FABAIC – The Face and Body Art International Convention returned to Orlando, Florida for an exciting new weekend filled with art and inspiration from some of the most sought-after creators and educators in the world of face and body art. Participants were dazzled with an incredible array of class offerings! Even instructors rose at dawn to enjoy kicking off the day with Zumba or Laughing Yoga, before immersing themselves in the presentations and workshops they were there to share. Courses spanned a variety of relevant topics from the business and legal sides, to techniques, tips and tools, inclusive of facepainting, bodypainting, special FX, bellypaint, henna, temporary tattoos and related arts. Pre-and-post-convention workshops offered special immersion and one-on-one instruction with selected teachers for an additional day’s upcharge.

This was my second experience teaching at FABAIC and I find it invaluable as a means of keeping on top of trends. The assembled collection of top industry vendors here is second-to-none in the US, and is a great place to get the lowdown on latest products hitting the market. It’s equally fantastic to sit in on many of the other popular instructors’ workshops and gauge the attendee interest in specified topics. As my own class offerings are all bodypaint-related, I was floored by attendance numbers that easily tripled my class size of just two year’s prior (one class drew a head count of 70 artists/models) packing the room and necessitating a dash out for extra chairs and drop cloths for the hands-on portion.

Many artists elect to push their newfound knowledge in the competitive arena, with several popular competitive facepaint challenges and the bodypaint competition that takes place on the final day. I was pleased to again sit on the Bodypaint Jury in 2017, with colleagues like Nick Wolfe, Yolanda Bartram, Ginny and Avi Ram to score the field and choose a new set of champions. The much-anticipated bodypaint entries are then presented to the public live onstage at the convention’s Gala Awards Banquet and are a highlight of the show. It was my particular honor to introduce these works to the Gala attendees as I was invited to again be FABAIC’S Gala Emcee and Show Presenter for a lively evening of programming including stage performances, dance floor DJ interludes, the banquet itself and the culminating awards ceremony.

Certainly, it’s not only the opportunity for education and inspiration but truly the desire for a long weekend of immersive creative community that fuels the spirit of FABAIC. While the pursuit of new skills is serious, FABAIC itself is playful, joyful, colorful and imbued with camaraderie! The atmosphere of support, inclusion, and encouragement are palpable, from the organizers (THANK YOU!!!) to the educators, to attendees (from adults-to the teens-to the kids’ track), to the team of endlessly patient models, to the tireless volunteers giving long hours to keep things running smoothly. A labor of love that takes place on this scale is immensely worthy of recognition. Certainly, I am grateful to contribute my own talents in harmonious connection with so many other passionate advocates of this art form, in this industry. I’m already eagerly anticipating FABAIC 2019 and if you’re serious about your own love of body art, I hope you’ll be planning to join me!

The World Bodypainting Festival – The 2017 World Bodypainting Festival took place in its brand-new host city of Klagenfurt, Austria and artists and aficionados arrived from around the globe for a firsthand look the Festival’s latest incarnation. Not since the 2011 move from Seeboden to Pörtschach am Wörthersee has the WBF noted such a significant change of locale in its history. The Klagenfurt I experienced seemed very welcoming of this influx of creatives. Overall, the switch to a larger Austrian city offered a greater deal of transportation convenience and a nice variety of accommodation options. This is not to say the sprawling Lake Wörthersee peninsula that was well-loved by those attending in Pörtschach was not missed for its incomparable natural beauty, but the WBF’s new, more compact city park location could easily be appreciated for the greater ease of moving through the entirety of the festival.

So it was a new year for us all, with the changes attendant to the shift, but with the most beloved facets of the festival coming to the fore, for the greatly anticipated 20th Anniversary! Artists themselves begin arriving early in the week to attend or give workshops for the WB Academy and I fell into the second group of these. My “Composition for Competitive Bodypainting” sponsored by Cameleon Bodypaint was at maximum capacity and the students and I spent a joyful day immersed in creation on the class models, once the concepts of study had been outlined for the class. On the days I was not teaching, I visited the classrooms of other courses and documented instructors and participants in video snippets for WB Academy on social media.

As the WB Academy, Festival pre-day parties, gallery openings, and the immensely popular Body Circus Costume Gala all gave way to the Festival main days, I was front-and-center of the action to record and share all of the competition happenings throughout the creation days, from paint time to stage presentations to awards. As a former competitor, I’m keenly aware of the ups-and-downs of the entire experience. Even when that final name called at the end of the day in the category is yours (signifying first place), there’s not a single moment of certainty in your day until THAT one, so those in-between hours are an exquisitely heightened experience of adrenaline-fueled highs and lows. I endeavor now to document and preserve some of those moments for an ever-increasing global social media audience who finds the incredible creativity, ephemeral beauty and personal stories of artistic triumph, compelling.

