Competing for best body paint

It’s a funny thing being a body paint artist.

You show up to an event with a clear vision of what you’d like to create but you have to be adaptable because your living, moving, six-months-pregnant canvas might not be cooperative.

“Me and the little one were fighting,” said artist Chelsa White. “I’d paint and she’d kick me back.”

On April 22, White took first prize and won $250 at Fernie’s third annual body painting competition at the Royal Hotel. The event was a fundraiser for Out of the Box, the City of Fernie’s dumpster beautification project.

White was paired with model Ruth O’Brien for the event. It was the first time the pair had ever met in person.

“They get naked and I paint them,” said White of her chosen medium.

Six pairs of artists and models competed for $500 in prize money, a people’s choice award and a best performance award but the casual affair was mostly for fun and all participants got an award of one kind or another.

The artists had about seven hours to turn their models into works of art.

“You need every single one of those minutes and hours,” said White. “It goes really fast. I had an idea going into it. Sketches and pictures but you do have to be adaptable because doing it on paper versus doing it on a live human being who is moving and breathing, it’s very different.”

“You have to take your model into consideration as well and make changes,” she continued. “They have ideas and what they’re comfortable with.”

The models were ranked by a panel of judges in front of a bar packed with patrons who’d paid a $10 cover charge to witness the show.

Despite spending the day practically naked and being painted by a total stranger, O’Brien said she enjoyed the experience.

“It was awesome,” she said. “I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.”

Scott Cable won second place and $150 for his rendition of a geisha warrior. It was his second year participating at the body painting competition and his fourth year as a professional artist.

“I like to do a lot of symmetrical stuff,” he said. “[But] it’s really hard on a body because you’ve got all the curves and stuff.”

Julie Comete, manager at The Royal, said they usually have eight models for the competition but two cancelled at the last minute. Next year she wants to source the artists from further afield, such as Nelson, which has an established body painting community.

The art form of body painting is defined by the use of a living canvas, she said, and seeing art on the body of a model when they perform is very special.

And on the models’ part, it takes a certain faith to let a stranger create a work of art on your body.

“A lot of these people have never met,” she said. “And then they’re like ‘hey, I’m naked and you’re painting my body.’”

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