The art of body painting goes back donkey’s years. The famous haggis-munchers -- known as "the Picts" back then, but who later changed their name to the Scots -- are thought to have had a hand in developing the art, and, believe it or not, their name originally meant "painted or tattooed people." Who knew the stocky wee Jocks living on the verges of the Roman Empire had both a taste for Latin earlobes (who doesn’t?) and a proper knack for ink. But it wasn’t to last, as the Scots soon came to realize that painting yourself cost too much money.
But in recent decades, there’s been an upsurge in passion for using ourselves as canvases. According to a U.S. News & World Report article, tattooing was the sixth-fastest-growing retail venture of the 90s, and it continues to gather pace. Likewise, body painting, while not permanent skin work, has just as much of a growing fan-base and is often the thing to do at a fun summer gathering or club night. This all may have been caused by a more liberal outlook of body image, nudity, self-expression, and the like.
Some ask whether body painting is as much an established art form as tattooing. Even today, there is a gigantic debate about its legitimacy as an art form, but when you consider we have people like Danny Setiawan working magic on people’s naked and/or partially clothed bodies, the answer is clear… you betcha! Indonesian-born Setiawan is a supreme visual artist, who combines traditional and digital media in his body painting; in many of his recent projects, he even pays tribute to the great artists of the past such as Vincent Van Gogh. What’s not to love?
Anyway, it’s time to grab your paint brush because we’re going to have a look at one or two celebs that took body painting to an art form and made it damn hot!
15 Daniella Sarahyba
Let’s stick to our copy of the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated and have a little gander at another stunner, namely Daniella Sarahyba. Brazilian-born Sarahyba actually modeled for every swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated between 2005 and 2010 and according to Wikipedia is currently under contract with H&M, Spiegel, and Benetton. In addition to possessing an outstanding modeling career, she was the subject of several Joanne Gair (Demi Moore fame) body paints for the Sports Illustrated 2007 issue and landed themed t-shirts and bikini bottoms.
This picture is from Sarahyba’s 2007 photoshoot in which she’s seen sporting a pair of green shorts and a lovely little black top with the faces of the four members of American hard rock group KISS strategically placed. (Incidentally, we think Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley have the best seats in the house).
14 Brooklyn Decker
American fashion model and actress Brooklyn Danielle Decker, known for her appearances in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, has jumped into the crazy and outmoded world of television with guest appearances on “Chuck” and “Royal Pains.” She made her debut in feature films with “Just Go with It” (romantic comedy with Adam Sandler) and went on to other projects, including “What to Expect When You're Expecting” (2012) alongside Cameron Diaz.
The gorgeous photos of her painted body were taken at Spice Island Resort, Grenada, in 2009. Decker sports an old-fashioned treasure map across her midriff, a compass rose above her left thigh, and some nautical ropes rising up between her generous embonpoint. Tastefully put, huh?
Released in 2011, Barbadian singer Rihanna's “Where Have You Been” video gave us the kind of palpitations no number of beta-blockers was going to halter. Not only did the subsequent release of the video heave the song up the UK singles chart by 40 places but it also allowed us to savor one of very few times the delicious damsel has had her body painted.
In the video, she starts by crawling out of a swampy lake scantily clad in textured body paint, giving us the impression of a seductive humanoid reptile on the lookout for “a male partner who will please her.” It reminds all of us here of the Komodo dragon courtship in the last David Attenborough series, only with fewer teeth. OK, it’s not an all-over paint job, but it’s bigger than a T-cut, and apparently, it took hours for the artist to apply the paint…
12 Heidi Klum
Heidi Klum is, according to makeup giant Astor, “A true Astor woman.” Having been the cosmetic firm’s Creative Director since 2010, Klum is dedicated to the brand and the ethics of the company. Speaking in 2015 after her split from singer Seal, the international model said of life, “'Sometimes life throws you a curveball, and then you just figure it out and deal with it.” Wearing unique body art for Astor’s campaign certainly, gives us an idea of the colorful spirit of the woman.
Then, at Klum's 12th annual Las Vega Halloween party in 2011, the model appeared as a "visible human body,” a heart-stopping painted rendition of a person stripped of her skin, all anatomically correct right down to the popping veins. Klum had apparently spent most of the day being airbrushed with make-up and ended up with what must be the most original Halloween costume ever!