My own festival highlights, other than cheering on so many dear friends and colleagues to victory or personal bests, would include a viral feature painting live for Snapchat, who were savvy enough to send their own reporter to cover the festival. I was equally pleased to paint live demos on the Cameleon Bodypaint stand and to paint Main Stage performing artist Angela Reign, the only US singer headlining at the festival. I had the honor of modeling again for Odd Territory’s Latex Body Art Fashion Show, both at the Body Circus and in the Saturday Main Stage finale presentation. A note here that Odd Territory is the fashion company of model/designer Kim Leeftink, who was, in fact, Scott’s and my competition model from 2011 – 2013. She carried our art through most of our history-making competition streak at the WBF and in Asia. For me to be model for her art is quite a case of the tables being turned, but not an uncommon case of the type of cross-connected, creative love that is so prevalent at the WBF.

Love is, in fact, absolutely at the heart of the World Bodypainting Festival and has been, for 20 years and counting. A lovingly signed (by many past/present festival champions) mannequin and a big anniversary cake presented to (okay, smooshed in the face of) producer Alex Barendregt amid a chaotic stage filled with popping corks and spraying champagne at the awards ceremony certainly bore witness to the affection of all gathered. It was the culminating moment of two decades of intense care, direction and nurturing of the focal point of an entire art movement. It was marvelous to be again on that stage, dodging champagne drops, wreathed in joy! Some years have been my own joy: the triumphant moment of each of our victories, followed by the bliss of taking my marriage vows on that same stage surrounded by bodypaint family and friends. But this was the special joy of Alex’s achievement, being lifted by a global collective of artists past and present for whom the WBF has been an integral part of their lives and work. I was incredibly grateful to have my place and to be in that place, yet another once-in-a-lifetime moment of the kind that can only occur at the World Bodypainting Festival.

Living Art America: The North American Bodypainting Championships – Living Art America returned to North Carolina to present the largest and most prestigious bodypainting competition produced in the USA at The Greensboro Coliseum. The North American Championships has welcomed artists from 20 countries and 5 continents to compete for top honors in the festival’s 8-year history. 2017 again brought us a full competition roster that included reigning and former World Champions, as well as some of the top emerging talent from across the country and around the globe. As two of the show’s four partnering co-producers, Scott and I have remained incredibly proud of the work created by artists chosen for inclusion, as well as proud to be an anchoring point for the future of the art form in this country. As artists whose own creative growth was nurtured along the competition path, we wanted to create a space that held the opportunities of such a journey for artists here in America. We welcome international as well as stateside talent, truly showcasing the best of the best each year, with a new champion crowned on our stage by a jury of the highest international qualification.

A fun meet-and-greet reception on Thursday at the popular Jazz Night at Greensboro’s O’Henry Hotel welcomed artists and sponsors for another year. Friday presented participants with a variety of creative happenings, including a paint jam that segued into an evening of bodypainted opera performance for Greensboro’s First Friday Gallery Hop, presented by Chakras Salon and Spa on Elm. Designs on the opera singers were led by our prestigious jury members and assisted to completion by participating competitors. Also on tap for Friday was the Second Annual Bodypaint Film Festival, thoughtfully curated by our own Scott Fray, with an international line-up of short films often introduced by the filmmakers or the starring artists, themselves. This is the only all-bodypaint film festival being presented in the world, today and we are incredibly proud to host it to continuing accolades from both the body art community and the region, at large.

LAA’s main competition day brought us the opportunity to welcome our friends and present breathtaking, live works of art created around the theme: “Heal the Body, Heal the World”. An incredible amount of care and consideration is poured into representing the theme by each artist, who receives a significant portion of their score for the interpretation. Over the course of years, we have been refining our methods of communicating these to the audience who comes to see the stage show presentation.

In 2017, we developed a new way to showcase these artist’s concepts, that they might be more fully appreciated by attendees who wish to comprehend the stories that underlie each creation. We allowed the audience to be present for the jury presentations (a historical first) and each artist presented their work from a staged vantage point, via a microphone, so their concepts could be absorbed by those assembled. This resulted in one of the more popular changes ever instituted, taking what was formerly a “jury-only” privilege, into the public domain. Though initially, this may have seemed a daunting for our artists, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive all around, gaining a new level of appreciation for the art.

As both Competition Director and the Mistress of Ceremonies Emcee/Presenter for Living Art America, I experience such powerful kinship with our artists, as well as great affinity with our audiences. My particular vantage point is a special place, as I watch the reaction to the art through hundreds of pairs of eyes, some for the very first time. Every team (artist, assistant, and model) on that stage represents not just a single day’s work, but a collection of incredible individual stories that lead up to that moment, running deeper than any of us will ever know. It is our gift to provide these artists with that moment, a chance to be acknowledged and appreciated by those who would celebrate not only the victors but the victorious significance inherent in each creation.

