For many years, artists have transcended the easel and canvas for other mediums of art and the human body, it seems, is no exception. Commonly used in rituals and festivals, body painting has been around for years, mesmerising us with its beauty and versatility. Unlike tattoos which are permanent, the ephemerality of body paintings makes them even more intriguing. Mostly crafted with skin-safe paints, artists can use anything–hands, brushes, sponges or airbrushes–to create their designs. Much like street art, the beauty of body art lies in its eccentricity. To showcase the same, we’ve compiled a list of body painters and artists whose work proves that the human body is as fine a canvas as there can be.
1. STROKES ON SKIN
German artist Gesine Marwedel’s body paintings are something to marvel at. She uses the human body as both the subject and the background in her works. It is interesting to see how effortlessly she switches from camouflaging human bodies with the background to letting them shine as the centrepiece in her various paintings. After finishing school in 2005, she worked at an Indian orphanage which, she explains, had a deep influence on her work. One of her creations ‘The Human Flamingo’ (featured below) caught our eye instantly because of its sheer quirkiness. Apart from body art, she also does henna and wall paintings.
Image courtesy—Gesine Marwedel’s Facebook page
2. DANNY’S ANATOMY
Scientific illustrator Danny Quirk is one person who lives up to his name. Just look at his series of anatomical body paintings and you’ll agree with us. Armed with Sharpies and acrylic latex, he gives you a peek inside the human body without x-rays or incisions. After successfully creating scientific illustrations on paper, the artist turned his work into 3-D sculptures by using human bodies as his canvas. His Facebook page is filled with positive comments from medical professionals and teachers thanking him for providing a way to explain anatomy to students and patients in a way that does not induce nausea. For anyone who finds human anatomy fascinating, Danny Quirk’s super-realistic body paintings are the ultimate way to satiate your curiosity.
IMAGE COURTESY—Danny Quirk’s Facebook page
3. YOU, ME AND UV
Sacramento-born artist John Poppleton had the brilliant idea of fusing black light paintings with the human form and the result was a series of ‘bodyscapes’ that are surreal enough to take your breath away. With the help of UV body paint, he creates stunning paintings on the human body. He describes his art as an almost spiritual experience since he is quite literally painting with light. With over twenty years of experience in wedding photography, Poppleton explains that he derives his inspiration from the beauty of nature—sunsets, mountains, stars and lightning are all featured on human bodies in his series called ‘Black Light Bodyscapes’.
The images of his work are absolutely stunning and you’re forced to look at each element individually to truly appreciate the beauty of his art. It was very difficult for us to pick just two images from his gallery to display here and we highly recommend that you visit his Facebook page for more photographs of his incredible work.
Image courtesy–John Poppleton
4. An artistic camouflage
If these pictures shown below weren’t featured in an article about body art, we bet you wouldn’t have realised that they are, in fact, human beings in camouflage. These images are a part of Italian artist Johannes Stötter’s body paintings in which he takes the human form and hides it in plain sight. We believe that the element of surprise in spotting the human body blended so effortlessly with its surroundings is what makes his work so stunning. Stötter’s painting skills are so fine that his creations are almost an optical illusion.
It is quite fun to look at his work as it is almost a game of discovery—you admire the texture of wood or leaves or whichever element forms the background until you spot something that makes you do a double take. Maybe it is an eye or the ridge of a nose or maybe the curve of an ear, but you follow the outline till you spot the entire human body hidden in the picture. It is easy to see why this mind-blowing series of body paintings is so admired.
Image courtesy—Johannes Stötter
5. A serendipitous surprise
Artist Natalie Fletcher all but stumbled upon the art of painting bodies when she was hunting for a job in Oregon and the rest, as they say, is history. Her latest series ‘100 Bodies Across America’ is what drew us to her work and we were hooked. The story behind the series is fascinating—whilst on a road trip, she stops in each American state and paints two bodies which blend with the landscape in the background. The results are stunning, of course, because they take the belief of becoming one with nature to a whole new level. What we love most about her work is the ease with which she paints on the human body. Fletcher’s art is a visual delight and her series ‘Album Covers’ and ‘Just An Illusion’ are equally amazing.
Image courtesy—Natalie Fletcher
6. Painting & Parenting
Sculptor, graffiti artist and photographer are some of the words used by artists to describe themselves. ‘Bump painter’, however, is definitely a new one. UK-based artist Carrie Preston from My Little Sweet-pea claims to have earned that moniker after painting over 130 bellies of her pregnant clients so far. She describes it as a wonderful way for parents to cherish their pregnancy and preserve colourful memories of their child.
She paints cartoon characters, natural landscapes, starry nights and many more delightful things onto baby bumps. Each of her designs are unique and specifically crafted for every bump. Preston admits that people find her art completely mad but personally, she finds it beautiful. She often feels babies kick during the painting sessions after feeling the brush strokes on the bellies of their mothers. If that is not the most adorable thing ever, we don’t know what is.
Image courtesy—My Little Sweet-pea
Painting is often said to have the power to take inanimate objects and bring them to life. Body painting is a form of art that does the same thing, only better—it takes a living, breathing canvas and transforms it into a stunning visual which promises to awe you.