Paintopia chats to Pashur
Back in 2013, when the Paintopia Festival was just one year old, we received a message from LA based bodyartist Pashur!
We were blown away to hear from Pashur and even more blown away that he'd heard of our little event based in Norfolk, UK and wanted to come and be a part of it so there was no doubt that we were of course going to invite him to join us!
Pashur's work is world renowned. Chances are you've seen some of it on magazine covers, on television or on high profile celebrities over the years. His portfolio is vibrant and hugely diverse and we're thrilled that his involvement with us led to him hosting the first ever UK Facepaint University ahead of Paintopia 2015 and him creating some of his favourite exhibition pieces whilst attending Paintopia over the years.
We recently caught up with him for a chat that we are excited to share with you here in the first of a series of Paintopia chats that we have planned for you all!
Pashur at Paintopia 2013 with wife Jennifer, model Gracie Williams and actor Terry Molloy. Photo - David Cook
How did you get into bodypainting and what did you do previously?
In the 1990's I used to be a humorous illustrator, mostly for publications. There were several illustrators where I lived, and I was not in the inner circle or clique. I knew I needed to do a style of art that was unique and that no one else was doing to set myself apart. As a side gig I had been doing airbrush tattoos with Dinair airbrush make-up, and I thought.... "What if I paint a model head to toe with this stuff for magazine and CD covers?"
Since I had a love for sci-fi I decided to body paint a model as a cyborg and place her in a sci-fi environment. My budget to build the set was zero (I mentioned I was an artist, right?), so a friend helped me build a sci-fi set out of spray-painted black pegboards and scrap grease lids. As always, necessity is the mother of invention!! Then I airbrushed a pregnant model like a cyborg incubating a cyborg baby. I called the piece "Motherboard," and I was instantly hooked.
I would show my illustration portfolio around town and the art directors would thank me for coming in. I then would say “Before I go, let me show you this other thing I am working on.” I would then crack open my body painting portfolio and their mind was blown. I knew I was on the right track.
You live and work in LA but have taught several face and body paint workshops in the UK previously. Did you notice any differences over here such as how bodypainting is perceived and how viable it is as a career choice in the UK compared to the US?
I think that in Europe people are more accepting of body painting as art than in the U.S. Twenty years ago, in some areas of the U.S. some people would see body painting as something dirty or naughty instead of seeing it as an art form. Sadly, some still do, but luckily for the most part, it has become not only accepted but celebrated. The public now see it as mainstream and it's not uncommon to see body painting at events here in the U.S. - from fashion shows, magazine covers and parties.
The models usually have on pasties and a type of bikini bottom on, as nudity is still frowned on by many here. If the model was completely nude or topless, then some people might get offended despite it being technically legal in many areas
So... the U.S. has accepted body painting, but we have a way to go before the acceptance of a "nude" painted model in certain parts of the country, but we are progressing. Baby steps.
Think about this... in the early 1980s you would see a sci-fi film where in the future a blue person with orange hair got on a subway - and you would say, “That's crazy!” Well, that's now today. If a blue person with orange hair got on a subway none of us would even be phased. We would think they are a cosplayer or someone doing photos for social media or something. That's incredible! That's our art! The power of art!
I think one of the biggest differences I see is in the pricing. People charge far more for face and body painting in the States. That being said, there is always someone not charging enough and bringing down the value of our art form on this side of the pond. This seems to be the problem in all the arts! Value. Your. Art.
Image one - "The Crowd" by Pashur - Model: Lauren Rae Chismar - Photography: Tom Lovelund
Image two - "Kaleidoscope - Sea Apple" Artist: Pashur - Model: Lisa Greenberg - Photo: Thom Ledford
You have a really high-profile client list and have worked with several well-known companies and celebrities. What are your most memorable experiences and memories of some of those gigs. (that you can talk about without breaching data confidentiality!)
Since moving to L.A. I have never had to sign so many NDA's! I work on more high profile projects that I can't talk about which really stinks (from Superbowl projects to Marvel Projects to projects involving a certain xenomorph alien, major celebrity singers and actors, body paint TV shows and even pharmaceutical campaigns).
I love every gig I do as they each are a unique experience. Some memorable ones that pop into my head are...
1) I painted several times at the Playboy Mansion which was one for the record books. Painted literally hundreds of Playboy models, painted Hugh Heffner’s girlfriends (which ended up on Hugh Hefner's Christmas card), chatted and rubbed elbows with several celebrities on the Playboy Mansion grounds. It was a cool experience. It’s the gig that people seem to be in the most awe about.