11 Kim Kardashian
While some choose to be spray-painted with gold, Hollywood socialite Kim Kardashian chose striking silver for her photo shoot in a 2010 issue of American fashion magazine W. The shoot, which involved Kardashian lying in a pool of metallic paint, included pictures from all angles, but it looks to us as if someone missed the point about body paint. It’s meant to cover you up and be imaginative, creative, and tasteful! Oh, who are we kidding? This wasn’t the first time Kardashian has been full-on naked for magazines, and it won’t be the last, but the less said about that, the better.
Anyway, as we say over here in Blighty, “Every silver lining has a cloud.” What we mean by that is the photoshoot ended up being a particularly low point for the reality television personality who was told only days before print that the pictures would be even more revealing than she had thought. In the end, she flipped out over the results when it went public, got upset, started crying, got into an argument, etc. and said she thought the images looked like “serious p--n.”
10 Paris Hilton and Holly Vallance
What is it about going for gold when it comes to drinks manufacturers? Or in the case of American socialite Paris Hilton, her new line in booze called “Rich Prosecco.” Back in 2009, Hilton’s promotion of the brand saw her clambering naked across the parched earth of a desert desperately looking for her champagne-in-a-tinny, but instead, getting so hot that she turns into gold. Mind you, making her way to her “wine in a can” on all fours was understandable after losing her license for a DUI; we’ve yet to hear any complaints.
Meanwhile, Australian actress, singer, and all-around hottie Holly Valance got a gold paint job in 2011 for an advertisement for Foster's Gold beer with the company hoping the former Neighbours beauty would help bring sales to a nice frothy head. Well, reminiscent of a scene from the 1964 Bond movie, Goldfinger, we say she’s done just that.
Let’s first make the distinction between a sweaty ancient warrior’s body paint and today’s body art. Better yet, we’ll let American singer, songwriter, and actress Beyoncé show off the stunning skills of body artistry with a glimpse of the cover of Flaunt magazine from four years ago. Queen Bey appeared painted in molten gold and bronze jewel tones, which set off her already incredible figure; it’s almost as though someone had covered the Venus de Milo in glue and poured glitter over her, only better (sorry, Alexandros of Antioch). The 2011 shoot was the brainchild of photographer Tony Duran and came to pass in the 2013 edition of the popular American satirical fashion and culture magazine.
This isn’t the first time Bey has been painted up for us. Earlier this year, we were treated to an hour-long video-commentary-diary thing about her new album Lemonade in which she and her dancers are seen adorned with stunning designs by Nigerian-born artist Laolu Senbanjo.
8 Marisa Miller
American model and actress, best known for her standout appearances in the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated (2008) and her work for American lingerie designer and manufacturer, Victoria’s Secret the previous year, Marisa Miller's endeavors have been called "the return of the great American supermodel." According to Carmel magazine, “She’s [a] well-balanced, genuinely warm and nice individual, seemingly unaffected by all the accolades heaped on her over the course of her modeling career.”
We think her 2008 shoot done in Turks and Caicos is a stunning example of how great body painting can look almost identical to clothing; only when you look really, really, really closely can you tell the difference. Incidentally, in the same year as the shoot, she made her debut at number one on the 2008 Maxim “Hot 100” list.
7 Joanna Krupa
Who doesn’t love killer whales? Well, seals for one, but most of us think they're the bee’s knees, and what better way to spend an afternoon than to see them frolicking around in a marine aquarium, right? Wrong -- at least according to the rather de-lovely Joanna Krupa. The Polish-American model and actress adores the little fellers and will do whatever it takes to bring public awareness to their rights; for one thing, locking them in an aquarium tank is a big no-no for her.
Mostly known for appearing on Dancing with the Stars, Top Model, and The Real Housewives of Miami, Krupa is also a passionate animal rights activist and has publicized her commitment to the work of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
In 2015, she took a stand and chose to be painted from head to toe in the black-and-white patterns of an Orca.
6 Jennifer Lawrence
Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence is, according to Wikipedia, “The highest-paid actress in the world… her films have grossed over $5.5 billion worldwide. She appeared in Time's 100 most influential people in the world in 2013 and Forbes Celebrity 100 the following year and in 2016.”
