Paintopia chats to Gabriela Hajek-Renner
For the next installment of our Paintopia Chats series we catch up with multi-award winning bodyartist Gabriella Hajek-Renner.
Gabriella is well established and highly regarded in the makeup and bodyart industry, especially in her home country of Austria, but during the lockdown situation of 2020 she suddenly began appearing more and more on social media and blew us away with her incredible self painting skills, which we had never seen her produce before! We just had to catch up with her and find out more about her incredible career, Makeup School and new love for self painting!
• How did you first get into makeup and bodyart?
Already in my early youth, I learned a lot about Makeup and Bodypainting from my mother. In 1985 I learned the profession of beautician in the in-house salon.
In 1986 my mother was a participiant in a major make-up championship. This was the first time that I was allowed to assist her. She won this competition with a bodypainting in the style of the queen Marie Antoinette.
One year later ( I was 16) I did my first Bodypainting on my own for a school event. This was the start in my bodypainting career.
• During your career you have won many awards including the prestigious title of World Bodypainting Champion on more than one occasion! What were those experiences like for you and what have been your competition highlights?
The first time I competed in the World Bodypainting Festival was 2002 in the category bodypainting/special effect. I didn´t have that much experience with special effects, but it was and is the subject that fascinates me the most. I had already participated in a few smaller makeup competitions and won some of those, but never with special effects. So it was a really new experience for me. I was fascinated by the many awesome paintings from the other entrants. I was more than surprised and pleased that I placed 4th at my first time at the World Bodypainting Festival . In the next few years at the festival I won 2nd place in 2003, 3rd place in 2004 and first place in 2005 and 2006. The first time I won first place at the World Bodypainting Festival was my absolute highlight. You can not express in words what you are feeling on stage at the award ceremony. Dreams come true. Every win is a new highlight in my career.
• You have project led and co-ordinated ambitious and passionate bodypainting designs which resulted in an incredible calendar for a wonderful cause! What was the background to that idea and how did it all come together?
Together with my friends, I am involved in a non-profit organization REEFVILLAGE. As a diver and underwater photographer, I know and love the underwater world and am therefore naturally also familiar with the many threats to living beings. With our actions we draw attention to these threats and destruction and build artificial reefs in places where environmental disasters or humans have destroyed the natural reefs that are necessary as nurseries for many species. The money for this comes from donations from our supporters. As a campaign for 2018, we had the idea of depicting a coral reef with its habitants as a 3D body painting. It should show the beauty of the living under the sea. The preparation for this large painting took two intense months. With over 350 bodypainting models that were painted by myself and my team of 50 painters within seven hours, we were able to set a world record. The image of the finished painting was taken by a professional photographer from a height of 11 meters from the basket of a crane. All of the well-known daily newspapers published reports about our campaign, most of them even on the front pages. We used our world record picture as the cover picture of our “REEFCALENDAR”. We had great success with this campaign and the day was a great experience for all participants.
Reef photo credits: @martinaigner
• You have a very successful Makeup School in Vienna - Austria's Makeup School - when did you start that and what courses do you offer?
Austria's Makeup School offers in experience more than 30 years. It was founded in the year 1989 by my mother as Austria's first education school for Beauty Makeups. About 10 years later I took over most of the lessons and expanded the program with Theatre Makeups and SFX masks.
Since 2005 I am leading the school on my own.
These days now, Austria´s Makeup School is considered one of the best training centres in the German speaking area, because of the wide range of courses it offers in all aspects of Makeup.
We offer courses and workshops for beauty makeup, editorial and creative face- and bodypainting, theatrical makeup, all kind of special effects and prosthetic makeup as well as hair styling, foam costumes, prop manufacturing and much more.
• Since winning lots of awards you've also been on the jury for several bodypainting competitions. Which ones have been your favourite and as a judge what advice can you offer future competitors.
Every time as a jury member is a special experience. In every competition, regardless of the competition size, the participants are very nervous, they want to show us the best. Every participant deserves respect for what he or she wants to present to you. And as a jury you have a big responsibility. We have to judge who is the best, and this is really not easy, because every painting has something special.
Of course, being a jury member at the World Bodypainting Festival is something special, because you have so many different people from so many countries.
One of my favorite competitions as a judge was the Body Painting Festival in Daegu – South Korea. It was the first time for me attending a festival in another continent. And it was very exciting with four other jury members to judge such awesome works.
