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Canvas Schmanvas: The Art of Body Painting

Canvas Schmanvas: The Art of Body Painting

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Let’s face it. It’s fun to be the one holding the brush as well as to be the “canvas.” I know. I’ve done both.

A few of years ago I was honored to volunteer myself and my son to be models for Brian Wolfe and Nick Wolfe, authors of Extreme Face Painting. Their work has inspired a new collection of body art by Karala Barendregt: The Human Canvas: The World’s Best Body Paintings. Barendregt explains the art of bodypainting in a way that’s so beautiful and insightful that I wanted to let her share it with you in her own words. Even if you’re not moved to take up bodypainting yourself, I’m sure you can appreciate the work and creativity that go into these living, breathtaking paintings.

From The Human Canvas: The World’s Best Body Paintings by Karala Barendregt

Bodypainting has been used for tens of thousands of years in traditional cultures all over the world. Some of those cultures are still practicing their traditions today; some we know only through the records of history and the paintings on cave walls. Traditional cultures using body art demonstrate common links between history, spirituality and the body. Ceremonies are used in every culture to commemorate birth, death, weddings and coming of age. Covering the body with symbols and imagery increases the potency of ritual by clothing the skin in thoughts and emotions. Painting onto the body is a process of transformation and enlargement of the soul.

Many styles and uses for body art can be seen over this great expanse of time. The interesting fact is that it has been used on every continent around the world, and linking themes run through these styles of art. Humans have had a natural connection to creating art on our bodies, and it’s no surprise that modern forms of art are reinterpreting the ancient practices and expressions. The root of bodypainting today comes from those traditional civilizations. The modern-day culture of body art reaches around the world throughout many countries and industries. It is an art form that is as diverse in its uses as in its styles and techniques. Many artists are now using body art to return to a more spiritual connection with their way of life and are rediscovering how their expression can bring meaning to their lives. The bodypainting artist is not just an artist; they are a painter, a conceptualist, a choreographer, a director and a photographer.

Bodypainting has many uses in many different areas of work. A visual artist may move into bodypainting to give his art a life of its own. A performer may take up bodypainting to create an illusion around her character that is not possible with just makeup and costume. Fashion can be heightened when makeup moves into bodypaint, and the film industry can never have enough special effects in living color.

All of these are forms of expression. From the moment we become self-aware, we take action in the presentation of our being. We are human. We are a complex and brilliant concoction of thoughts, actions, dreams, fears and history. We use our presentation and expression as a tool. When we choose to analyze the culture we come from and the way this affects our personal presentation of self, we take control of the image we project to the outside world. Through our art and expression, we have an effect on the world we live in (Tweet this quote). ~K.B.

Such beautiful images! The body itself is a work of art, but add a painter’s touch, and it becomes something more, separating us from the animals, that must accept the skin, fur, and feathers with which they were born. I’ve been known to practice the art of henna, which is a type of body adornment/decoration, but I am awed by the bodypaintings within the covers of The Human Canvas. Oh, and if you’re curious, scroll down to see my son and me, transformed into horrific creatures by the Wolfe brothers.

Sharing the beauty of art in all of its forms,

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