But we’d like to direct your attention, not to such frivolous whimsies of status and wealth; no, we want to talk “X-Men: Days Of Future Past,” and more specifically, Mystique. You see, as Shakespeare once said, “Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye,” and we suspect he said it after watching the franchised superhero film based on characters from Marvel.
For her close-up shots, the Mail Online reported that Lawrence had to endure hours of head-to-toe airbrushing to achieve the “real skin” look; she got a full three layers of blue paint and another five layers of “splattering effect” ending up the blue beauty beheld by the Bard.
5 Kelly Brook
Sticking with PETA activism and in a long line of high-profile celebs dedicated to their cause, we turn our undivided attention to the home-grown talent of Kelly Brook.
Back in 2011, Brook was painted over in a seductive, scaly snakeskin that got tongues wagging. It was all done in response to PETA’s campaign at the time, “Whose Skin Are You In?” which highlighted the sickening trade of exotic and endangered animals killed for high-end fashion garments.
Brooke unveiled the campaign in London and said of the appalling industry, “It makes my skin crawl to think about the violent ways snakes, lizards, alligators, and other exotic creatures are raised and killed for boots, bags, and belts.” Good for her. What’s more is she's a proper advocate of faux leathers and furs, which are, these days, so well made you can’t tell the difference.
4 Demi Moore
Sometimes, a picture says a thousand words. We think in the case of “Demi’s Birthday Suit,” it says, “Was there ever a woman who could look so stunning in Trompe-l'œil body-painted menswear?” OK, it’s the not the catchiest of slogans, but it has to be said that the 1992 cover of Vanity Fair magazine featuring Demi Moore beneath the artwork of Joanne Gair is both memorable and eye-catching to this day!
Gair and the photographer took a punt on the body art during the week-long shoot in California. Gair painted onto Moore which took, “15 hours to apply . . . because it was difficult for Gair to build the proper paint density, and Moore's body heat melted the paint.” What’s more, Moore was required to sleep in the suit to ease the progress of the next day’s filming.
Many consider the cover photograph, and Gair’s ground-breaking work, as signaling “the introduction of modern body painting to the world.”
3 Lauren Goodger
Using her celeb status to give PETA a helping hand just as Kelly Brook did the previous year was Lauren Goodger, who, in 2012, got painted up as a snake and was snapped lying naked in a pool of fake blood. The Only Way Is Essex star’s involvement in the campaign to highlight the sacrifice of reptiles to the fashion industry served as a useful publicity boost for Goodger and some lick-slapping eye-candy for the rest of us.
The photos were taken by photographer Trevor Leighton. Quoted by The Drum online zine, Goodger says, “I hadn’t realised how inhumanely these animals are killed for fur, leather, skin etc. so I think it’s really important to raise awareness of this for other people who, like me, don’t realise the true severity of the situation.” Ironically, though, Mail Online reported that later that night, Goodger went out in a leather jacket. Errr…
2 Jessica Szohr
Jessica Karen Szohr began her on-screen endeavors by appearing on TV shows such as “CSI: Miami” and “What About Brian.” She has gone on to star in many other films and TV shows including the 2011 comedy “I Don't Know How She Does It” alongside Sarah Jessica Parker and Pierce Brosnan.
In a 2011 advertising campaign for drinks company SoBe Lifewater, Szohr got painted up with two different "skinsuits" made to look like a lizard's scales, and we think the results are rather fetching. Talking to NY Daily News after the shoot took place, the actress raved about her time in front of the camera: “It definitely had an edgy vibe that I loved.” In fact, the shoot took place amid the jungles and waterfalls of beautiful Costa Rica, more likely adding to the reptilian vibe and suiting Szohr and SoBe Lifewater (whose logo consists of two lizards head to toe) down to the ground.
1 Sarah Brandner
Let’s have one final look at Sports Illustrated and this time focus on German model Sarah Brandner who was featured in the 2010 Body Painting Issue of the magazine. Brandner has also done notable work for German magazine Bild, and GQ Germany, and after moving to New York last year is represented by one of the leading model-placement agencies in Germany, Place Models. She is also known for her collaboration with bag designer Lili Radu with whom she’s worked closely with on several occasions.
With over 10,000 followers on Instagram, it wasn’t long until Brandner’s stunning pictures from SI were feasted on by middle-aged gentlemen around the world. Let’s face it: not only does her set show off her natural beauty but it also exemplifies the skill involved in body painting as an art.
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