At the stroke of a brush, Valary Mdeizi, applies a white colour down a young woman’s body. She then sprays more colour further down the shoulders.
Just as American rapper Eminem sings,“a normal life is boring.” And to the younger generation, normal makeup has become so-so.
Kenyans are going bold with makeup that involves painting a small part of the body or almost every inch of the body. In some cases, the paint acts as a dress covering a woman’s nudity in anything from black or charcoal grey or red colours.
Their aim: convey a message, communicate their feelings or tell a story using eye shadows, lipsticks, paint, a sprayer and a few brushes.
Anna Montez is part of the new generation of artists who are using elaborate makeups.
“For me, the normal makeup had become very basic. I wanted to dare. I had this desire to test how far I could go with being extra on makeup creations,” she says.
Body art is not only about colour adornment. It is also an expression of character, story or era. There are no rules in body art, the makeup artists can play with different tools. It could be a paintbrush or paint sprayer. It could be lipstick used as an eye shadow or vice versa.
“I am an artist. I don’t have to confine myself to a limited range of action of what I can do with my artistry. I love working with the human skin and there is pretty much a wide range of body arts to explore and express myself,” explains Valary.
For customers who pay to get their faces or any part of the body painted, there are various preferences. There is team natural. These customers prefer nude makeup. Then there is the unconventional who prefer avant-garde or editorial makeup.
The ultra-vibrant and dramatic avant-garde makeup style leans towards artistic, ferociously creative and uniquely expressed.
For the average woman, avant-garde cosmetic styles may not be the norm, but they can make an impact if one is attending a special occasion or for runway.
There is also use of prosthetic makeup, also called special makeup effects (SFX). In SFX, artists use makeup and prosthetics to give clients abrasions, wounds, deformities and animal features, especially for filmmaking or just for fun.
They can make a person look older — or create an otherworldly monster.
“There has to be an idea of what you want to achieve. It could be inspired by anything; the stars, beach, darkness or monsters. When something triggers your mind, you find a way of sort of bring it to life,” adds Anna, who started as an eye makeup artist before she moved to the whole face.
The first step in doing body art is moisturising and priming the skin. The skin, just like canvas, has texture. Primers smoothen out the skin texture and it does not interfere with what the artist wants to create. On the face, the primer acts as a barrier between the pores, flaws and the heaviness of makeup, filling in big pores, creases and fine lines.
Then a makeup artist applies the colours, building on more colours and transitions until the finest finish is achieved; taking into consideration the makeup definition, pigmentation and contrast. It is painstaking but worth it.
“My canvas is the human skin. For body art, I use body paint and brushes, while for editorial, I may need paint brushes, eye shadows, lipsticks and pigments,” says Valary.
When it comes to the bold makeup for the skin, quality cannot be compromised. One has to choose high-quality products that never crease, that are glossy with the rich pigments and easy to use.
“I prefer importing my products because they are cheaper when bought in bulk,’’ Valary says. The price of face or body art depends on the design.
Her clients range from corporates, musicians, production companies and people attending high-fashion events. Both Anna and Valary say their art is self-taught. Valary studied economic and statistics in her undergraduate studies. She first started with music before her love for body art grew. Anna went to beauty school, studying more of pedicure and manicure.
“My inspiration mostly comes at night. I get this desire to create,” says Anna, who is a creative director in filming, music videos, branding, and advertising.
She is part a team that started the ‘Am Kenyan project’ which creates images that tell Kenyan stories to promote peace.