Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It's All About the Kids - Working with Special Needs

When I was in 8th grade, there was this girl, Mary.  She wasn't in our school the year before, and no one knew much about her... except that she was different.  She didn't get social cues or sarcasm, and didn't recognize when some of the other kids were joking at her expense or messing with her.

In 1983, none of us had ever heard the word autism.  Sitting here 33 years later, though, knowing what I know now, and having the experiences I've had, I'm fairly certain Mary was on the spectrum.  We just weren't told.  It wasn't discussed.  I'm pretty sure my parents weren't informed either.  While my parents taught me always to be nice to people as a general matter, we were never taught in school about differences, acceptance, and working with other kids' special needs.  We weren't educated.

I'm so glad we are now.  I'm so glad that now, special needs are recognized, diagnosed, discussed, and made known.  Today, I have a family member on the autism spectrum, and multiple friends with children on the spectrum as well, including one who's a terrific face painter in Minnesota.  Today, I've gotten fairly savvy at recognizing when a child has special needs, and know that the child's not just being entitled or bratty, that something else is going on.  With the help of those friends, especially the Minnesota face painter, I've learned so much about what it means and what I need to do to work with and around it.  Sometimes it's got to be the quickest, simplest version of a design.  Sometimes it needs to just be cheek art or arm art, not full face.  Sometimes the face painter will need to describe what's being done as it's happening, or warn the child when his or her face is about to touched.  Sometimes, the painting has to go unfinished, even if it's an unrecognizable blob, just because the child is done and can't sit for more than that.  It's all OK, and it's all about the kids.

I also know that compromise can be difficult for a child on the spectrum, and we as face painters need to work with that.  I was part of a group face painting at a NY Jets event a year or two ago, and the sheer number of people there was insane, so we were limited by the organizers to only a few face paint options.  A boy who'd waited patiently on line with his mom got to me and asked for Batman.  I told him I was very sorry, but I wasn't permitted to paint Batman as this event.  And then I realized, when I saw mom's face and the storm brewing behind the boy's eyes, that there was something more to this boy.  It wasn't his fault, of course; he had special needs, and I needed to work with that.

"Well, here's the thing.  I can paint swirls, since that's on the list, but I'm not a very good artist, and sometimes my swirls come out looking like Batman.  I hope that's OK with you."

It was!

Last June, I face painted at a Fight 4 Autism walk in Hawthorne.  Despite the intermittent downpours and resulting low turnout, it truly was an amazing event and experience.  I got to meet the nicest people, paint a bit, and have some fun.  What I remember most, though?  Not what I painted.  What I painted honestly wasn't relevant that day.  My best memory of the day was a boy on the spectrum who found his favorite music Youtube videos on my phone, and hung out with me, dancing and having a blast.

That event led to the grand opening of We Rock the Spectrum gym, in Waldwick.  I painted there for five hours, and it was terrific.  And because my friends have given me such great information, and because I've gotten to paint these children before, I know.  Although I have, somewhere in the back of my mind, delusions of grandeur that I'm an "Artist" and want everything I do to be "Art," it's not about that.  So at that grand opening, while some of the kids had the patience and ability to sit for their requested Venusaurs and Laprases,

not all could.  Some weren't into painting at all, some needed something really small and quick, and some were very, very specific.  One girl requested a balloon with several strings on it in all different colors she chose as I painted.  The resulting simple, hairy-looking balloon with clashing-color strings may not have been artwork that made me proud, but the big smile on her face when she saw the mirror sure was.

Because in the end?  It's all about the kids.

And now, awesome news!  The gym has rebranded itself, and is now 1 Gym 4 All!

Their mission is to spark children's curiosity to explore new activities and social relationships, and in addition to the gym itself, they host art and music programs, summer and holiday camps, and private parties!

The best part?  I'll be painting at their new grand opening on December 3, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.!  Please come check out 1 Gym 4 All, like them on Facebook, and enjoy!  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

More Other Artwork

A friend in Virginia posted a drawing on Facebook, done by a young artist a few years ago, of a hornet kicking a soccer ball, as the girls' soccer team is the Herndon Hornets.  She asked, "I have this image.  I want to use it as the basis for a graphic that can be used for t-thirts for [my daughter's] soccer team.  Any ideas on an inexpensive way to work on the image?"

When she clarified, I realized she wanted it redrawn, but based on the original image.

So I offered.

Interestingly, the artist made the same mistake I've always, always made - hexagonal black areas on a soccer ball!  It made me not feel bad for doing that all these years.  I realized when I looked up photos of actual soccer balls so I'd get it right for this drawing.  And by the way, soccer balls are really hard to draw!

The results...

And then I had some fun adding color...

Go Hornets!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

New Brushes

I was contacted by someone who distributes a brand of face painting brushes I'd never heard of before, Artacts brushes.  She asked me to do a video review in exchange for receiving the brushes, so I agreed.

I received them the other day, and first tried them tonight.  All opinions are truthful and my own.

They really are terrific, and the next time I need new brushes, I'll be ordering them myself, from here.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Purim Party

I recently got to paint faces at the Chabad Center of Passaic County's Purim party.  It was imoji-themed, and a blast.


This is the same group that had the glow-themed Chanukah party, and I really like these kids.

My one lament?  One boy had the really awesome idea of a Spidey imoji and my only photo was blurry!

Boo!  In my defense, I'd forgotten my good camera, and was using my phone for all of these.  On the other hand, his brother followed suit and got a Hulk imoji, and I got a cool shot of that.

