Saturday, March 10, 2012

Local Arizona Artist Cursed with Many Talents

I recently interviewed Mark Greenawalt, on KWOD Radio, my Blog Talk show. Mark is a local Arizona artist and one of the Local Artist Guests for LepreCon38 over Easter weekend, April 5-8th. While you can hear the show at your leisure, I wanted to inform the peeps who read this blog regularly about Mark and his extraordinary talent(s) of this local favorite of the speculative conventions.

Mark Greenawalt will have several body painting demos and workshops of this coming LepreCon weekend, so if you wish to see him exhibiting one of his favorite talents, come join us at Tempe Mission Palms Hotel on April 6-8th.

Here are just a few of the questions I had for Mark from his radio interview with me and a few new ones:

PJ:  Why don’t we start off with a small introduction? Tell us a little about yourself. 

MG:  A lot of people believe they can do anything.  I try to believe that I can do everything.  Sometimes that can be very rewarding, but I also burn the candle at both ends some times to the point of burn out.  I just truly enjoy creating things and building portfolios.  I have cycles when I just want to focus on one art form, body painting for example, but then an opportunity comes along to write a song for film and I suddenly switch gears and want to be a rock star.  Then it's on to illustration and photography, and next I want to write a novel or a screenplay.  I'm very blessed with the ability to do these things with a fair amount of proficiency, but it may be a curse that I will never be able to settle on one path.

PJ:  Tell us what you do in your day job?

MG:  By day I am an Electrical Engineer for SmithGroupJJR, one of the premier Architectural/Engineering firms in the country.  I design the electrical systems and produce "blue prints" for large scale buildings.  I have a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Penn State and I have been a licensed professional engineer since 1997.  More recently I have become LEED certified which is related to the design of sustainable "green" buildings.

PJ:  How does that apply to your body art?

MG:  On the surface, my body art world and my engineering world are very divergent and I tend to deliberately keep them that way.  There are, however, facets of each that cross over.  The main one is lighting design.  Part of the electrical design of an architectural facility is determining the best way to light it that will evoke a certain mood or feeling.  This is the part of my day job that I am most passionate about because it allows me the most creative freedom.  Many of the principles that i have learned about architectural lighting relate to the creative ways that i can light a model for a photoshoot.  For both of these arenas, I have sought to become a talented photographer and I have read as many photography books as I can get my hands on and I practiced photography to hone my skills at both architectural lighting and studio lighting.  Beyond that I would say the other main crossover is the use of computers.  In the engineering world the computer is my primary tool and I have had to learn multiple programs.  Being computer savie has helped me do illustration and photo touching with Photoshop, design my own websites with Dreamweaver, and most importantly develop proposals and invoices with Excel!

PJ:  Do you think this art form is in the mainstream now that we see body painting in commercials?

MG:  I think that the shock has kind of worn off for people to see body painting on TV or in a magazine, but I am often surprised by how many people see my work and state that they have never seen bodypainting live and up close.  I love the fact that it is becoming a little more mainstream and people are realizing that it is a serious art form and not just people pushing the limits of what they can get away with.  The nudity factor, however, will always keep this art form just beyond mainstream in my opinion.  There is such a wide range of reactions to the naked body and I don't think that will ever change.

PJ:  What do you look for in a model before working with them?

The bottom line is that the model needs to be photogenic.  When I look through the photos in a model's portfolio and see that they look great in nearly every shot, then I know that adding bodypainting to the mix will not change the fact that they are going to look great, no matter how good the painting is.  Then if I am fortunate enough to bring my A-game and do a top notch painting and the photographer (me most of the time) also brings the A-game, there is a chance to capture a magical moment in time.  Another important trait is enthusiasm for becoming a body painted art work.  A model who is truly engaged in co-creating the final images is able to act out the part of their character and help sell the fantasy.  And, of course if the candidate is a celebrity supermodel, then I am very inclined to choose them for  projects.

