Updated: Jun 18
Welcome to Behind the Scenes! Here I share with you my artist process, discussing the intention of each shoot, along with inspiration and challenges I've faced. I hope these posts bring you closer to understanding and interpreting art, while simultaneously getting to know me and my work.
Model: Kealy Heeg
Photographer & Body Painter: Kas Rea Visual Arts
Creative Team: Jay Scott, Gerald Murray, Julia Aden
Black Light marks a huge milestone in my body painting journey. This was the first time I worked with black lights, and it opened a door to new possibilities and expanded my knowledge of body painting. For this shoot, I only had a small handful of colours. which at first may appear limiting, but this allowed me to keep the design simple and to not complicate things. Kealy Heeg, who was the model for this shoot, wanted something representing water. I emphasized a waterfall on her torso, while I combined rocks, earth and galaxy planets on other areas of her body. I made her crown out of glow sticks, which I attached to a black tiara. We had fun playing with different backdrops, props and poses. Overall this shoot was an amazing experience and a lot of fun!
In the above image, Kealy may appear nude in the photograph, however she wore a beige body suit. After doing some research, I discovered if the skin is left bare in a black light shoot, it will appear somewhat purple and bright. I wanted the body paint to "pop" and glow, so I covered her skin and body suit in black and dark purple paint. This technique emphasizes the vibrant colours of the UV paint, and causes the skin almost disappear against a dark backdrop. The overall effect is bold, eye catching and beautiful. I look back on these images and am quite happy with the results and the overall experience. I added paint in Kealy's hair, and fellow photographer friend Jay Scott designed the floral staff Kealy is holding.
The above image is a snapshot of the original concept drawing in my sketchbook. My sketchbook is packed full of quick drawings such as this, and is a place of brainstorming, collecting ideas, inspiration, emotions and themes of my work. The purpose sharing of this image is to show audiences that usually artists plan out their work before they start painting, and for myself, I rarely go into a body painting shoot without a concept in mind. The sketchbook allows me to freely and openly envision what I imagine the end result will look like, and helps me plan out steps to see this vision come to life. I often say that drawing is a core skill that transfers to all other art, and that if I can draw it, I can bring it into reality.
Here is some behind the scenes photos of our shoot! Our creative team worked in Jay Scott's studio. When I first started painting, the black lights were not turned on, and I was using regular lighting. This worked well to put on the purple and black base colours, however I do not recommend it once you start painting with brighter colours. Seeing how the paint appears in black light is important so you can make adjustments as you go, rather than guessing how it will look. Having the black light on after the shoot also helps with clean up and spotting where paint may have splattered. When painting a model head to toe, a towel or tarp is key to reduce clean up time. I never paint the soles of the feet, as footprints would get everywhere. In the third image, I had Kealy stand on a sturdy step-up stool, which helps me paint without straining my back. If the model wishes to sit, I cover their chair in towel. Although body paint is washable, it can stain if left on fabric or other material for too long, so it is good to take necessary persuasions, especially when using someone else's studio. In my body painting kit I like to carry environmentally friendly cleaning supplies in case things get messy.
Image editing can be an art in itself. I emphasize this because editing software allows the photographer to creatively explore endless possibilities to how their images will look. For the two images above, I put Kealy in the cosmos, adding a starry background, with light purple and pink filters, and I pumped up the vibrancy in certain colours. For processes such as this, I use Adobe Photoshop CC, combined with Adobe Lightroom. I've used these software's for a few years now and am still enjoying it.
I'd like to share with you some personal pros and cons to using these Adobe products. Some pros are that these products have a strong variety of tools and features, that allows my vision to come true. Basic photo editors such as Instagram are great, but are very limited. With Photoshop I can place a model in any environment, play with a huge range of colours, tones, light and shadow, filters, stamps, shapes, layers, text, erasers, artistic paintbrushes and more. Another pro is that if you have a tablet, you can start working on an image and then transfer it to your computer to finish your edits. This makes photo editing easy to travel with and accessible. A specific pro of Photoshop is that I also use it for making high quality business cards, logos, posters, flyers, signage, etc. Being an independent artist means I wear many hats, often being in charge of my own marketing, so Photoshop is a vital tool for me. A unique pro for Lightroom, is that I can connect it to my laptop and camera, and can instantly see my photos on the laptop as I am shooting. This feature is great to show models how the images are looking, rather than using the smaller screen on the camera. In addition, Lightroom has many neat features, such as "create virtual copy", which allows users to easily edit images without damaging the original file. Lightroom also works well for making printing easy, and allows me to quickly make contact sheets, which is seen below. Contact sheets are small original photo thumbnails owned by the photographer, which are sent to a client so the client can choose which images they'd like to purchase, print, and/or have the photographer edit. Aside from sharing my contact sheets with clients and models, I personally do not post them on social media or other areas of my website because they are the raw, unfinished images. I make sure to have my watermark and image numbers visible.
Now for some cons of using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Firstly, these programs do cost money, however you can arrange to make monthly payments plans, which is what I do for both programs. If you are wanting to explore photo editing before committing to a fee, I suggest using GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). This is a free downloadable program that has been recommended by various other artists. You can also use GIMP for digital painting and graphic design. https://www.gimp.org/A con I find is sometimes when I transfer images from Lightroom to Photoshop, the paintbrush strokes change, which has caused me some trouble. To avoid this, I usually stick with using Photoshop's paintbrushes.
Overall, Black Light was an empowering and fun experience. I enjoyed working with new paints, new lighting and had a blast collaborating with a supportive creative team. With each photo shoot, there is usually hundreds of images, and when I feel inspired I like to go back into the original files and play with editing.
Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear your thoughts, drop me a comment below.
- Kas Rea Visual Arts