// One of the standouts from the Aria awards which was held in Sydney this week was the Veronicas show-stopping performance wearing nothing but sparkling body paint from the waist up. Three time body painting champion Jess Watson Miller from Art Kinetica’s along with her assistant transformed the girls for their performance within an hour each.
We spoke to Jess who took us through how she created this look.
“We wanted to create a sleek, seamless glitter look inspired by a concept created by the Veronicas themselves. There was a three step process:”
- A layer of water-based body paint
- A layer of prosthetic adhesive glue
- The final layer of glitter
We were actually using special prosthetics on their breasts which are made by a company in New Zealand which were custom made for the girls.
We use big kabuki brushes because they hold a lot of paint and allow us to cover the body quickly. We also mixed multiple types of glitter (chunky, fine and holographic) to create a richer glitter effect. We had to move quickly as we only had about an hour for each body paint.
BEHIND THE ARTIST w/ JESS WATSON MILLER
// How did you get your start in the industry?
As a HSC Visual Art student I decided to do bodypainting for my major work, and as part of the research I found out about the World Bodypainting Festival. A year later, as a 17-year-old on a round-the-world gap year trip, I decided to go to the festival in Austria. And I encountered an amazing community of incredible artists who inspired me to come home and try more and better bodypainting myself. And then I never left.
// Do you have a signature look or style that you are known for?
I created a blacklight body art circus show called Luminous, so I'm well known for blacklight body art. In my regular work I tend to do very intricate, detailed body art that incorporates realistic portraits, pinstriped linework, abstract landscapes and patterns, and overly intellectual themes.
// What have been the most exciting moments of your career?
Competing. I love competing at the World Bodypainting Festival, and I competed on US reality TV show Skin Wars in Season 3. The thrill of competing is addictive.
// Where do you look for inspiration and creativity?
I generally find inspiration in art other than bodypainting - visual artists like Craola, street artists like Phibs from Sydney and Vesod from Italy, and filmmakers like Darren Aronovsky. I think creativity is something you can practice, mostly by taking ideas from one area and applying them to others, so you'd be surprised how often I get ideas about art from economics or ideas about economics from art!
// What do you love about your craft?
I love the limitations. You can't procrastinate on painting a live model, and it forces you to create images that aren't flat, and that wrap around the body. I also love how supportive the community is, and how much we each support each other's work.
// Who are the role models who have inspired you?
My friend Yolanda Bartram from NZ is a world champion bodypainter who always makes incredible art and helps me push myself to be a better artist. She was a huge inspiration to a teenage me who was a complete novice at bodypainting. And the other world-class bodypainters I compete against at the World Bodypainting Festival like Sanatan Dinda, Minh Ah Kim, and Evgenia Parhatskaya. They constantly push the bar and force me to re-evaluate what is possible in the artform.
// What was one of your biggest career challenges and how did you overcome it?
Being taken seriously as a young artist. I started painting when I was 17 and by 21 I had achieved success on the world stage and was one of the best bodypainters in Australia. Still, I often lost jobs and quotes because I wasn't old enough to be the 'professional artist' that clients pictured. While this has become less of a problem now, it forced me to really focus on my branding and marketing, and back myself much more than I used to be comfortable with.
// Must have tool or products for your kit?
Kabuki brushes for fast full base coats and for UV speed painting - I can use up to 16 kabukis in one live bodypaint act
Da Vinci brushes - incredibly precise flat brushes for intricate linework and splitcakes Mehron body brushes for big broad features - these are the workhorses of my kit I use many different brands of paint, including Superstar, TAG, Global, Mehron Paradise, Kryolan Aquacolor, FPA, depending on the precise needs of the piece, but I always need a 'waxy' (paraffin based) water based paint for white and black linework.
// If you had not made the decision to be a body painter, what career do you think you would have pursued?
I finished my Masters of Economics last year, and my other passion is behavioural economics (I'm aware it's a very odd combination). So I would probably be involved in a behavioural economics startup, possibly running my own!
// What do you enjoy to do when the brushes are down?
I read obsessively - neuroscience, philosophy, nutrition, effective altruism, and economics - I'm a giant nerd. Cycling, cooking giant vegan meals, training circus, and planning my inevitable empire!
// What advice would you give artists starting out?
Find the best artists you can, the ones who intimidate you a little, and stick to them like glue. Study their art, be annoying and ask as many questions as you can stand, take in all their advice even if you don't use it all, and continually ask 'how can I do this better?' In such a niche industry you really need to find role models and mentors who know what they're doing, because you're learning a lot of things you can't google.
// Ultimate dinner party guests?
Elon Musk, Bill and Melinda Gates, Alma Deutscher and her father Guy Deutscher.