Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Building a new portfolio.

I went back to school in september to become a certified make-up artist and start offering beauty make-up services in addition to everything else I already do. Take a look at a recent behind the scenes vlog I made about a recent photoshoot for my portfolio in beauty make-up.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Healing: Behind the Paint

So I have been lucky enough to be included in a new docomentary  "Behind the Paint; the Fine Art of Body Painting" (to be released in 2011) on body painting by James Anthony McElligott.
James filmed two of my most recent body paintings; the "Mermaid" photoshoot with fashion designer & belly dancer, Keera Sama, and the "2 Pregnant Sisters" photoshoot with photographer Andrei Kalamkarov. I am really excited to be part of this project and I love learning and hearing about the other body painters.

James has been following and filming various artists in the world of body painting around the globe now for two years, and is currently now in the editing process of his documentary. I can't imagine how many hours will go into making this film by the time everything is said and done. It's very exciting!

"Healing: Behind the Paint" is a 10 minute short which was just released on  youtube, that documents the work of artist Margie Nugent in Mount Kisco, New York, USA. This film shows Margie's work utilizing body painting as a healing tool; healing both for the artist and for the model.

Model: Jessica Mellow
Body Painting by Margie Nugent
Photography by Will Cook.
 I really appreciate both Margie's and her model,  Jessica Mellow's, very candid and open communication about their personal challenges and why body painting has helped in their healing processes. The photographer for this shoot was Will Cook.

To me body painting can be a very sacred and vulnerable process because of the nature of working in such close quarters with a model in the nude. Our society is such that generally speaking, we don't get physically touched except by a lover, our doctor, our dentists et cetera.

It's so intimate working on someone's face & body (regardless of if it's just for regular beauty make-up, face painting or full body painting). The nature of body painting is very tactile, and so it's important that there is a level of professionalism, considerate awareness, comfort, trust and harmony between the model & the artist. It is in this sense that I find the process to be sacred. So that said, it makes total sense to me that body painting would be a great medium for healing. Take a look at the documentary, it's a great short film!

On a side note, if you like what you see, James is looking for donations towards finishing the full feature length body painting documentary, "Behind the Paint; the Fine Art of Body Painting". The donations that James is asking for will go towards editing & production costs, promotion costs et cetera.
To donate, you can contact James through is website:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hong-Kong Stories; leaving Canada for the 1st time and arriving at City-U...

I am finally having a chance to go over the several thousand photos I took on my journey through Hong-Kong & China and here is the first video-journal (video blog = vlog) in a long series of them! This showing a glimpse into our flight, boredom in Taipei Airport waiting to transfer, "Hello Kitty Terminal" (ouch, the pink is burning my retinas!! Just kidding), and exploring City Universty campus, which was to be our home for the next 3 weeks. Please leave comments! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two Pregnant Models

Body paintings by The Art of April-Anna & Elissa Baltzer Dreamscapes. Photography by Andrei Kalamkarov. Music provided courtesy of Mushroom Lounge Recordings.

It took me 26 solid hours (this includes the first 3 hours Elissa helped me to get it started) to do the background painting. It's unknown how long it took to make the mask since I created it over the period of a week in between other activities. I was still working on the mask through the out the day of the shoot, finishing final details right after I finished the body painting. The body painting on the pregnant model wearing the mask is by me. The other body painting that is influenced by the sun was created by Elissa.

The inspiration was a combination of Venetian masquerade balls, the moon in classical faerie tales, the sun, creation, growth (blue lotus flower). This photoshoot was a celebration for the two women being 8 months & 6 months pregnant.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

New to the body arts? Do you have business questions?

Are you new to the body arts? Are you an artist trying to start your business in face painting or body painting?

Or are you a concerned client looking for more information?

Wether it's face painting or body painting, here's a few things you might want to know.


Some of the products commonly used that are approved for cosmetic use as a face or body paint are the following (listing from low quality to high quality products): Snazaroo, Ben Nye MagiCakes, LYRA Make-up Pencils, WOLFE Face Art & FX, Mehron, Kryolan Aquacolor, MAC PRO "Chromacakes", Make-up Forever Face & Body Paints.

What not to use on the skin: tempera, crafters paint, acrylic, watercolors (watercolours), lyra aquacolor crayons; anything not approved for cosmetic use.

Just because the product says "non toxic" does not mean it is safe to use on the skin or to eat. All that means is that it will not kill a child if the decide to lick the paint brush.

