Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, cooking, make-up, travel, art and the occasional rant!

Getting better…

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Getting better at face painting is a matter of practice, practice, practice!  We all start at the same place and learn something each time we paint a design… picking up speed and developing a style that we are comfortable with.

I started out as a self-taught face painter using a couple of books for inspiration – “Making Faces” by Sian Ellis-Thomas (found in a sale bin at a large book store) and the Grimas book “Make-up voor professional en hobby” (found at a theatrical make-up store.)  These are both, in my opinion, still excellent books for beginners.

I was a make-up artist but face painting is a different application of those skills.  I had purchased a Kryolan 24-colour Aquacolour box to use in make-up school for fantasy make-up and therefore already had the right products on hand.

My first attempts were, um, not great!    But once I had the books as reference and found out that face paints work better with sponges other than cosmetic wedges I finally started to see something that I liked and wanted to do more of.

I have never worried about speed.  With practice it will come and I’d rather paint a design I am happy with, and the customer is happy with, than knock of a quickie that could be better.  After all the years I have been doing this I can do butterflies in less than two minutes – but my dragons and wolves still take up to seven minutes.  I’m not stressed about time.

My first opportunity to take a workshop came in 2003 when Olivier Zegers was brought to Calgary – I spent a lot of money to fly to Calgary, stay in the hotel, take the workshop, buy products.  And it was worth every penny I spent!!  It was an epiphany!  Seeing and learning how to use the #6 round Kolinsky Sable brush like he does was mind blowing and changed my painting forever.

I honestly cannot stress enough how much brush technique will improve your work.  Using the right tools in the right way makes everything easier and improves the finished design.

Even though I had been  painting on canvas for years it was important to see and realize that while the techniques for face painting are often the same they can also be quite different.  Even my make-up training wasn’t all that applicable to the specific techniques used in face painting with water based products.

Seeing someone use a brush or sponge is the best way to learn it yourself and for me in person was what worked.  Once I “got” that I was off and running.  Different people learn in different ways so if you are a visual learner DVDs or on-line videos might work if attending workshops is not an option.  Some can learn from books and step-by-step photos as well and there are a lot of options there too.

Practicing brush and sponge techniques is easy to do – use your arm or thigh.  Once you have got the hang of the tools you can then apply the techniques to the faces.  Even practicing on paper works for the brush handling (I created a two-page template of brush strokes using a #6 round that is included on my Volume 2 CD) as you need to figure out how to hold and turn the brush to get the shapes of lines that you want.

Personally, I don’t see the point in the practice heads or pads.  While it is nice to see a design in 3D it really isn’t the same as painting on skin no matter what they are made out of.  And they can be expensive.  If you can get a head for free – often beauty schools throw out old ones so you can often get them free – sure, get one and have fun, but as an investment I don’t think they are worth it.

Paint yourself – I tend to paint my face to try out new things.  I always paint myself up for every job as I feel it is advertising and makes it more fun.  Also, as I tend to look quite stern when I concentrate it helps alleviate the “mean look” I might be exhibiting!!  I don’t want to scare the customers!

And the benefit to painting yourself is that you can use the photos for any purpose you want without having to get a release form signed!  And, if someone steals the photos they would have a hard time arguing with you about whether they painted it when it is your face in the photo!

So… practice when you can, try new techniques and tools when you can, research the resources you can access and try everything out to see what works best for you as not everything will suit everyone.  And have fun!!

Some of my early work side-by-side with later work to show how my style changed once I knew what I was doing!

Some of my early work side-by-side with later work to show how my style changed once I knew what I was doing!


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