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.


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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BodyStory Video Experiment 1 — Peacock and the Sun Goddess

BodyStory Video Experiment 1 — Peacock and the Sun Goddess

The Peacock and the Sun Goddess BodyStory was an experiment for a class presentation at the Face and Body Art International Convention in 2012 (FABAIC). For my class on storytelling I tried out a new idea (new for me – see below) of taking the methods I use for telling a story via facepainting onto a painted body — using a fully painted body in choreographed movements to accompany my narrative. I had done this with several performers and much assistance to perform the story Li Chi Slays the Dragon as part of our Bodies Alive! production at FABAIC 2008, but that felt more like a theatre piece and this was meant to stay closer to the stylistic quality of storytelling.

The Peacock and the Sun Goddess BodyStory was conceived and presented as a live performance. As the concept seems well designed for video I took the fotos and video we’d made as documentation and created this video in iMovie. (The wonderful music is Indian Fever by David Starfire, which I found on the album “Six Degrees Free Indian Music Sampler” on Amazon. The model was a non-professional, so I’ll withhold her name) The next step in the video experiment will be to create a BodyStory design specifically for video, and explore what is possible without the design limitations inherent in a live performance.

See the BodyStories Page to learn more about other BodyStory projects, including “Is This the First Story?” based on an 18,000 year old cave painting.

To be clear, nothing in art is ever truly new—especially in an art form as ancient as bodypainting. In saying that these experiments feel “new for me” I’m not saying that I’ve invented something here. Aboriginal Australian bodypainting may go back 40,000 years in a continuous line and in some cases, particularly in the context of ritual initiations, their bodyart tells complex mythological tales (to name just one precedent). Nothing is new.

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Bodies Alive!


Bodies Alive!

Bringing painted bodies to life in performance

The curtain call for Bodies Alive! at FABAIC 2008


Bodies Alive! at FABAIC — A celebration of the artists that paint living canvases. Why do we paint bodies? Because they are alive!

In 2008, our company had the opportunity to create a performance for the annual Face And Body Art International Convention, thanks to the support of Marcela Murad (convention producer) and the collaboration of so many world class artists and enthusiastic volunteers, designed to showcase the talent of the participating artists and demonstrate the potential for painted body stage performances. In just a few days, working under the direction of Lorraine, we all put together a show including UV Action Painting, Jinny’s Singing Faces, the Metamorphosis Models by the convention artists, the Nao Dance Company and the epic tale Li Chi Slays the Dragon. Click here for the program listing the participating artists:  PROGRAMbodiesAlive

Here are some of the videos:










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Bodies Alive! at the Odd Ball

Painted Body Fashion Show featuring models painted by guest artists for Real Art Ways annual Odd Ball.

For the 2009 Odd Ball at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT , the entire evening was bodypainting as performance art. Here’s a video. Fotos and more at: The Odd Ball

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Zebras — Body Painting at FABAIC 2012 with Kryolan Aquacolors

"Zebras" — painted on May 26 at FABAIC 2012

by Christopher Agostino

I clipped a foto a few years back of two zebras crossing their necks like this, and thought how well it fit the shapes of a woman’s shoulders. Once the design is worked out, this is an enjoyable kind of body painting to do, because the painting process is pretty straightforward: block in the white areas for the zebras, add the shading over the white and then the black stripes on top—the stripes which fool the eye and make it all work just like they do on a zebra.

From the "Nuba Bird Dance", Bodies Alive!

The back design makes play with a photograph of a painted dancer from the Bodies Alive! show at FABAIC a few years back. Continue reading

Gator Eating Jose: UV Body Painting at FABAIC 2012 with Kryolan Aquacolors



Gator Eating Jose — UV Bodypainting May 26 at FABAIC, with Kryolan's Dayglo Aquacolors

by Christopher Agostino

The day time demonstration sessions at the Kryolan booth at the Face and Body Art International Convention were only two hours long, so when a young man volunteered to have his torso painted I decided to do something using their UV Aquacolors, which would allow me to get a maximum effect in a minimum of painting time. Kryolan’s UV dayglos pop so bright under backlight that you can get a very fun painting without a lot of finesse. Continue reading