"...Mom, who told the painter that she had sensitive skin, and, the painter who said it was fine... (This was before I knew about "real" face paint)...had been painted with one of those "acrylics"... My daughter had scabs on her forehead for a month! And, on her arm, it itched so bad that she scratched it raw!..." Quoted from: Jenna Rose, Daisy Twist Company, Colorado Balloon & Decor/Daisy Twist

Approved for Cosmetic Use: Health Canada is responsible for regulating cosmetics under the Food and Drug Act and the Cosmetic Regulations. In the states, the Food & Drug Adminstration in the USA is responsible for what is approved for cosmetic use. Now it's true that both Health Canada and the FDA in the states, both do approve things that are a bit questionable at times, it's still much more likely that it is really actually safe for use on the skin. But you do need to do your research into understanding the particulars of the ingredients in any product. 

Don't assume the worst or the best, just go in with your eyes open realizing that while some things approved for cosmetic use really are fine, there is a grey zone when dealing with cosmetically approved products. From my research, it would seem that a company does not need to apply for "safe for cosmetic use" status until the product has been on the market for 10 days. The following is quoted from David Suzuki's website:

"Many chemical ingredients in cosmetics have never been tested for their effects on human health and the environment. Health Canada and Environment Canada are slowly working their way through the assessment of some 4,000 existing substances — including chemicals used in cosmetics — that have been categorized as potentially posing a risk to human health or the environment. Assessment of cosmetic ingredients is often frustrated by a lack of data on exposure and long-term health effects. Moreover, of the handful of chemicals assessed to date and deemed to be toxic, those used in cosmetics generally remain unregulated, with Health Canada opting instead to place them on the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist."

"New rules introduced in 2006 require manufacturers to disclose cosmetic ingredients on the product label. This important improvement to the Cosmetic Regulations provides information to consumers and health professionals that was previously considered confidential. Cosmetics are one of the only consumer products for which the public's "right to know" about chemical ingredients is guaranteed in Canada (in contrast, the disclosure of ingredients in household cleaners is voluntary, for example)."

"...loophole exists for chemicals used to scent or mask scents in cosmetics. The term "fragrance" or "parfum" on an ingredients list usually represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. Fragrance recipes are considered a trade secret so manufacturers are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients."

Despite the above statements, I still think that a professional face or body painter will use only products approved for use as a cosmetic because it's better then the alternative. Don't forget that the body is built to deal with a certain amount of exposure to toxins, be it ingested orally, or absorbed through the skin or breathed in. If you are wearing make-up or body art products only once in a while then you will be fine, but like eating too much chocolate, too much of a good thing will have it's consquences. Everything in balance is my motto!

Insurance, Health Canada et cetera
In Canada the industry is still too new for there to be insurance or other details like formal associations to be well established. But I know that in Calgary, Alberta, Health Canada does do spontainous inspections of local face painters while they are working. If an inspector sees you double dipping in your paints, you will get into trouble, possibly be put out of business. For example, in Calgary, Alberta, they expect face painters to abide by the same rules that make-up artists abide by; which means NO DOUBLE DIPPING in your paints; you would need to use a clean utensil to cut off a small amount of paint, and put it into a seperate container that would be used on only one child's face, then disinfect your brushes & sponges before repeating the same thing for the next child.

In the United Kingdom (England, Scotland et cetera) you have to be approved before you can work with the public as a face or body painter, and there is a well established association there that checks you for both your health tactics & skills before allowing you membership. In Canada there is the Canadian Association of Face and Body Artists that is trying to become established as the authority in approving quality assurance, but as far as I know there are very few face & body painters who are actually members in comparison to how many face & body painters there are in Canada.

What should I charge as a face or body painter?
That is up to you. If you are really "green around the gills", that is to say, you are completely new to face painting as a business, then it's reasonable to do work for exposure, as gifts to friends and family, volunteering for non-profit organizations et cetera.

For a beginner with no or very little professional experience, between $20 to $40 an hour is a very normal price range. For those who are past the stage of "beginner" but maybe aren't as experienced as someone who has been in the business for 8 years or more, $50 an hour is pretty normal. Contracts for artistic assistants will usually pay between $40-$50 an hour.

But for professionals who have been at it a long time, while many artists do a certain amount of sliding scale (negotiable to the clients budget), and how far that scale will slide really depends on a few factors; how much does the artist like the client, how convenient or easy is the job, or how desperate is the artist for work.
During times of slow business, many artists find it is sometimes necessary to take any business that comes your way, but there is a huge argument between body artists about wether or not it's professional at all to be willing to have a sliding scale.