My advices for the competitors.
1) Have a complete concept. Don´t leave anything to chance.
2) Never try to copy other artists. Get inspiration, but find your own style.
3) Make yourself a real schedule. How long do I need for the front, for the back….
4) Plan enough time to put on the wig, the headpiece, to complete the makeup.
5) Don´t forget to include breaks, for your model and also for you.
6) Always pay attention to your model. Never forget that they are not just a canvas, they are a person. And only use products that are safe for your model.
7) And the most important advice: Have fun with what you do.
Alternative Hair Show Royal Albert Hall
Daegu Bodypainting Festival Jury 2017
• During 2020 we have enjoyed lots of your brilliant self paints on social media. Have you always done self painting or was this a new avenue that opened up whilst we were in lockdown? What do you enjoy about them, do they take a long time, do you find them easier or harder than painting someone else, and do you plan to continue creating them?
During the first lockdown, on the Easter Sunday, two weeks after the lockdown started, I had a big need to paint. I took my colours, brushes and I started my first ever face painting on myself. I loved it. Why didn´t I do this before? And so, I painted myself for the next 25 days every day in the morning before breakfast! The painting time I need is about two to two and a half hours. The first paintings I did on myself in front of a mirror were a little bit harder for me than on a model. But in time it´s become much easier. I have developed the technique of painting with two hands at the same time. This makes symmetrical work a lot easier.
Now lockdown is less, I don't have as much time as I did but I still manage to do one self paint a week at least.
I am sure that I have improved my painting technique and skills a lot.
• What are your favourite five items in your bodypainting kit.
My five favorite items in my bodypainting kit is a difficult question!
1) A flat cloth flannel - it´s thinner than a towel and for me the best material to dab the brushes off.
2) My three favorite brushes. Of course, I use more brushes, but these are my absolute favorites.
a) At least one kabuki from Kryolan for covering bigger areas.
b) Two round brushes No. 5 from Kryolan
c) The short blending brush from Cameleon - I love this brush.
3) A fixing spray - also from Kryolan
4) If I do SFX body painting I love the products from Kryolan. For most of my 3D pieces I use a lot of latex and the cold foam from Kryolan. This foam is easy to use and with Prosaid easy to fix on the skin.
5) Two different adhesive tapes. A softer one for the skin for mapping out and a stronger one for possible reparing some pieces ( headpiece, costume, brushes,..)
• Besides the Reef Project, what has been the most challenging or memorable design you have created?
The painting of the Reef Village was definitely the biggest and most challenging project for me so far. We organized this giant 3D painting twice with around 300 models and 50 painters.
The work I did for the Alternative Hair Show in London in the Royal Albert Hall was always very challenging. 13 times I was allowed to prepare and work on the costumes, make-up and SFX for a show act. The show is once a year and the net proceeds go to a Leukemia Foundation.
My last big job was this year ,before the quarantine started, for the dance industry in Austria. It was a full costume and head mask inspired by the Stranger Things monster.
This work took me about 40 hours in total. I needed over 100kg of plaster for mold construction, 5 liters of cold foam, about 6 liters of latex milk.
But I can say, that this work is one of my favorite pieces of work that I have ever done.
• Where do you get get the inspiration for your designs and who do you admire in the industry and why?
The many online portals overwhelm you with inspiration. There are so many great artists who put awesome pictures of their work online. And of course you are inspired by one or the others work. I couldn´t even say who my favourite artists are because there are so many good ones.
But one of the greatest sources of my inspiration is Mother Nature. If you just take a closer look, you will discover so many structures, shapes and color compositions that you can incorporate into your work. The underwater world in particular is partly like from another world. A creative makeup or an SFX alien can be developed very quickly.
• What advice would you offer to anyone considering starting a career in makeup and bodyart?
Makeup has a lot of different possibilities. As an artist it is very important to have your own special style and signature. Therefore I give the advice to have a very wide range of knowledge and techniques in order to be able to create individual art works. Trying to be open minded for new things is very important to find one´s own style, also a daily practice of simple basics such as drawing exact lines, blending soft shadows, or applying bold colours will help increase your skills.
Website - Austria's Makeup School
Facebook - Austria's Makeup School
Instagram - Austria's Makeup School
TikTok - Gabriela Hajek
All images supplied by Gabriela Hajek and published with permission.