The theme of this year's event was centered around The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the catch phrase was "One Con To Rule Them All". With all of the colorful characters from J.R.R. Tolkein's masterpiece it's hard to believe that I had trouble coming up with an idea for this bodypainting demonstration. I had considered painting a model with one of the costumes worn by Liv Tyler in the motion pictures, but they all seemed to be very fluffy and loose fitting. It's pretty tough to paint something to look like it is loose fitting. I definitely wanted to center the project around the elven race.
In an effort to brainstorm some ideas, I sat down and put in the DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring. Before the movie even starts, they show the ring itself and show it's inscription dancing in the fire light. BINGO. I immediately remembered a fellow bodypainter here in Phoenix named Yulie. Her signature style was to paint poetic verses using Japanese characters all over the bodies of the models that she worked with. I haven't seen her in about two years, but I distinctly remember being enamored with her art work. My goal now was to borrow her idea of painting words and characters on my model, but to instead use the elven language and character set. My model of choice for this project was Rebecca Swann who I had recently worked with for the Bombay Sapphire party. Her long blonde hair and stunning physique were perfect for the part.
Now that I had a plan of attack, I started
surfing the net to find some of this writing so that I could have
something to go by. I happened upon a site called Writing
With Elvish Fonts and it was a full blown tutorial on the
subject. This Elvish writing system is the same as the one used in
the Lord of the Rings novels and the font is referred to as Tengwar.
The site goes on to provide Tegwar fonts that you can use on your computer
and there is a link to an English to Tengwar translator that you can
download. Here is the name Rebecca in Tengwar.
I have been fortunate to have some great art teachers that have shown me many interesting techniques and one-by-one I have been applying them to my bodypainting artform. I wouldn't have expected to ever have a chance to use calligraphy skills as a body artist, but the cursive Tengwar characters are very similar to the calligraphy fonts that I have often practiced. My next step was to print out some pages of Elvish writing and practice the letters with a calligraphy pen to get the feel of the language.
With the motif of my project firmly in place, I set out to iron out the details. My demonstration was to be in the middle of the afternoon and was therefore not an "adult-only" performance. Because of this I wanted to make sure that my model was somewhat covered (although in hindsight, I don't think that there were any kids running around anyway). I designed a costume that centered around a purple loincloth and top and accented by a white belt, headband, and painted on hand cuffs. I bought the purple material and cut it to length just before the audience entered the venue. Meanwhile, Rebecca was braiding the white leather string that I bought. The belt was one my wife used to wear back in the crazy 80's rock and roll days and the ears were glued on to drive home the fact that she was Elven. It's also somewhat comical to note that the staff that she is wielding is actually an old coat rack that nearly threw away (the streamers tied to the staff are a tribute to Liv Tyler's dad).
Hmmm. What to write on Rebecca? Well for starters, I wrote the actual inscription from the ring across her arms and upper chest. On her legs I painted the actual inscription from the Gates of Moria (this may have been inadvertantly inappropriate since the translation, I was later told, is "The doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak friend and enter"). On her back I wrote a few fun things that I had translated using the Tengwar program. Maybe someday scholars will be researching my work trying to translate the jibberish.
The last part of the painting was actually somewhat of an afterthought. I had been planning to do a bodypainting of a Celtic knot that would cover a models belly, but leave the breasts exposed. I chose to use up the idea on this project and I am very happy with how it compliments the Elvish characters.
The painting took about one and a half hours to complete in front of a small crowd of about 12 to 15 people. The paint that I used for the project was Badger Airbrush's Totally Tattoo. All of the lettering and the Celtic knot were applied with a flat brush. I did airbrush a little paint on the ears to make the tips match her natural ear color too. The moment we we completed and ready to do the photoshoot, the skies let loose a gentle rain that kept us waiting for about 45 minutes before getting started. The photoshoot took place in an abandoned waterfall feature at the front of Embassy Suites parking lot.
If you are interested in ordering a print from this photoshoot or would like additional information on bodypainting, please feel free to contact [email protected] and visit my website at www.futureclassx.com . Please browse through the additional images from the show below. Thanks for visiting!
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Unless noted otherwise, Photography and Artwork by Mark Greenawalt c2003
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