Daegu International Bodypainting Festival – The 2017 Daegu International Bodypainting Festival is the longest-running and largest festival to specifically anchor the art form of Bodypainting in Asia. Since becoming the Festival Champions in 2013, Scott and I have each enjoyed the honor of being invited to judge this competition, several times in rotation. In 2017, I was the grateful recipient of the invitation and was pleased to rejoin the jury with a number of notable international peers including former World Champions, Matteo Arfanotti (Italy), Tera Bakker (Netherlands) and Gabriella Hajek-Renner (Austria) as well as the creator of the UK’s largest Bodypainting Competition, Jennie Roberts (England). It’s always delightful to be grouped with a selection of our global bodypaint friends, as the organizers are certain to have a number of fun and interesting cultural offerings for us to enjoy. We sightsee, take in museums and historical places like traditional villages or temple sites, shop the markets and sample an incredible variety of Korean cuisine! This year, at my insistence, we even gave Korean-style karaoke (very different format than most of us foreigners were used to) a whirl. It made for memorable fun!

The DIBF is a splendid festival that enjoys a televised audience of 5.5 million people, as well as two festival main days that welcome thousands of onlookers. In an outdoor format similar to the World Bodypainting Festival, artists create their works under cover of tents, while attendees can wander the grounds and watch the creation process in real time. The main stage features an entire day of programming, with varied genres of musical and dance performances. On Day One, when the work time ceases, the artists go straight to the jury to be scored, then make their stage presentations before the audience. At the end of the evening, notifications are given to the artists who qualified (by ranking) to return the next day and recreate their piece for the television cameras. Day Two repeats the process, with the exception of Jury presentation. The winners’ placements are known to the jury and organizers from their scores on Day One, but will only be announced at the awards ceremony live on camera, at end of Day Two. On the second day, televised model presentations are interspersed with live performances curated for Korean TV viewers, such as big-time K-Pop, or Korean National Opera stars.

This frees up the Jury to be “Special Artists” to the festival on Day Two and we spend the day creating exhibition works on models for the cameras and a live audience. We share the festival tents as well and create alongside one another, just as the competing artists do. This year, our models were lithe, lovely dancers from a Latin troupe who performed a choreographed piece in the evening show.

One thing that differentiates the Daegu Festival is it’s Fantasy Makeup Category and first-time jury members are continually blown away by the magnitude of the spectacle utilized in this competition! It’s beyond dazzling with huge costumes covered in crystals, mirrors, rhinestones, feathers, flowers, fabric, LED lights and other, glittering, iridescent, man-made finery. These costumes might span 6-8 feet in any direction and can easily shoot up to 10-12 feet tall, including the headdress. Often, 2-3 extra assistants are needed just to help these models duck low enough to fit into the jury room, to be scored. Its hard to imagine, but the entirety of these massive, mind-boggling costumes counts for just 25% of the overall score. The lion’s share of the points are awarded on the makeup itself, covering the face, the décolletage and in some cases, the arms.

Just like the bodypaint competitors, the highest ranking Fantasy Makeup artists return to recreate their works for the television show on the second day. The final placements are known, but kept secret until the awards ceremony, that night.

After the new champions have been crowned and the highest payout given by any competition in the world is awarded (1st place equivalent to 9,000 USD!), we party! There’s always a spectacular fireworks show choreographed to music, to cap the festival. Many years, I have taken short selfie videos dancing madly to bright sparks spreading across the sky. A catered affair arranged backstage with broadcasting management is a common occurrence. Or we may toast to the winners out at a late supper, perhaps involving some parlor games that combine with consumption of a particular high-test, Korean-stye beverage called Soju.

Our final day in Daegu finds us boarding a touring coach with all of the foreign competitors for another day steeped in Korean cultural heritage. This year, we traveled to Hahoe Traditional Village in Andong Province, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We stopped off for a delicious meal of sizzling, tabletop-prepared Bulgogi, before engaging in a scenic afternoon walking tour of the bucolic village. It’s the cap to a long weekend of essentially being treated as rock stars, ourselves. No wonder everyone is sad to depart. Thank goodness my dear friend Jennie Roberts and I have flight tickets to Tokyo booked, so we can ease back into civilian life with more spectacular sights to explore in yet another culture. As our Italian friend, Matteo always hashtags on his fabulous travel outings – #toughlife. It’s a fitting jest to remind us of the gratitude we have for lives that are anything but!

