Using our own body as a canvas for artwork must be one of the oldest forms of art in existence. Whether it be for ritual, cultural, cosmetic, or purely aesthetic purposes, using paint or tattoos on the body is millennia old and has never really lost its popularity. Summer is the perfect time to experiment with it, and having purchased some body paint for a forthcoming event recently, I thought the recent spell of good weather would be an opportune time to try it out.
The paints which I purchased were a set of dayglo paints, which also glow under UV light, and this gives them an added dimension which is quite spectacular to see. The paints are non-toxic and wash off easily with soap and water so I was a little concerned that once applied they might smudge easily, but they dried quite quickly, and didn’t easily rub off if they were kept dry, so I think would last a reasonable amount of time once applied.
I applied these paints direct from the tube with brushes and water, but depending on the effect you want to achieve, you could just apply it with your fingers – this is much easier for children to do themselves for example. Applying with a fine brush as I did is much more difficult to do by yourself, except perhaps for easy to access areas like legs, or one arm! If you wanted to draw a design on your back or shoulder for example you would need someone to do it for you.
I found applying the paint to be quite therapeutic, and while this kind of paint did not really allow for detail, it was perfect for the ‘one stroke’ techniques of traditional folk art, where you rely upon the shape of the brush and the paint load to get the shape you want. If you want to try this technique make sure you use good brushes that have a point on them. Also, applying the paint too thickly causes it to crack as it dries, so I found I got the best effect by building up the colour in thin layers.
If you want to achieve a more detailed effect, it is possible to get special pens containing a skin friendly ink for the job, though I haven’t tried these yet. Or for younger children the crayon style sticks might be cleaner and easier to use. A few promising contenders are offered below:
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