Body painting with nude models
by David Bollt
Body painting is an amazing form of body art that allows an artist to celebrate the beauty of the nude human body in a very direct way. The airbrush allows me to use color and shading in soft subtle combinations that invite the viewer to explore all the surfaces and forms of the model’s body as a work of fine art.
When I paint a nude model, I try to forget any agenda I might have and let go of any ideas about how I want it turn out. I like to improvise and allow my reaction to the model to guide the process. I think of body painting as a practice. It’s really important to let things flow. There’s a strange sensation of being inspired when I do body art. It feels like I’m using the airbrush to scratch an itch on someone else’s body. I feel a strong impulse that doesn’t feel right until I let the lines and the color land in just the right places and in just the right amounts. I like to imagine that I’m mapping some kind of energy field that’s already there. Like I’m making something visible, that I might be able to see if my eyes were capable of infra red or ultraviolet vision.
I usually start with dark colors and then build layer upon layer, blending and shading as I go, working my way to the highlights of yellow and white. As the colors blend they start to introduce new tones that I did not consciously expect. The entire process is full of surprises. The trick is to watch the surprises very closely as they show up, so that I’m reacting to them in real time. The surprise of a particular color blend can become a gift that effects the entire painting. It’s like accidentally finding a vein of gold in a rock wall and following it wherever it might lead.
Usually when I create art, I put a lot of attention on making the anatomy of figure look right. When doing a painting or illustration based on a model or human character, most of the work goes into articulating the proportions and details of the body. One of the beautiful things about painting a body is that the human figure is already perfectly expressed. The art model is right there as part of the creative process. I have the opportunity to indulge in the pleasure of decorating a beautiful human form, instead of trying to recreate the illusion of one.
To me these airbrush works of body art seem like natural animal patterns or alien skins from another world. It’s amazing to watch the body language of the model transform, as soon as they look at themselves in the mirror. A talented fine art model will take on the identity of this exotic creature that they see reflected back at them. The way they move, the way they stand, how they carry their bodies, and even the way they look at you, seem to take on an entirely new personality. The illusion of what we create together seems to give them permission or inspiration to express an aspect of themselves that they might not have known was there.
If you try your hand at body painting (especially with an airbrush), I invite you to treat it like an adventure… with a willingness to see where each individual work of body art wants to take you.