Professional body painters brush-up on art skills in Adelaide

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Jasmine Mary-Anne is painted by artist Kristy O'Neil. Photo: Artist Kristy O'Neil puts the finals touches on the butterfly motif for model Jasmine Marry-Anne. (891 ABC Adelaide: Brett Williamson)

Professional body painters from around Australia are meeting in Adelaide this week to learn the latest skills and techniques used in the industry.

Held in conjunction with the Australian Body Art awards, the convention brings together instructors from around the world.

Convention organiser Maria Mormile said 20 Australian and international painters were providing lectures and classes for more than 40 participants, with local painters featuring highly in both teachers and students.

Michelle Uulf with a freaky face style make up. Photo: Michelle Uulf with a freaky face style make-up. (891 ABC Adelaide: Brett Williamson)

"It's actually quite big," Ms Mormile said of the industry in Adelaide.

"We have some of the finest painters based in Adelaide; in fact you've got your very own [multimedia artist] Emma Hack based here."

Ms Mormile said professional body painting is a growing industry, with the standards in Australia very high.

"The times that people are being body painted are for fancy dress, cosplay, corporate gigs or someone will come to us privately where they want a lot of photos with themselves body painted," Ms Mormile said.

"The other thing that is growing very fast is pregnant belly painting."

Some of the hidden challenges

In her eight years as a professional body painter, Ms Mormile said she has faced many challenging projects, but none more so than the request to paint a man for the World Naked Bike Ride.

A rider had received commercial sponsorship to participate in the event and approached Ms Mormile to paint the logo and uniform.

"Most people would probably be a bit worried about that, but because I am a remedial massage therapist I am probably a little desensitised [to nudity].

"When it got to that very private part [of his body] I just said 'here's the brush'."

Competitions can also be very demanding, with painting taking up to six hours, followed by photography sessions, judging and live shows.

"You can go from nine in the morning, or even earlier, to 11 or 12 o'clock at night," she said.

Ms Mormile regularly finds herself focussing so hard on a task that she slips into a trance-like state, often having to be reminded to stop and eat or drink during larger paints.

"That ability to focus is really, really important."

Body art industry evolving

With sessions on robotic, freaky, conceptual, cosplay, corset and ultraviolet body painting at the convention, Ms Mormile said the industry is changing quickly as people imagine and create new projects.

One style that Ms Mormile is currently interested in learning and teaching is the ability to create 3D images and attachments with models.

Based on her love of art pieces commonly seen drawn in chalk on footpaths, Ms Mormile said with the right shading techniques used transforming the styles from a flat pathway to a contoured body was achievable.

"If you understand that concept, it is not hard to change it from that [the footpath] to that [the body]; but you have got to get that concept first, which is not easy."

The Australian Body Art Face and Body Art Convention is on at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Adelaide until Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Topics: painting, adelaide-5000