Extreme Facepainting

I love painting faces. I've always liked to draw, ever since I was a little girl, and my childhood pastime has manifested in the form of face painting. I've painted faces at my kids' birthday parties, my sister's kids' birthday parties, class parties and charity events. I've donated my face painting services to raise money for the PTA. Parents who see my work always say I should offer my services for hire, but I know better. I've seen some truly amazing designs, so I know where I stand. I'm an amateur, and happy to stay that way -- but that doesn't mean I don't want to learn and improve.

Here is the sort of face paint design I like to paint on little girls' faces, on the fly (you can see more of my face painting work on Flickr):

It's sweet and simple, and every little girl I've ever painted this kind of design on has loved it. But I'm ready to take it up a notch, and I've found the perfect book to teach me how to do it.

Nick and Brian Wolfe are superstars in the world of face and body painting. They're the reigning World Bodypainting Champions. They travel the world, teaching workshops on face painting, body painting, special effects make-up and mask making. They're the original founders of the make-up company Wolfe Face Art & FX, the very same company that makes the face paint I've been using for years. So when I was invited to review their book, Extreme Facepainting, I was so excited.

The book begins with a run-down on the most common face painting materials, tools and techniques. The rest of the book is devoted to showing you how to paint fifty common face paint designs, divided into 25 "friendly" and 25 "fiendish" faces. I say "common" in the sense that they're probably some of the most requested face paint designs -- dogs, cats, lions, rainbows, clowns, vampires, flowers, witches and so on. But the designs themselves are anything but common -- they are intricate and beautiful, and truly worthy of the adjective "extreme".

This mummy? Common? Ah doan think so.

The book does a great job of breaking down a complicated full face paint task into seemingly manageable smaller sections. Each design has step-by-step photos and instructions, as well as a photo of the finished face. Conceptually, the instructions are really easy to follow -- in practice, you need to be a fairly decent painter. If you want to replicate the designs exactly, you'll need a steady hand, a good brush and sponge, and an ability to blend colors. It can be intimidating.

But if you're confident and willing to practice, this book is the perfect way to learn how to paint the most amazing designs you've ever seen. Even if your design doesn't turn out looking exactly the way it does in the photos, that's okay. True artists never copy, anyway; they use other artists for inspiration! And as the book says, there is no bad face painting.

Here is one of the designs from the book, a Simple Swirl:

Or, to be more accurate, this is my interpretation of their swirl design. I'm not talented enough to copy their design exactly; my hand is too shaky to make perfect swirls, shadows and highlights. Also, I don't have the proper colors or tools (I really should get the right sponges and brushes, and this design is just begging for some gold glitter). But it's fairly close, and I think I'll get better as I practice. It is so dainty and delicate, and it's really not difficult to do. I think it only took me about 5 minutes to complete.

Here is the Cyborg design on page 79, or once again, my interpretation of the Cyborg design. The most noticeable difference between the book design and how it turned out on 3Po is the dark black area around the eye. Kids are usually very sensitive about having that area painted, so I knew I was never going to get every single part of it covered in deep black paint. My shading is crude compared with the actual design. But I'm still really happy with how it turned out.

I'm looking forward to trying out more of the designs in this book!

Disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

1 Comments, Leave yours here:

Heather! on October 26, 2011 at 7:32 AM said...

These are awesome, and your 'interpretations' are brilliant! What a fun skill/hobby! Wish I could do it, but even my doodles look like doodoo. :)

You really should invest in some glitters and hire your talent out. You are your own worst critic, and you will only ever get better with every face you paint. But these really are fabulous! Well done!!

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