2) Rolling Stone Magazine Cover – It’s an incredible feeling to know I played a part of Rock & Roll history when I painted the band 5 Seconds of Summer with their lyrics.
3) Body painting the human throne for Nikki Minaj's opening performance for the MTV Video Music Awards was pretty epic.
4) Body painting chrome angels for Jack Black's video game rock opera for the Spike TV Video Game Awards was an incredible experience.
5) Depeche Mode - In 2017 I took over Depeche Mode's facebook page for the day where I got to showcase my reimagined Depeche Mode theme album covers with my body painting art. Being that Depeche Mode is literally my favorite band, this was huge for me.
6) Cirque du Soleil – I body painted an Octopus suit for a special Cirque du Soleil performance in Las Vegas. Like so many others I had wanted to do something for Cirque du Soleil for so long.
7) QR Codes! I have body painted scannable QR Codes on models which is a trip! This takes body painting to a whole new level. So incredibly fun, interactive and futuristic!
"The Ancient" Bodyartist: Pashur - Model: Gracie Williams - Photographer: Pashur
Your portfolio is huge and so inspiring! If you could choose just one design or gig from all that work as your favourite what would it be and why?
I love painting creative, conceptual, and innovative pieces, and each one has its own challenges and rewards so it is difficult to choose a favorite… but here are a few of my favorites:
"Genesis" that I painted on Gracie Williams at Paintopia is one of my favorites because it sums up what body painting art is all about... Colorful design flowing harmoniously on a contoured canvas.
Some other favorites are The Ancient (also painted on Gracie) because we photographed her in the ruins of Malta, Pleasure Bot, Aquatica, Magma, Human Nature, the Monster Head that I painted for Buzzfeed , Urban Jungle, Calling the Storm, The Crowd, For the Love of America, Anubis, Sekhmet, and my Kaleidoscope series.
During the pandemic I have been sketching out many cool concepts to level up my body paint game even more. Can't wait to see them come to life on a model.
"Genesis" Bodyartist: Pashur - Model: Gracie Williams - Photo: 410 Photography - painted at Paintopia
You've been a consultant and guest artist on several high-profile television bodyart shows including Skin Wars and Face Off. What was it like being part of productions like that and what did you enjoy or learn from being involved with them?
I learned many things including how much really goes into these types of shows! To be honest a lot of my experiences are on a bit of lock down because of contracts and NDA’s, but I can share that they were exciting be part of and I will always be grateful that I played a part in them.
In 2016 your bodypainting blew up big time when you worked with Buzzfeed resulting in a video that was viewed over 23 million times and you have worked with them again in more recent years too. What did your projects with them involve and what did their audience make of your creative illusions?
I would show up at the studio. Paint the model. They would film the model. Sometimes they would interview me. Sometimes they would film a time lapse. People dig the results. Do the trolls show up in the comments? Sure, but I brush it all off and take it in stride, the people that love will always outweigh the haters!
"Monster Head" Bodyartist: Pashur - Model: Ruby Lee
What is your favourite memory or memories of the festival?
Winning the first ever Brian Wolfe Hall of Fame Award was the highlight achievement, I felt so honored. Teaching Face Paint University UK as the pre-workshop to the event was also incredible. You bring people together for several days in a fun intimate learning setting. You party with strangers and in the end and you all become lifelong friends.
Just meeting and seeing so many wonderful painters and models and the Paintopia team and those amazing friendships have been great! You want to hang out with every painter and paint every model but there just is not enough time! Being that I am not from the UK, I always enjoy getting to be in places like Dunston Hall and Sprowston Manor. I miss the look and vibes of certain places that makes for wonderful nostalgic memories. Oh, and I loved the owls! I miss my UK friends and colleagues and I can't wait to return.
Image one - Pashur receiving the Brian Wolfe award from Nick Wolfe alongside host Al Peace. P- 410 Photography
Image two and three - Facepaint University UK - photos by David Cook
Image four - Judges at Paintopia Julie Oliver, Pashur, Nick Wolfe, Matteo Arfanotti and Gemma Horner with adjudicator Al Peace. Photo - 410 Photography
Image five - "Urban Jungle" painted for Paintopia by Pashur - Model Lyndsey Jayne - Photographer David Cook
What brands do you use the most and if you had to pick five products you couldn't bodypaint without what would they be?
Two Products I don't like to body paint without... Loew Cornell Brushes and Wolfe FX Black.
