In yet another wrinkle on the art modeling phenomenon, this past Wednesday I was hired to participate in a body-painting event. This took place at the school where I work most regularly, and was a kick-off event for a campaign focusing on ending coal use as a way to address climate change. It's part of a national drive, and some lucky winner would get $5000 for his or her design.
The first person to paint me was a body-painting expert who had been brought in to offer advice to the competitors. Things were getting off to a slow start, so the organizers asked if she'd do a demo on me. First she painted a tree on my back (she decided my chest was too furry), but once she better understood the theme of the evening, she washed me down (which sounds like a lot more fun than it was), and painted a skull shaped factory belching skull-shaped clouds into the sky, all in black and white. For some reason my camera didn't take that photo. It kept saying "drawing failed" everytime I tried to open up the thumbnail. My learning curve with this digital camera is still climbing. I wish I could show you the design, in part because it's a higher contrast image and thus easier to see, but also because it figures heavily in a learning experience I had.
The artist was finished with the second design by 7:30 or so, which meant I still had two and half hours to go before I could take my 90 minute train-ride home. So I floated around for a bit, waiting for someone else to need a body. Eventually an absolutely adorable sophomore asked me to be his canvas. He was pretty honest about his aim being winning the money, since it might make the difference between him staying in school, or having to go back to Toronto (another adorable Canadian boy; what the hell IS this with me?). He envisioned a sort of christ-figure ("and I'm Jewish, but gotta go with what sells, right?") with a small landscape beneath a big sky. Unlike the first artist, he liked my furry chest, saying it helped the cloud effect he was going for. For the record, having this handsome fellow rub me down with cold wet paint is the most action I've gotten in about two years, and I won't say I didn't enjoy it. I've interacted with this guy previously, since he's one of a small handful of students to take an interest in the models (he told me I was one of the best at the school, the little charmer) and he had even seemed a bit flirty in the past. This situation was all business-like of course, as it should be, but even that involved some hand holding (while he worked on my arms), and a moment when he dabbed dark blue paint on one of my nipples saying "gotta disguise that." He first tried incorporating my tattoo into his design, but eventually decided it had to be covered up as well, which meant some almost massage-like attention to one shoulder.
The design was sort of a diptych; he painted the back of my hands and lower arms a coal-black, so when I hunched over with my arms in front of me, the image was a blighted, burnt, distressed figure. Then when I opened up into the Christ pose, I revealed the landscape, with the sun on my left hand, and stars in a nighttime sky on my right. The photo above was taken once I got home, so the artwork on my hands is gone. I had washed them before leaving, since the school bathrooms could handle that, and I could cover everything else up with clothing.
This brings me to the useful lesson which, in the interests of service, I pass on to you. First of all, the sooner you get the stuff off you, the better. I think it starts to set up after a while. By the time I took the first of several showers, the black and white design had been on me for nearly five hours, the blue for over three. I wonder if the darker colors also set more strongly, though maybe they're just more noticeable on my skin. The real lesson though is this; if you ever decide to let someone paint your back, make sure there is someone in your life you feel comfortable asking to scrub it afterwards. I'm have always been able to reach all parts of my back with the mesh sponge, and this works fine for every day cleaning but this design required some serious scrubbing, and I wasn't able to get the right leverage. Trying to SEE my back was hard enough. After the first shower, when I discovered I had removed barely half the design, I tried using two small hand mirrors to look, but of course then there was the steam factor, and I had to put them down before I could do any serious scrubbing anyway, so I was always working blindly.
This forcibly drove home for me the fact that I am single. My roommate is a great guy, but we do NOT have this kind of relationship. Coltrane might have been willing to help, but he would need to be taller, willing to get over his dislike for getting wet, and have opposible thumbs. Maybe it would have worked if I had covered my back in bacon grease, then lay down for Coltrane to lick me, but that's the best I could come up, I'm dubious as to its effectiveness, and it was all moot now anyway. Perhaps if I'd started OUT the evening with my back covered in bacon grease, it all would have come off more easily anyway. I make a note for future reference. Here it is three days, four showers and a new scrub brush later, and there are still faint skulls on my back, and patches of blue on my chest and arms.
So, maybe after the big wrestling match-up, some nice person would be willing to help me out here. Otherwise I'll simply have to wait for the paint to wear off.
For the record, I look drunk in this picture, but it is actually exhaustion from having been up for eighteen hours, and on my feet for most of it.