Bodypainting by Mark Greenawalt
Live Demonstration at CopperCon 28

Embassy Suites Phoenix-Scottsdale, AZ
August 29-31, 2008


I completed two bodypainting project at CopperCon 28 in August of 2008. The theme was gargoyles since the Media Guest of Honor was Greg Weisman, the creative force behind the Disney animated series GARGOYLES. Here is the transcript of the step-by-step process that I had published in the winter issue of Illusion Magazine:

 

Illusion Magazine CoverGargoyle

by Mark Greenawalt
Illusion Magazine, United Kingdom
Winter 2008

 

There is a science fiction convention held in Phoenix, Arizona (USA) each year called CopperCon. Every year since 2002 I have been invited to do live bodypainting demonstrations at this convention and each year I try to come up with a new idea that is consistent with each year's theme. This year the theme was Gargoyles since the media guest of honor was none other than Greg Weisman, the creator of the Gargoyles television show. In past years I have done bodypaintings based on themes such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dragons, Children of the Night, and in 2005 I was honored with being the artist guest of honor. Each year I try to top what I did the previous year and this year was no different. For my gargoyle, I strayed from re-creating one of the characters from the television series and instead tried for the look of a real concrete or marble gargoyle. I first started researching the look of gargoyles throughout history and found that there were quite a few variations, but there were generally some similarities that I found. Wings and horns seemed to be pretty consistent. Animal ears and claws were also found to be typical, but I didn't incorporate those features into my project and of course I didn't turn the mouth into a water spout. Once I had a rough vision for the final product, I started the planning.

Gameplan - Nearly all of the gargoyles that I had seen were male. Conversely, nearly all of my bodypainting projects are with females. In selecting a model, I opted to go with a female to give the gargoyle a sexy feminine side, but my goal was to make the face as masculine as possible and as scary as possible. I had seen a few gargoyles that had happy expressions, but most were very forboding and looked very sinister and that is the look that I was going for. Model Stephanie had volunteered to do a bodypainting project with me and although I'm sure she had something much more glamourous in mind, she was excited to be a part of this project after I explained the details to her. I was able to confirm the date and time of the event with the programming staff of the convention and fortunately Stephanie was available at that time. I thought through the entire project to gather the right props, paints, photography equipment, and the rest of my painting kit which includes everything from brushes to medical adhesive. Sometimes I plan the details even further, but I mostly like to have a rough sketch in my mind of what I plan to paint and how I plan to accomplish it. This gives me the freedom to stray from the plan with artistic license and not feel like I didn't precisely follow the plan.

Step 1
Soap down the hair
Gargoyles are generally bald or they are carved to look like they have short animal fur. I didn't think that Stephanie would appreciate having her head shaved for this project and I didn't want her hair to look like a free flowing wig on a concrete statue. I had considered using a bald cap or even finding some sort of helmut. I finally decided upon using a simple theatrical trick to "paste" her hair back. To do this I used a bar of soap, Dove soap to be precise. I wetted her hair with water and then caked in the soap so that when it dried it would retain it's molded aesthetic.

Step 2
Apply the prostetics
For the face I applied foam latex prosthetics to give her that sinister look. I purchased the prosthetics from a local theatrical supply shop. The brand is Cinema Secrets presents Woochie Pro FX and the product name was Drucifer. It was intended to be a devils face, but I thought that it looked great for a gargoyle once I could envision it without the red paint. The horns were already incorporated into the prosthetic so that was one less thing that I had to plan out. In past projects, I have used a product called Pros-Aide to apply foam latex prosthetics, but for this project I purchased a Liquid Silicone Adhesive called AdMed from Mehron and obviously some AdMed Adhesive Remover. I don't recommend using this stuff casually and there is a good reason why this product is sometimes only sold to professional make-up artists. It is very powerful. Using the adhesive, I first attached the mask between her eyebrows to make sure that as I adhered the rest of the mask, it would stay centered. I next started at the center of the forehead and worked my way around. The product adhesive seemed to work best by applying it to the back of the mask first, then applying it to the skin, and after a moment of letting both applications dry to the point of being tacky, paste them together. It took a lot of patience and since I had an audience of approximately 30 people watch me work, it was a little unnerving to have to wait between each application before pasting it down, but otherwise it wouldn't adhere. The AdMed bottle indicates that this product is not to be used around the eyes so I completely avoided pasting down the areas directly above the eyes and used a very sparing amount of product beneath the eyes. Once I had glued down the cheeks on both sides I next secured the chin knowing that it's location was critical for Stephanie to be able to show expression. Once complete I realized that the mask was much too long for her face, but I was able to make a quick fix by taking the excess cheek latex and folding it down under her chin. Once it was folded down and adhered with AdMed, it stayed in place throughout the entire shoot.

