body art

Human Canvas

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Something that often raises its head in my mind is the topic of personal insecurity. Not in the financial or physical sense, but more in the way of a mindset or mentality. Being a photographer, my work is a visual medium, and therefore every job has infinite possible resolutions and outcomes (rather than one ‘correct’ answer). That makes it highly subjective, and very open to interpretation. I think that many artists are a little insecure about their work deep down, and I am not a stranger to doubting my own abilities or artistic vision. So when someone approaches me with praise for my style, I get very very excited (if not a little “aww shucks” esque.)

One such kind soul was Alex Nixon, a student studying makeup. Alex had seen my work online and asked me to document one of her projects, which involved body painting. She sent me some references, and noted that she wanted to create a piece that was inspired by Chinese and Japanese traditional paintings. This was, of course, right up my alley, so I agreed straight away. We organised a date and time, as well as a gorgeous model – Chervil Tan from Vivien’s.

On shoot day, Alex pre-painted Chervil’s back before arriving at the studio. The references she sent me had been quite well-lit, with a pale grey background, so that is what I started off with. I wanted to ensure that I documented Alex’s work clearly, so that you could see the brushstrokes and fine details.

But after that, I wanted to have some fun of my own.

I thought that the concept and subject would really suit some darker, more moody lighting. So once we had the lighter shots captured, I changed the lighting to something more directional, to really accentuate texture and form. I love the way that the light falls on the body (in the image above), as the physical 3D nature of the back and shoulders blends with the painted landscape. I was also careful to keep the face in shadow, so that the emphasis was still on the painting, and the image had a sense of anonymity about it.

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Of course, I took some portraits as well, and some shots to show the makeup on Chervil’s face (not just her back!) How gorgeous is the kimono? Alex whipped it up herself the night before. So much skill! The colours were also really gorgeous, especially against the hues of the cheeks.

I wanted to capture a quiet, almost still mood for these images, and I think they came out well. Alex was absolutely stoked with the shots, which I was really pleased about. All the best with the folio Alex!

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Life Of Willow + Body Art

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It has been two months since I shot with the fabulous Kate of ‘Life Of Willow,’ and so these images are long overdue. But life has become very busy with work (68hrs/week anyone?) and so I’ve continually been delayed in retouching these babies. But I tied myself to my computer the last 2 days and finally finished them off.

Let me backtrack.

I’ve shot a few portraits for Kate before, and she approached me again to photograph some of her body art. This lady is crazy talented, so of course I said yes. I let her take over the studio for the day and paint away, whilst I went and did some shooting in the surrounding streets. On this particular day, we were to capture two full-body designs, and that obviously required two lovely ladies getting completely naked. I’ve shot nudes before, so it didn’t phase me, but there was a little apprehension in the air for Sarah and Michelle (as would be expected.) But they were both good sports, and let Kate go about painting them without hesitation.


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Once they were painted, however, a transformation took place. The nervousness disappeared, and the girls strutted around as if they were fully dressed. It did look like they were clothed in tight body suits, and so they both felt more and more comfortable as they realised it wasn’t that bad.

A quick lighting setup, and we were ready to shoot.

Kate had a plan for the images, which involved a lot of retouching. I was to add in flames and ice and awesomeness in post production, so the shooting part of the day didn’t really take that long. A few basic poses, and we had it. I think I only took 20 or so frames per person.

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So the painting took hours, the retouching took hours, but the shooting didn’t take long at all.

We were really happy with the results of the shoot, but I knew I had a lot to do in Photoshop before the images were complete. The idea of these shots was to make the girls into fire and ice queens. Kate gave me a lot of creative freedom with this, and just trusted me to basically “go nuts.” Which I suppose also added to the time it took me to finalise each shot. Without a definitive end point in my head, I had to do a lot of experimentation and playing before I reached what I thought was the finished product.\

Kate had mentioned adding ice and flames into the shots, but I decided to take them one step further and construct each character’s hair out of the elements. I’d never sone this before, and so more advanced retouchers will almost definitely see the flaws in my manipulations, but I thought they were decent for a first attempt. I am not a digital artist or a professional retoucher, as I prefer to keep my photographs close to their originals. So, needless to say, my digital art skills are not top of the line. But I am still really happy with the results.

Have a look, let me know what you think!!

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And for those of you that like before and after shots, here are a few to show you what I started with and where I ended up.

I think I want to practice digital manipulation more, as I’m interested in it. Might look out for a course that specifically deals with it, or watch some more youtube videos.

Also, make sure to check out more of Kate’s work here.

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