For the 2010 Phoenix ComiCon I wanted to create and live art experience that contained original sci-fi-fantasy characters situated on a themed stage set. The event was billed as, "International bodypaint artist Mark Greenawalt creates a life-sized diorama reminiscent Vallejo, Bell, Frazetta, and Royo. Watch Greenawalt clothe the living canvas with body paint to create an original scene from an imaginary world."
I brainstormed several ideas before finally landing on the black widow spider woman. The goal was to get a male victim up into a life sized web and have a sinister looking spider woman looking sexy in front of her kill. Making the spider web was the first and biggest challenge. I came up with a few designs made out of wood that could be structurally sound enough to support a persons weight and bounced the idea off of a friend of mine who is a mechanical engineer. As fate would have it, he happened to have a 14-foot trampoline that he was planning on getting rid of and proposed using it to frame the web. I now have even a little more respect for spiders after using 300 feet of clothes line string to spin the web on this ring. I used tie wraps to fasten each of the strings so that I would be able to cut them loose to transport the ring and then re-attach the web with tie wraps at the convention hall. I used a little bit of white duct tape to keep the spiraling strings in place on the cross braces. Here is a picture of the finished web in my back yard. I considered adding frayed fabrics to conceal the metal ring, but I ended up liking the industrial look of it with some rust, lots of dirt, and duct tape that looked like it was bandaged.
The next task was working on the costume pieces. I knew that the spider woman and the web could look everything from futuristic to modern day or something out of pure fantasy, so it was up to the clothing of the victim to set the time frame. I wanted it to be a sci-fi-fantasy piece so I was going for a Conan the Barbarian outfit with leather skins and straps of leather for sandals. I would have probably added more leather cuffs and necklace pieces if I had time and a little more experience with leather, but this kept the outfit simple. For the spider, I envisioned a painted on outfit of pure black liquid latex so the only clothing needed would be black leather boots, black gloves, and for this event, a black thong. I didn't want this character to be the Marvel Comics Spider-Woman or the Black Widow character from the Iron Man II movie, I wanted it to be my own design. Part of my research led me to seeing spider faces with multiple eyes and I decided that a black leather mask with multiple eyes could really make the character look freaky and a little evil. I had never made a leather mask so I watched a few youtube videos to learn the process. I made the two main eyes using toy capsules from a gumball machine and the little black ones were made from hemispheres of wood that were screwed onto the leather. I invested in a leather hole punch and grommets to make the strap connection a little more professional. Here is a close-up shot of the mask.
I mentioned that it was my first vision to paint the spider woman with a shiny black cat suit of liquid latex. This look would have most closely looked like the skin of a real black widow spider, but unfortunately I thought it would also look too much like the Marvel Black Widow and so many other characters in black leather suits. I decided to use a technique that I used for an earlier project. The first step was to paint the stripes and circles (where her skin is now showing through) with liquid latex. I painted this really sloppy to look jagged and uneven. Someone in the audience later mentioned to me that they had seen my work before and were surprised how sloppy the painting was looking at first. But alas that was not the last step. I next airbrushed black bodypaint (Reel Creations) over the models body being careful to not make it completely solid, but instead concentrated at the liquid latex stripes which were now mostly dry. The next step was to peel off the latex to reveal the pattern left showing through to the model's skin. The last step was to paint the red black widow symbol on her back and I also decided to outline the symbol on the breasts with red also. I used a new formula of European Body Art (EBA) body paint for the red due to it's very vibrant color. My spider model was the wonderful Paris Harshman and again she collaborated to come up with some fantastic images. The male model was Matthew Lenzi who I had previously painted as Captain America for a previous Marvel vs. DC bodypainting project. Although it may seem that he played a minor role in this project, he too had to be painted from head to toe with white EBA bodypaint and then wrapped in white yarn. Then he had to strategically balance himself up on the unsteady web structure.
This was one of the largest bodypainting demonstrations that I have done and it was a pretty full house in a 1,700 square foot exhibition space at the Phoenix Convention Center. The ceilings were 16-foot tall which was just enough for my 14-foot web to be propped up on the the 18" high stage. I had prepared a sound track for the presentation that included almost two hours of songs that were related to spiders, black, webs, or general evil. Key songs included Alice Cooper's "Welcome To My Nightmare", "The Black Widow", and "Poison", two songs from Lita Ford called "Black Widow", Lynch Mob's "Tangled in the Web", and a few comic relief songs like Homer Simpson's "Spider Pig" and the Jim Stafford classic, "Spiders and Snakes". I had the maintenance staff dim the lights in the hall and used my photography lights for a theatrical effect on stage, complete with a fog machine. Overall, things went smoothly and I think the project was a great success. The audience was encouraged to shoot their own images of the scene and nearly everyone participated in this. Here are a few more of my shots.
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Unless noted otherwise, Photography and Artwork by Mark Greenawalt c2010. All rights reserved.
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