The Texas Bodypainting Competition – This year, I have enjoyed exploring a number of brand-new cities on my travel itinerary and painted in quite a few. These included Paris and Chantilly, France; Klagenfurt, Austria; Garmisch, Germany; Tokyo, Japan and… San Antonio, Texas! It turned out to be a bit of serendipity that freed me up to find my way to Beyond the Canvas’ 2017 Texas Bodypainting Competition and the pleasure was certainly mine. This event has definitely been on our radar for a few years now and clearly, they are able to nurture some Texas-sized talent through Beyond The Canvas’ Bodypaint Collective, headed up by Tomas Vasquez. The BTC offices were ground zero for the happenings before the event itself; hosting workshops and serving as the welcoming point. I was utterly charmed to arrive to a large gift basket bearing tasty treats and a custom printed VIP laniard featuring my own artwork!. Lots of little “extra-mile” touches such as this, sure can make a girl feel loved!

I tried my best to return the love and contribute what I could to this fine community and festival, so on my first full day (after indulging in some glorious authentic Mex) I unpacked my paints and set right to work. Joined by my friend and home host, Oscar Galvan Jr. we bedecked our lovely canvas, Valerie Faith, with colorful imagery including The Lone Star and naturally, the BTC logo. After our finish time and photos were completed, Valerie and I were ready to street team San Antonio like they’d never seen! We hit up hot spots, dance clubs, and suave rooftop ultra lounges, chatting up folks and handing out our promo cards while Valerie posed for hundreds of selfies. The painted-model-on-the-street phenomenon still seems rare in many circles there and we capitalized on the overwhelmingly positive attention. If I had been out doing this for one of our own events, I would have judged the evening a success. Even better, I had a fully guided after-dark tour of downtown San Antonio and definitely captured some of the most memorable shots of the Alamo a tourist could hope for!

The next morning dawned bright & clear and perfect for a wonderful paint day surrounded by friends. We arrived at the venue early to catch the competition artists readying their stations. I had a demo model to paint for the show, stationed next to some of my colleagues who were on the jury. “Moona” aka -Hyun Young Jin was belly painting another judge, the very pregnant Angela René Roberts, while judge Rick Uribe painted judge/host, Britney Pelloquin. My own model’s best friend was also a model being painted just beside us, so the day passed with jokes and giggles flying between them.

After the contestants were finished with judging and photography, we all crossed the street to the lovely, historic Guadalupe Arts Center Theatre to enjoy the show. The models were a huge hit with the packed house and everyone enjoyed the stage presentations. When the winners were called, I had an extra-special surprise. The brand-new Texas Bodypaint Champion was announced amid cheers as Anja Yamaji.

Anja had joined us a month prior to Living Art America as assisting artist to Breanna Cooke. We had talked the pair into spending an extra day in North Carolina with us for the purpose of painting Anja for our “female artists-as-models series”. Scott felt strongly guided to choose Anja for this experience and when he has those sort of feelings, I rarely question them.

At the outset of the day, Scott & Anja shared a moment of quiet eye contact while he “tuned in” to begin the process of her design. In this type of situation, what we’ve coined, “Soul on Skin”, Scott feels himself to be guided by greater forces that come from directly the model, themselves. There is no planning, no forethought, he simply tries to “listen” and let things flow forth from the brush. In this early moment, there was a burst of tearful emotion from our model and Scott wrapped her in a bear hug, speaking quietly with her until it passed. Later, Scott shared with me that her tears came from the raw emotions of a recent painful split with her partner. She was disheartened by the demise of the relationship and feeling disconnected from her own power as a person.

As soon as Scott sketched out the design parameters, we set about painting Anja, with Breanna assisting. Our little foursome enjoyed passing the time in each other’s company. Anja took great care not to glimpse her painting until we were finished. Tears of joy threatened at the moment of reveal, though they were quickly banished in the activity of capturing every lovingly detailed angle of her artwork for the camera. Anja remarked to Scott that she felt beautiful in a way she hadn’t in a long time.

Now, I find myself standing onstage in Texas, congratulating Anja. She asked if I had seen her piece up close and waved her model over. She pointed immediately to the face rendered on the model’s chest, which was a facepainted face. I looked closer and realized this rendering was her own lovely face, painted just as we had done for her session.
She recounted her jury presentation for me about the loss of a deceitful significant other and her subsequent pain. This was depicted on the model’s back by a menacing snake piercing a widened, bleeding eyeball with venomous fangs; illustrating literally how blind she was to the poison in her life. Moving to the front of the piece, the self-portrait represented her body art session with LivingBrush being the catalyst for healing and illuminating the way back to her own creative path. The trophy she cradled in her arms represented so much more than a single day’s victory.

I was amazed at the full circle we’d come. Only my presence at The Texas Bodypainting Competition afforded me the chance to experience that moment. I felt such affinity with the entire BTC group. Like Anja’s story reveals, this art form has the power to positively transform lives. I have the greatest admiration for everything BTC has been able to accomplish in their city, affording untold numbers the opportunity to interact with bodypainting. What a credit they are to their state and region. I’ll be happy to return to San Antonio for the 2018 Texas Championships.