Each artist sets their standards.
Generally speaking, when you have been painting over 5 years, the price ranges from $50 an hour up to $80 per hour, but when you have been painting over 8/10 years, most artists will try to aim at being paid between $80-$150 per hour.

The local market plays a big role in pricing. Such as face painting in Calgary, Alberta, the going rate is between $125-$150 per hour. The going rate in Montreal, QC for face painting is between $50-$100. per hour but the going rate for body painting in Montreal is between $80-$150 per hour. Vancouver, BC is $40-$100 per hour.

Body painting prices accross the globe seem to be pretty simular from what I have gathered from the body painters I have talked to coming from around the globe; seems to be a normal price to pay $500-$1000 (in total) for full head to foot body painting; this is because of how time consuming it is to paint someone from head to foot (average of 5-8 hours depending on the look).

Keep in mind that there is no officially recognized unions or associations for face & body painting in Canada, so as such it's hard to find any form of statistics on pricing. Mostly you learn by observation of what you see other artists charging, internet information or talking to artists in person.

Most artists don't list their prices online, especially highly experienced artists. As a generalization, it's only the artists approaching business from the "cheapest face painter in town" advertising tactic who will promote their prices. But generally speaking, good quality work is usually more pricey.

While it can get harder to get contracts the more you charge, usually it just means you work less but earn the same amount of money.

Additional factors that affect your pricing are covered under "business plan".

Business Plan
A business plan is a smart idea but difficult to complete under any circumstances, but I think especially for the body arts. From a business plan perspective, you should be creating your pricing according to a number of factors: experience/expertise, cost of supplies, overhead (if you are home based, 25% of your rent, hydro, phone et cetera can legally be claimed as part of your overhead) such as your phone, advertising costs, promotional time & office work.

When figuring out your pricing, you also need to consider not only what your direct competition is doing but also your indirect competition. Indirect competition means that if you are a face painter then any children's service is indirect competition, this includes magicians, clowns, activity teachers et cetera. The average price for a magician in Montreal for example is around $200 an hour.

Something else to keep in mind is that regardless of if you are busy with lots of work or if you are going through a slow period; to keep up both your skills, your speed and to be able to develop your skills even further, you need to always be painting even when there is no work. So if you are always painting, the costs of materials used, & time involved should be reflected in your pricing.

For more information about writing a business plan, contact your local entrepreneur, small business centre or try looking online, or at the library.

Presentation & Portfolio
Presentation is really important. This includes your personal presentation (your person), are you clean, neat, tidy & dressed appropriately? Is your work space clean, neat and tidy? Are you brushes & sponges sanatized? Is your face painting water kept clean or do you allow it get and stay very muddy? Are your face paints a mess at the beginning of your job, do you clean your face paints between faces (such as mixing colours).

Portfolio is really important. When you are just starting off, any old photo is better then no photo, but once you are established, it's critical you work on building a portfolio of professional images. A website for most artists is their only store front, and is a public portfolio, so be sure to build a website. Don't forget to utilize social media, as having a web presence is essential to bringing in business.

That's it for now!
I am sure there is more I could add to this article but I have about mentally exhausted myself in writing this, and I dont' think there are many people who will read all of the details without skimming. If you have any questions I have not covered here, please leave a comment and I will be happy to update this article at a later date.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Body Internal - Video Journal - Behind the Scenes - August 2010 Photoshoot

This is a collaborative body painting between myself (The Art of April-Anna) and artist, Elissa Baltzer Dreamscapes in Montreal, QC, Canada. This a long over due video journal "vlog" that I only now finally had time to create. It has taken me 15 hours to make this vlog ("vlog" means "video blog", same thing as video journal).

The body painting took 9 hours with the last 2 hours receiving additional help from my fiancee, who proved to be a very helpful assistant, Ziggy Lam. Photography is by Benjamin VON WONG, plus amateur photos taken by either myself or Ziggy on our camera (it's definately not a professional camera).
Model is Pierre Simard. Music provided courtesy of Mushroom Lounge Recordings.

This was my second time working with Elissa, but our 1st time working on the same painting & model. The body painting depicts the anatomy of the internal body from the musculature, cartilage, bones, and some organs, with a traditional Chinese Medicine twist. The 5 elements is depicted on Pierre's back, with the yin-yang besides the heart, & the large intestine meridian line is painted in yellow, going up his arm, neck and under his nose.

