More body paintings and the new trends

The 92-degree heat outside permeates the second-floor room in a busy street. Inside, the man stands still, like a sculpture in a museum, under the whirling fan. He is clad only in paint. The two artists, Ryan and Mark, who have been working on him for about three hours have decorated him from his face down to his toes in intricate designs of copper, white, black and red.
Ryan steps back to look at his art work critically and nods in satisfaction. "You're looking great," he assures the model, as he dabs a few dots of copper on his face.
Mark, in the meantime, puts a few finishing touches on the model's back and says, "Yeah, it's about done."
Ryan and Mark practice what is considered the oldest art form - body painting. For them, the human body is the canvas on which they express their artistic talent with dots, swirls, and lines of paint. They create images that are drawn from tribal art, from the natural world, and some just abstract forms from their imagination. 
Body painting is a growing trend these days and is becoming one of the most popular types of body art. While other types of body art like tattoos are meant to last a lifetime, body painting is a temporary art form, which usually lasts just for a few hours. If henna is used, it can last for a couple of weeks. 
Traditional Body Painting
While body painting is certainly back in vogue, it is not a new concept. The tradition has been prevalent in many ancient cultures, some of which practice it even today. In these ancient forms of body painting, dust or sand was used to create their "magic paintings".
Humans, in fact, have been painting their bodies with natural dyes, paints, pigments, tattoos, ash, and clay since prehistoric times. These markings that they made on their bodies were thought to have magical powers with which they could ward off evil spirits or tribal enemies. They also used it to celebrate auspicious occasions. This practice can still be seen in the indigenous populations of New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands, and certain parts of Africa. Henna, or Mehandi, which is made from an herb known by the same name, has been in use in India and the Middle East since ages, especially during auspicious ceremonies like weddings. Mehandi has grown in popularity in the West since the 1990s. The native populations of South America have been using wet charcoal, annatto, and huito to adorn their bodies and faces. Huito, which is a black dye, can take weeks to fade away.
Clowns and actors all over the world have been painting their faces, and sometimes even their bodies, for many centuries, which continues even today. It is speculated that the cosmetics that are in use today has evolved from more subdued forms of face painting.
Modern Body Painting
With the liberalization of thought and wider acceptance of public expression of cultural freedom, especially regarding nudity, in the 1960s, body painting as an art form has witnessed a revival in the West. However, there is still debate today about whether body painting is truly an art form, although its practitioners and followers have no doubt about it being so. This is quite apparent not only in the proliferation of body painting parlors and body painting artists, but also the body painting festivals that are held regularly in the United States and Europe.
Fine Art of Body Painting
In body painting, a wide range of ideas are taken from various sources like alternative art, fine arts, rune, mythologies, and even current affairs. They can be related to occasions or events like political protest movements or sports events, like soccer. In the post 1960s era, several experimental methods were tried out, such as a model being covered with paint and rolled on a canvas so that the paint was transferred there. Depending on the paints used, whether multi-hued or in monotones, the images that were created could be very interesting. Usually, however, the paints are applied using paintbrushes, airbrushes, natural sea sponges, or just by the fingers and hands. These days the paints that are used are non-allergenic, non-toxic, and are easily washable. 
For artists like Ryan and Mark, they improvise as they go along, with each model. For them, the artwork arises from an unspoken dialog that takes place between the artist and the model. 
Says Ryan, " I decorate the skin with the soul, both mine and the model's."
Mark echoes his friend's thoughts, "Yes, I draw the energies that I feel from my model, and I let the paint and the brush express that on his or her skin."
They usually use delicate designs on women and masculine and bold imagery on men, although this is not a hard and fast rule.
Once the model is covered in paint, he/she becomes an expression of the art itself. 
Ryan likens it to wearing a mask for a masquerade or an actor becoming the role he/she plays. "It allows the model to assume some part of his or her personality that is not expressed normally. As for me, as an artist, I divine that hidden part and express it on the skin."


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