Step 3
Airbrush black body paint
Next Stephanie was painted black from head to toe. For this step, I used Mehron liquid make-up through a Badger Airbrush and Compressor. I specifically chose a water based paint becuase I wanted the ability to reactivate the paint with another color for a mixing effect in the next step. Again this part took some patience. I've found that this paint stays on much longer if you take the time to paint very thin coats at a time until you have the coverage that you want. I must confess that I was patient in covering her head and shoulders, but in the photoshoot I realized that there was a lot more skin color showing through than I had planned on. I was able to go back and correct a few areas that were really obvious. It's a fine line between having enough paint airbrushed on to cover the skin and having too much which eventually leads to cracking.

Step 4
Faux finishing with sponge body paint
Faux Finishing - Ironically I learned the technique of faux finishing when I wanted to paint the bathroom in my house. I went to the building supplies store and asked them how to do faux finishing and what products were required. For this step, I used a very similar technique. I used a sythetic version of a sea sponge and made it damp with water. I dipped it into a cake of white paint from Wolfe Brothers. I made sure that there was a decent amount of white paint in the sponge to dab on and give a faux finished look, but not too much to b paint over the black completely. It had to be wet enough to get the black paint to slightly reactivate and help mix up a gray color, but also dry enough to leave some pure white patterns showing. I was thrilled with how well this worked in the pasted down hair.

Step 5
Weathering effect with paint drips
Once her entire body was uniformly covered with white and black, I initially thought that I was complete. Then I had a silly idea to paint a little bit of bird droppings on the sholder. I thought that it might either add a little bit of reality to the image or possibly be too silly to take seriously and therefore completely ruin the bodypainting. I put some white paint on the sponge and dampened it with water. With my fingers crossed, I let a drop or two drip on her shoulders. At first I was a little unhappy that it didn't look real as it kept running down her breast, but then as it dried I was very happy to see that it looked like natural weathering of the stone. Sparingly I added more drops and eventually even added a few to the face. This was one of those happy little accidents that in the end really helped define the look of the bodypainting.

Step 6 - The Photoshoot

Gargoyle Bodypainting by Mark Greenawalt

Once I declared the painting complete, the audience started taking a bunch of pictures of Stephanie and for many artists this could have been the last step. But for me, I still intended on producing the final image. I thought about what props might look appropriate for this character, and finally decided that wings should be the only prop. I had purchased these wings for a previous project when I painted the character Purgatori for the International Horror/Sci-Fi Film Festival. For this project, I faux finished the wings slightly to go along with the bodypainting. Next I had considered trying to paint a background mural showing rooftops and the city below, but I wasn't sure if it might look too cartoonish. I did think of a Corinthian Column that I had used in another previous bodypainting project and thought it might look nice a perch for a gargoyle. I obviously had to faux finish it too. Luckily Stephanie has a passion for yoga so she had no trouble balance on the very small column for all of the various poses. For the photography I wanted to incorporate two lighting techniques. The first was to have some white lighting come from below to simulate the streetlighting below so that the shadows would give the look of classic horror films. The other technique was to provide a blue gel for a back lighting effect to emulate the night sky and moonlight coming from above.


The following day I did another bodypainting project with a model named Renee who wanted to be painted as an Orion slave girl from the Star Trek series. The Orion girls are green. Although this seems easy on the surface to paint a model completely green, the trick is paint with several shades of green to make it look more like "green skin" and less like "green paint". For this project I used a combination of Wolfe Brothers paints and Mehron Paints. Most of the base was applied with sponge techniques and then the toning was done with airbrush techniques. Renee designed and crafted her costume. Her partner was also in costume to play her Romulan slave owner. Although he did not initially plan to be painted, he did need to have pointy ears glued on. After helping with the ears, I thought the look might be enhanced by painting him with copper paint from Temptu. I used the soap technique described above to paste down his natural eyebrows and then airbrushed black lines for the Romulan eyebrows. Here are a few shots from this project.

Orion Slave girl in green body paint Star Trek characters at CopperCon Arizona Slave dancing for Romulan Wolfe Brothers bodypaints


Here are links to the previous CopperCon pages:

http://www.futureclassx.com/bodypaint/Parisharshman/Akasha/CopperCon27.htm
http://www.futureclassx.com/bodypaint/courtney/coppercon25/CopperCon25.htm
http://www.futureclassx.com/bodypaint/daleO/dragon/CopperCon24.htm
http://www.futureclassx.com/bodypaint/rebeccaswann/runes/CopperCon23.htm
http://www.futureclassx.com/bodypaint/lynette/marajade/CopperCon22.htm

 

 



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Unless noted otherwise, Photography and Artwork by Mark Greenawalt c2008
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