PJ:  Do you think men are your biggest fans or women?
Hmmmm, interesting question.  I think that depends on the venue and the painting.  If I am doing a liquor logo on a model in a night club, then it is primarily men who are interested in the painting (many of them have little interest in the art and are instead drooling over the scantily clad woman, so I'm not sure that they qualify as fans of my work).  In art gallery settings, I think it is probably a pretty even mix.  Thinking back I would guess that I have sold more calendars to men, but I have probably had more women sign up for my mailing list.  I'm sure that the target demographic is men, but I do believe that women seem to be more passionate about the potential beauty of the art, fashion, and even the female form.

PJ:  We talked on the radio program a few weeks ago, and I made note that you are doing less body art jobs then you did some years ago? Please share your explanation to why this is happening?

I have become a little more selective in the projects that I take on.  Since I am not making a living from body art income, I can choose the projects that are more in-line with my style and preferred genre and turn down the ones that just aren't "me" even though they may be lucrative.  Truth be told I have gotten older, and maybe a little wiser, and I don't feel the need to take on every project just to add another piece to my portfolio.  Another unfortunate part of this business is that some of my recurring projects are lost due to things like an art gallery closing it's doors (The Paper Heart) and sometimes being underbid by other artists willing to work for free.  Bodypainting can be a very expensive craft and it is time consuming and occasionally exhaustive, but don't get me wrong, I love it all the same.

PJ:  Where do you see this art form going in the future?

I see it becoming an integral part of high-fashion for runway shows, red carpet events, and celebrity promotional imagery.  I'd love to see bodypainting be on display at art galleries, Vegas type showcases, and possibly even gentlemen's clubs where all of the dancers are painted.  I also see the art form becoming more prevalent in private settings where couples buy the body paints and have fun with experimenting with paints.  The thing that I would like to see most, however, is for body painters to be recognized for their talents and to have their work (live or photographs) showcased in high end galleries like the Phoenix Art Museum. 

PJ:  What advice would you have for an aspiring artist?

This isn't a job that you type up a resume and apply for, so you don't have to wait to be hired.  Get started now even if it means looking in a mirror and painting on your own face.  Once you have the feel for the way the paints work, you'll have no trouble finding willing "canvases" to collaborate with.  There are plenty of "how to" videos on Youtube, but I would recommend getting some ideas drawn on paper and then experiment with them on skin.  It all washes off so there is no need to worry about making mistakes.  The other piece of advice I often tell new artists is to "produce" the photographed image.  Place your model in the right setting for what you are painting (a cheetah will look cheesy in front of a refrigerator for example).  Get some props that will help bring the painting to life.  Plan the work and then work the plan.

PJ:  What have we seen at previous local conventions?

Much of my recent work has been original characters that I have dreamt up and brought to life.  Some of them have back stories and others are just inspired by the fantasy world that I have grown up loving and continue to be intrigued by.  Some of my recent favorites have been an elven princess, Thor's wife Sif, a spider woman, several aliens, and a gargoyle.  Besides the original stuff, I have done paintings inspired by Star Wars, Star Trek, Lady Death, X-Men, Robert A. Heinlein novels, rock bands, and movies (The Mummy, Terminator, Queen of the Damned).

PJ:  What are your goals in the future for your art talent(s)?

My bodypainting goals are to include more celebrities in my portfolio and also to get my work published on the cover a couple of mainstream magazines.  Filmmaking has become a new passion of mine that allows several of my art talents to be included.  I bring special effects make-up along with bodypainting to music videos and films and then I am able to incorporate some of my songwriting and musical talents in the film score.  I have been commissioned to illustrate a children's book that will hopefully published later this year and I am looking forward to that opening the door for more illustration work.  In general, I am really just hoping to collaborate with some really talented people to create some magical works of art that can be enjoyed by many, many people and I hope that I can share my skills and processes with aspiring artists who will in turn inspire me.

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