This video includes some narrative about why we choose this subject, as well as a small amount of educational information in relation to where the traditional chinese medicine comes in and what the  meaning is of what we choose. Please leave comments!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A warm reminder of Summer

As I have been saying over the last several blog postings, life has been very full and it's been hard to find the time to keep up this blog and to keep up my video-journals (some call them "vlogs": video blogs). Hence why it is now December and I have only just now made my behind the scenes video journal of the photoshoot I did in August with photographer Andrei Kalamkarov & fire performer, Christina Supernova.

I conceptualized a thematic with a blending influence of Victorian, Steampunk, masquerade, circus & shamanism; which played with the balance & delicate nature of life. Stars, sun & moon combined with a hand painted waste cincher & neck corset; the body painting, including the hair & make-up, took a total of 7 hours of preparation. We scouted the right location on the spot, driving around, much to the chagrin of our model (it was around midnight after all) and much to my stress, but we had a feeling, followed that instinct and really lucked out with exactly the right location along the Lachine Canel bike path in Montreal, QC, Canada.

The images I was looking for were intended for use in my then upcoming art exhibition in the Belgo Building, "Ancient Reverie", which did feature alot of imagery from this photoshoot. By the end of the photoshoot, Christina was very cold but a good sport, we all had a lot of fun and it was beautiful to watch the process unfold. We finished the photoshoot somewhere around 3am.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Time is a funny thing inside my mind...

I have said it before and will probably say it again, time is flying and it seems that it is increasingly difficult to properly maintain my blog. But this is the nature of being an ambitious. I actually have quite a collection of photos intended for my blog, which go back to the summertime. I should have time during the winter to play catch up; I hope...

In the meantime, here are some teasers from this past week's activities. The photos below are not professional images and were taken with my digital camera by either myself or Ziggy. The professional images we will get back sometime in the next week.

I have been wanting to paint a full scale backdrop for my body painting photoshoots, as well as to incorporate my hobby of mask making. So on tuesday just past, I started painting with my artist friend, Elissa Baltzer, on my 14 foot raw canvas. Keeping in mind that I am a self-taught artist, I had no idea that the canvas needed to literally be stretched  before using. I was informed after the fact that the technique is to soak the canvas in water then hang it to dry and it will naturally stretch out. I didn't do this and ended up with the canvas rippling and becoming an odd shape to what it was when I tacked it on the wall to start painting. I did consider using the ripples to my advantage such as turning those ripples into tree branches but I ran out of time to add more details.

Raw canvas on the roll also does not come as wide as I need, so the 14 feet were split in half so I had two peices that were approx. 5 feet wide by 7 feet long but combined together side by side became 10 feet by 7 feet. I didn't have the time or resources to do anything about the seam split between the canvases and decided to deal with that later by using GIMP (free software equivalent to photoshop).

I also didn't predict very acurately how much gesso is needed to prime a canvas of this size, we turned out to be short on gesso, one large bottle of gesso primed 1/2 of the canvas. We had to become very creative in preparing the canvas by mixing water, left over gesso with white paint and artist medium; not in the slightest bit an ideal primer but better then no primer at all.

As is normal for me, I was late getting started on tuesday and Elissa only had that one day to help me; so in the end she spent 3 hours helping me with the primer and some of the base colours. The painting was originally intended to be a collaboration so I ended up painting solo.

I swear I told her how big the canvas was, but it's possible I just thought about telling her and didn't in fact mention that how huge it was. I do know I kept saying a "backdrop" which I literally meant to be a backdrop but Elissa had in her mind what she had seen me do before which was using my paintings as props in the photos so she thought we were doing a "large small painting". On the upside, we both now have a much better idea of what it will take to jointly create such a massive backdrop in the future (not to mention the amount of supplies needed).

Including Elissa's initial 3 hours of work, it took approxemately 26 hours in total to finish the painting. Wednesday evening I skipped my class (much to the chargrin of Ziggy) and stayed up till 6am in the morning on thursday, the day of the photoshoot, painting non-stop.

I finished the mask in the afternoon on the day of the shoot, with some details being finished during body painting preparations. The body painting itself was a 5 hour endeuver working on a pregnant model. Elissa body painted a second model who happened to be the sister of my model, who was also pregnant. Plus make-up & hair.

 Needless to say I still feel very exhuasted, but I feel really good about the results and can't wait to get the photos back from the photographer, Andrei Kalamkarov. The documentary maker, James Anthony McElligott, also had a chance to come down to collect some film footage.