Otherwise I use just about every brand out there because they all have so many good products and colors. I do love the black sponges from Black Lagoon Latex Supply and I like Monster Pasties when my models must use pasties.
When it comes to FX Make Up (Zombies, Haunt and Gore Make Up) I do get a bit more specific…
Airbrushing Zombies = XFX Hybrid
Airbrushing the Muscular System = EBA Endura
Bruise Wheel, Burn Wheel, Eye Blood = Kryolan
Aquacolors & Grease Paints = Kryolan
Fake Blood = EBA’s The Blood
Pus Packets = Graftobian
Coagulated Blood = Ben Nye’s Fresh Scab
Other Awesome Specialty Products: Mouth FX, Zombie Skin, Dermaflage, Bruise Gel, and Mehron Squirt Blood
"Calling the Storm" Artist: Pashur - Model: Jacqueline - Photographer - Ileana Ravasio
As Covid-19 has forced the bodypainting industry to grind to a halt for most of 2020 what impact has that had on you and have you been able to use your skills in other ways to adapt?
My last body paint gig was March 14th. Thus, I am staying creative by doing illustration work (which I love doing). I love body painting. I love doing illustration. I love just being creative really. The differences are one you get to travel all over the world, meet and work with so many amazing people and see amazing places. The other you stay home and do in your pj's while drinking endless amounts of coffee. They both have their upsides!
"Pleasure Bot" Artist: Pashur - Model: Jessi Jewel
You have over twenty years’ experience in the bodypainting industry and are highly regarded as both a teacher and a competition judge. What would be your advice for anyone looking to get started in bodypainting or progress their career from facepainting into bodypainting.
Ask yourself - are you wanting your body paint designs to be Crafty? Commercial? Avant Guard or Fine Art?
To break it down, here is a description...
A) Crafty: Your design is formulaic - you probably used a bunch of split cakes in your design.
B) Commercial: Your design would be great for a magazine cover or advertisement.
C) Avant Guard: Artistically Edgy - you could see this on a fashion runway.
D) Fine Art: You could see this body painting hanging on a wall in a gallery or home.
No matter what you choose.... any of these options are okay, nor do you have to pick just one!
Here are some tips...
Prep: Download some references. Make a mood board. Sketch out your design. If you can, sketch out your design on a photo of your model. This way the design will match the model’s contours. Make your props and embellishments in advance and make sure they are a compliment to your body paint design not the other way around.
Safety First: Make sure your kit is clean and you are using safe products.
Model Tips: Take care of your model, but don't let them run all over you. Send your model guidelines so they know what to expect. It will tell them when they arrive what to bring, how to have their nails, if they should not wear lotion, etc. Always have a backup model for times when your model bails.
Make Up & Hair: If glamour or beauty make-up and hair styling is not in your wheelhouse - bring one in. Make sure to credit them.
Artist Tip: I suggest avoiding painting a collage of faces on the body. It's so overdone. Did I mention it's overdone? One more thing... it's overdone. Tired of seeing the word "overdone"? You know what people are tired of? A body painted collage of faces.... because it's overdone. It shows technical skill but where is the creativity? That being said... it's your design... so if all you want to do is paint a collage of faces, no one is stopping you. But just because you can doesn't mean you should. I think the only exceptions to this rule are the artist or two who painted these designs first. That's their niche. Now you go find your niche!
Embellishment Tip: Make sure if you have embellishments (headpiece, nails, accessories, props) that they match your design. A robot with a floral and feather headpiece is ridiculous (although there are always exceptions to the rule).
Time Tips: Remember it will always take longer to paint then you think. ALWAYS. Plan out your piece thoroughly in advance. Break it down into steps. How long will it take to put on pasties? How long will it take the model to eat lunch and have a bathroom break? How long will it take to add sealant, nails and a wig? How long will it take to base the model? How long will it take to add shading and highlights? The last hour of painting should consist of final details such as painting the hands, adding wigs, putting on heels and accessories, and last Looks (touch ups and anything you missed).
Professional Tip: Have a contract if doing body painting for a client. Always get paid up front. 50% deposit. 50% upon arrival. Know your client will change something about your design during the painting process.
And final parting advice? Love what you do and don’t be afraid of painting “outside the box”. That is what art is all about.
Image one - "Magma" Bodyartist: Pashur - Model: Laura J Draycon
Image two - "Aquatica" Bodyartist: Pashur - Model: Ruby Lee