curves of the face. And I do mean “exercise” — I learn more about painting faces when I try to imitate the Cut-Outs.

Matisse - The Rumanian Blouse 1940

The Rumanian Blouse 1940

Matisse_RoumanianBlouse_artface_140920_agostinoartsMatisse’s painted portraits also adapt well, as he worked often with flat areas of pure color and precise linework. Strong colors and clean linework make for effective faces.

 

 

Face Gallery (Body Paintings below) ——————————————

at FABAIC 2011

at FABAIC 2011

Matisse-Icarus 2011

Matisse-Icarus 2011

Matisse-Icarus 2011

Matisse-Icarus 2011

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Remix 2008

Portrait of the Artist's Wife, 1912

Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, 1912

Red Fish 1911

Red Fish 1911

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Remix 2008

Matisse Inspired bodypainting by Raphealle Fieldhouse

Matisse Inspired bodypainting by Raphealle Fieldhouse

The Eye of the Demon — a StoryFaces Performance

EyeOfTheDemon_Logo_slide

a story cycle of Japanese adventure tales

for adults and brave family audiences

samurai vs. demons, ’nuff said

Medieval Japanese legends mixed up with Kabuki theatre and Kuniyoshi prints, Emaki scrolls and Onmiyoji, on top of a childhood of Kurasawa films and Marvel comics.

 ——————  The Stories  ————–

It begins with The Legend of the Haunted Bridge… A soldier brags how he’s never seen anything that frightened him, so the Governor orders him to cross the bridge and find out what the demon that haunts it looks like, “because a man must live up to his words, no matter how foolish they are.” It was the perfect ghost story for a face painting storyteller — perfect because it described the face I’d need to paint to tell it, the face of the demon. It’s a tale I’ve told for many years, and it’s led me on into the thrilling world of samurai.

Raiko vs. the Goblin Earth Spider is a Samurai-Superhero Adventure™, featuring a young Watanabe No Tsuna, the samurai that took care of that demon at the bridge, fighting armies of demons, an evil Spider Woman and a giant spider named Tsuchi-gumo, all at the side of Minamoto no Yorimitsu (aka “Raiko”), the first of the legendary samurai.

Part 3: The Princess Ibaraki and the Tale of the Drunken Demon — The Drunken Demon is a classic tale I saw on an emaki storytelling scroll. It includes the same Raiko and Tsuna defeating the demon, and one of the Drunken Demon’s henchmen escapes to to haunt a bridge. To bring the tales back around together I borrowed a character from the movie Onmyoji, a princess who turns into a demon.

           The Eye of the Demon is a full length StoryFaces performance for adults, with a family friendly version as well. It features retellings of tales from a thousand years ago about Japanese demons (which are more like monsters or ghosts than like devils) and the samurai who fight them, along with personal stories of my discovery of these tales and the art they’ve inspired, and the way this connects to the superhero comics I grew up on.

Kuniyoshi_Raiko_tormented_by_the_earth_spider

By Kuniyoshi. My favorite Japanese printmaker depicted Raiko vs. the Spider several times

——————  The Sources  —————-

My original source for the haunted bridge tale was a story called “The Bridge” in the book Japanese Tales (Royal L. Tyler; Pantheon; 1987), and have since found related and extended versions of this type of tale online. I first came across Raiko vs. the Spider in Short and Shivery: 30 Chilling Tales (Rober San Souci, Doubleday, 1987). When I saw this tale show up again in a print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) in an exhibit at the Japan Society I began to understand the role medieval samurai legends have had in Japanese art and entertainment. For me, these tales are to be enjoyed as much through the illustrations, prints and other visual art they engender as through any text. The images drive the stories.

From a scroll by Kaiho Yuchiku (1654-1728) – The Drunken Demon surrounded by a bevy of ladies

onmyoji_jpgI first met  The Drunken Demon on an emaki at the exhibit Storytelling In Japanese Art at the Met, and again it was visual art driving me deeper into a story to tell. In addition to Raiko and Tsuna, the tale also included a wizard, Abe no Seimei, who I knew from a favorite movie of mine, Onmiyoji. In that movie, he has to solve the mysterious appearance of a namanari,  a living woman who turns into a demon — and I made a place for her in my tale as well.

Ibaraki Demon fleeing with her arm

Ibaraki Demon fleeing with her arm

TheArmoftheDemon_121028c_agostinoarts

The Arm of the Demon

Another illustration in the exhibit was of the Ibaraki Demon stealing her arm back, and finding out just what that was all about led me into the classic tale of Watanabe no Tsuna and his battle with a demon on a bridge — adding a potential new piece to the puzzle. The iconic image of Tsuna cutting the demon’s arm off  has been frequently illustrated by Japanese artists, and led me to another face for my tale.

Emaki are handscrolls that tell such tales through illustration and text, kind of like comic books, and you unroll them as you read them so the images go across your vision as the story progresses, kind of like movies. Finding a way to understand these stories as comic books and superhero movies gives me my own way in. The word “samurai”, to me, means Toshiro Mifune in the Kurasawa films I first saw as a kid. Seeing Kwaidan (1964) really chilled me, and seeing how Ping Chong recreated such a visually complex movie as a live performance with puppets (at the New Victory Theatre) was a major influence on my developing StoryFaces technique.

angryoceanwaterfalltears_kuniyoshi_transformations_agostinoarts_e

Angry Ocean, Waterfall Tears ©2011 Christopher Agostino

To get a feel for this imagery and work out how I can get these images onto a face in a story, my exploration of these tales also included bodypaintings using imagery from Kuniyoshi and other printmakers, one of which was a full re-working of the  Ibaraki Demon tale, but I changed the name to “Irabaki” to indicate it wasn’t the traditional tale I’d found — though now that I’ve seen how many strange and wonderful versions there are for these legends I’m more comfortable taking my own path through to telling them while keeping their names intact.

Painted for Kryolan Professional Makeup at IMATS New York

The Irabaki Demon — a BodyStory — Painted for Kryolan Professional Makeup at IMATS New York

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What Is A StoryFace?

 

StoryFaces_Video-playTitle1

See the new video: What is a StoryFace?

 

 I am a painter and a storyteller, and this is how I tell my stories.
Learn more at http://agostinoarts.com/StoryFaces
Christopher Agostino’s StoryFaces

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In 2013, Christopher Agostino’s StoryFaces was featured in the opening presentation of the National StoryTelling Conference

“What you do is amazing…I have heard person after person say they loved what you do and found it to be a true highlight of the whole conference….You are the epitome of professionalism and class which makes our jobs so much easier and truly enjoyable. It is truly my honor to have been able to help show you off.”

— Karin Hensley, Director of Operations, National Storytelling Network

 

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