Aren't they fun?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Well, I Heard

The response I got from the woman who commissioned the picture frame last week was that it was a resounding success!  Here's what she posted in a group on Facebook:

What a compliment!  It's reactions like those that make me smile.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Some More Fun... and a "New" Service!

Many years ago, when I was just 14 and first allowed to get my working papers, I got a job as a sales clerk at the Paramus, NJ branch of Lewis of London, a very high-end baby furniture store.  It was so high-end that it was even mentioned in this NY Times article in 1984!

Well, once I was there, I was also recruited - and paid - to custom paint designs on lots of their items for sale.  There was a stock of my hand painted baby bottles and step stools always in the store, but people would also commission custom items like toy boxes and rocking chairs, with baby names and paintings to match the bedding sets they were buying.

So when I was asked to paint a picture frame as a baby gift, it was only reasonable that I agree!  The photographer/gifter sent me this photo to work from...

... and explained that the boy's room is Mets themed and in the Mets colors.  Well, OK, then!  So this is what I did...

She absolutely loved the photo I sent her, and will be picking it up today for the party on Saturday.  I can't wait to see what she thinks in person and hear about her friend's reaction!

Meanwhile, between this, the hand painting I did the other night with fabric paint on my own new denim jacket,

(isn't that so cool?!)... and the custom logo painting I did a while back, it has occurred to me that I need to offer this is a service!  So I am!  Now you can order custom painted gifts and decor, and I'll work with you to create anything you like, whether you want something to be matched exactly or you're looking for an artistic spinoff.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Bayleaf Botanicals Face Paints: A Review

I so love trying out new face paints and body art products.  Well, I got to  last night!  I was recently contacted by Bayleaf Botanicals, a small family-owned American business, which has among its products a new face paint.  Based on the copy, I could see it being popular, as it's FDA-compliant, which you know is a requirement of mine, plus made in the USA, vegan, and free of parabens, nuts, fragrance, and latex.  It's also child-toy safety rated.  In my world, that means these face paints are about as safe as they come.

The set is comprised of 28 2 ml colors, which is enough to paint a lot of faces.  I spent years, even as a professional, using this size before moving up to the larger "professional size" face paints that I use now.

I tried them first with a sponge, and found that they blend very well.  This is a creamy style face paint, great for blending, rather than the "hard" type face paint, but I found it was still nice and sharp for linework.  It works up quickly and easily without a ton of water.

Then I had a little fun with a funky bee (of course a bee!), a little tribal, and a quick Spiderman.

These face paints hit the key points I look for in my products - the colors are bright and dense, the white has good coverage, and the black can achieve a nice sharp line.

You also may notice that I painted all of these on my left arm.  In between, it took me literally seconds to wash off each design; these face paints are removed incredibly easily, which is a huge plus.

For professionals, this size is on the small side, but for moms and volunteers, this set is absolutely perfect when paired with some good brushes from an art or craft store and some good face painting sponges (not makeup wedges; those are impossible with face paints of all sorts, get actual face painting sponges or a tack sponge to cut up).  It's easy to use, with good pigments, and a wider variety of colors than most "mom" sets contain.

Overall, I highly recommend, which makes me especially happy since I believe we should all support small business where we can.  So I suppose I ought to let you know that you can buy them at Amazon here.

I was provided with a 28-color set of Bayleaf Botanicals face paints in order to complete my review.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On the Other Hand...

There is something acrylics are good for.  Canvas!

As soon as my good friend told me she was pregnant and what bedding she'd chosen for her little girl, I knew what I wanted to do.  It's called "Zoo Garden," but my friend called it "Purple Jungle."  I immediately found what she meant online when I got home that night.

Really cute!  I decided that I wanted to do a painting that went with the set, without actually matching, so I wouldn't just be copying.  And the fact that my friend had called the set "Purple Jungle" gave me a little license to add other animals that are found in the jungle.  I looked up giraffes, elephants, and hippos to make sure, and confirmed that they're all found in Africa.  Well, so are zebras and feral honey bees, so I added those too!  After all, zebras are really cute, and it just wouldn't be "me" without bees.

I drew it out first in pencil and Sharpie on paper to get the placement down, and then tackled the canvas with a vine charcoal stick.

I wanted to avoid black, and keep the paint colors soft ,but not bland.  It was a fine line to walk, for sure.

But in the end, I think I accomplished what I wanted, and my friend loved it!  Hopefully as her daughter grows up, she loves it too.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Is it really all that important that a face painter use proper supplies?

Yes!  Yes, yes, a million times yes!  Why?  This is why:

This photo and the follow up comments were posted in one of my face painting groups on Facebook this week.  It's horrible!  I'm torn between being sad for the poor kids suffering this, and absolutely furious at the "makeup artist" who subjected them to it.

The two most important questions to ask when hiring a face painter are:

(1) What do you use?

To which the answer should be reputable, researchable brand names of FDA-compliant face paint.  I will happily provide names of every brand I use, and even links to their Material Safety Data Sheets when asked.

(2) Are you insured?

To which the answer should be "yes."  End of story.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Face & Body Art by Larissa Made the Paper!

Twice!  Yes, I'm excited.

First, on December 8, 2015, a photo was printed in The Record, showing me painting at a glow-themed Chanukah party at the Chabad in Wayne.  It was so much fun!  My first time face painting in the dark, lit only by blacklight.

And then on January 6, 2016, I was featured in the online publication, The Daily Voice!  It's such a great article, with a number of terrific photos.

I feel famous!


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