Body Painting could very well be the most ancient form of artistic expression. Ancient tribes adorned themselves with body art in ceremonies and occasions. Painting the body and the face with clay and natural pigments was considered sacred in these cultures. Some indigenous tribes of Australia and Africa still practice this art.
Young brides in the Indian Subcontinent get their hand and bodies painted with paste of powdered henna or mehendi.
Clowns and Actors have painted their faces for centuries to entertain their audiences.
Indian Body Painting
In India this semi permanent form of body art is practiced in almost every household. Young women get their hands and legs painted with a herb called henna. The Henna is a flowering shrub with fragrant flowers. To create the dye, the leaves are dried and ground into a powder that is greenish, tea leaves or lemon juice is mixed with the powder to release color.
These paintings are both beautiful and intricate. Traditional motifs are drawn on the hands of young brides amidst much fanfare. The paisley motif is the most popular one. The tradition of mehendi , as it is called, is considered to be auspicious and the bride's fate is decided by the shade of the color. The darker it is the more will her husband love her.
The technique of applying Mehendi
The pasteof the powder of henna leaves is applied to the skin using a plastic cone or a paint brush.. The affected area is then wrapped with tissue, plastic, or medical tape to lock in body heat, creating a more intense colour on the skin. The wrap is worn overnight and then removed. The final colour is reddish brown and can last anywhere from two weeks to several months depending on the quality of the paste.
Western Body Painting
Western Body Painting is generally associated with nudity and is therefore controversial. However it is gaining much appreciation in the modern, liberal world. Today it is being seen as an Art and not pornography. The revival and recognition of this art began when in the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago Max Factor and his model were arrested for causing a public disturbance when he bodypainted her with his new make-up formulated for Hollywood films. Body Paintings, are however not always on fully naked bodies, smaller designs are made on specific areas too.
The Paints used in Body Paintings
Paints used in body paintings have to follow strict guidelines. They cannot be toxic and should be non-allergic too. They should be easily washable and non staining. These paints are properly checked in laboratories before commercial use.
The application of Body Paints
Body paints are applied very carefully with hands, paintbrush, natural sea sponge or airbrush. The medium of application varies from artist to artist. Body painting is like any other Medium of Art. It just uses the body as the canvas of expression.