Models bare all to celebrate World’s oldest art form

Artists started the preperation for the 9th Annual Texas Body Paint Contest hours before judging
Artists started the preperation for the 9th Annual Texas Body Paint Contest hours before judging

On Saturday, November 19, twenty-three artists from around the nation converged on San Antonio to compete in the 9th Annual Beyond The Canvas Body Painting Championships.

“The models used for the artists are not professionally paid models,” said Tomas Vasquez, founder of Beyond the Canvas and event organizer. “These models are the girls next door. You have seen them in restaurants, stores, and nightclubs. It takes confidence to stand up in front of audiences and serve as a model for our artists. We celebrate that confidence and give them a voice.”

This is the ninth annual event. According to Vasquez he started the event in 2010 and for the first three years, the events were held twice a year. Then it was decided to host a bigger event and bring everyone together in an annual event.

Body painting is the World’s oldest art form. Aborigines and ancient tribes participated in body painting during rituals, celebrations, ceremonies, funerals, and war. For the very first body paints the tribes used pigments and dies found among nature.

For those in the ancient societies body painting indicated a person’s wealth, status, or importance in the tribe. Body paint also indicated one’s success or accomplishments. An individual’s body paint served as an extension to their personality and individuality.

European, African, Asian countries, and Australia celebrate the art of body painting with large festivals and contests that allow artists to showcase their talents and abilities. The country of New Zealand used body painting to provide a second look at airline safety in their video—the Bare Essentials of Air Safety. New Zealand Air employees allowed artists to paint their uniforms on their body and then filmed the safety announcements for the airplane. This was done because New Zealand Air wanted to distinguish themselves from their competition.

Body painting in America has received a luke-warm reception. In 1930 during the Chicago’s World Fair, Max Factor attempted to bring attention to the make-up industry by painting one of his models with make-up used by Hollywood. The police arrested both artist and model and that derailed the movement taking a stronghold in American culture.

This would change during the 1950s and 1960s when artists and societal norms allowed artists to introduce body painting to the artistic circles in New York and other major cities.

Hollywood and special effects movies allowed for body painting to grow inside America. Broadway’s Elphaba requires over six hours for the green paint to be applied and dry before taking the stage. The American film Where the Heart Is uses body paint and models in the movie.

Artists complete their transformations and their canvases at the 9th Annual BTC Texas Body Paint competition
Artists complete their transformations and their canvases at the 9th Annual BTC Texas Body Paint competition

Flash forward to 2010 when Tomas Vasquez decided to bring body painting to San Antonio. He established Beyond the Canvas to provide those artists with an interest in body painting and outlet. Beyond the Canvas offers workshops, training, and instruction in the art of body painting.

Beyond the Canvas is also known for the State body-painting contest. This year, Rick Uribe from El Paso served as one of the judges. Uribe was a winner of the show Skin Wars.

Angela Rene Roberts from Lafayette Louisiana also know from her work on season one of Skin Wars, plus mainstream magazine covers, and a New York City Billboard for fine body art served as the second judge.   Examples of her work can be found at the following link.

Rounding out this year’s judging panel was Cully Firmin. Firmin served as body art model in over 20 countries around the world. He is a well-known photographer and artist who supports fine body art.

This year, the artists had two males and twenty-one females serve as willing canvas. Not only did the artists succeed in creating works of fine art, many of the canvases contained a theme of empowering women or exploring issues and cultural ideals women face on a daily basis.

The video contains images and preparations for the 9th annual Texas Body Paint competition. For more information about Beyond the Canvas you can log onto their website at or check them out on Facebook at Beyond the Canvas.

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