Over the years I have had so many artists come to me asking me to teach them how I do such clean, crisp cheek art so FAST. It’s one of those things I’ve just been doing for so long, I never really could pinpoint what exactly to teach. But, over the past year I’ve really tried to watch how others paint vs myself, and try to really stop and look at what I do, and whether it could be broken down into something useful and “teachable.” SO, here are at least a few tips I’ve come up with for improving your cheek art speed!
*GASP!* (Can I say that word on the internet among PROFESSIONAL face painters?!)
It seems that “cheek art” is almost a naughty word these days. Volunteer face painters do cheek art because they THINK it is quicker than full faces. Clients request “something small” because they THINK smaller means faster. A myriad of professionals avoid cheek art because they know it actually is NOT quicker than full faces, they’re afraid it’s too closely associated with amateurs, and they think the amount of detail in a small space is just too time consuming. Unfortunately some of those artists then resort to trash talking cheek art to minimize the fact that they don’t offer it to their clients, rather than working to perfect it.
Truthfully though, does it hurt to expand your repertoire to include some cheek art designs? Think about it…eye designs, nose designs, and most full face & forehead designs are dependent on a specific body part. Not every child’s face will be suited for a full face design. For example, a forehead design might not be the best choice for a girl with big bangs. A nose design may interfere with a child’s glasses. A full face design might not be a good idea for a sloppy eater about to indulge in birthday cake, and you most certainly do NOT want to see your nose design end up on the kleenex of a kid with a cold! I’ve been offering the whole range of full face, half face, eye designs & cheek art for the last 5 years, and I’ve still had events where every guest chose cheek designs over full face. So, it is not even a matter of customers’ preferences.
Really good cheek art stands alone…it looks just as good on the arm, hand, or leg as it does on the cheek. Let me just say that I think the whole term “cheek art” is a little silly…it really doesn’t matter where you are painting on a face…it’s still face painting. The fact that you offer cheek art does not make you an amateur. The forehead is part of the face. The nose is part of the face. And last time I checked, so is the cheek. The difference between “eye designs” and “cheek art” is basically like 1/4 of an inch. So, what we’re REALLY discussing here is achieving a level of detail without compromising speed.
As a cheek art veteran, I am here to say that it IS in fact possible to achieve a high level of detail in your work (cheek art or otherwise!) and STILL maintain your speed. For the first 15 years of my almost 20 year face painting career, I did nothing BUT cheek art. So, yes, I will also tell you that you will be fastest at what you practice the most and what you’re used to. Luckily practice time is something we all have control over! But there are more ways that you can speed things up. Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you create DETAILED designs, FASTER!
Careful Brush Selection
Choosing the right brush for a particular part of the design and using each brush shape to it’s fullest potential can play a huge part in your speed! This is probably my biggest and best tip for detail + speed. Honestly, I had no idea this was anything special until I started watching other artists work, and realized this is one thing that I apparently do differently than many artists.
Another VERY important thing for achieving clean lines and fine details is making sure your brushes are well cared for and have nice tips! If they are splayed out and not the shape they are intended to be, they will add time, not save time. Keep your brushes in good condition and as soon as they start showing wear, replace them!
I’d also go as far as to say that not having too many brushes can play a role as well. These days there is a tool for everything, but it isn’t always faster to dig out and load up a new tool just to make a quick dot or what have you. More brushes means more weight to carry, more tools to sift through to find what you need, more expense, and more to clean and maintain. I can really do everything I need with 2 round brushes, but found that having 2 sizes of filberts and flats actually speeds up things like the checkers & petals shown above. I even have a 2″ wide flat brush because I think it’s so much faster to load and rinse than using sponges for wide split cakes!
Have fun trying the latest and greatest tools, but do an honest evaluation of whether it’s worth carrying around and if it really does make your work easier. It’s okay if every tool you try doesn’t make the cut in your process of trial and error! (at least that’s what I tell myself with my FatMax full of seldom used tools!)
Paint Consistency & Load Time
If your paints are wetter, they’ll load quicker on your brush. Most of us use water based face paints. So, it’s okay to get them really wet as they do eventually dry back out. Back in the day I only used Kryolan, and I only bought red, yellow, blue, black and white. I mixed every other color myself…orange, pink, green, brown, teal, etc. I’d get them to an almost liquid consistency for good, even color mixing, then dry the back out into solid cakes. I’ve painted with some artists who add so much water that their paints are like the consistency of pudding. This makes it easy to just dip your brush in without all the swishing and twirling, and you’re instantly ready to go. While it’s true that different brands and even different colors among the same brand react differently (ie. Global’s yellow and Wolfe white gets really gooey & sticky, Kryolan’s dries out really fast, etc), if you can become familiar enough with your paints you can utilize the water-to-paint ratio to improve your speed.
I now use several brands and treat them all differently. I make little pools in my Wolfe black and white to have a more liquid-y area. I am constantly adding water to my Kryolan to keep it the right level of moisture. Some I just leave alone and mist with water when I begin painting. If I know my paints are going to sit open and flat on a table for days, I’ll make them more wet. If I know I’m going to have to fold up my kit in an hour to transport it, I won’t get my paints so wet.
Whatever you do, figure out what works for you. I find that keeping my paints wetter increases my speed, by decreasing my loading time. It’s definitely a science, especially when mixing brands!
Rinsing between color changes is another point where speed can be increased. First, I try to paint my designs in such a way that I am not re-loading the same color twice during one design, whenever possible. If I can paint all the red parts at once, then I can be done with that color. Of course sometimes I re-load white at the end for highlights, but with good planning you can avoid unnecessary repetitive loading & rinsing.
Of course you can increase the speed with which you swish your brush in your rinse water and that can shave some time off too. I also really like my Loew-Cornell Brush Tub because the ridges in the bottom really clean the paint off my bristles with just a couple swipes. When I need to paint fast, I’m a super fast (and sometimes splash-y) rinser!
Some artists even have a brush for every color, eliminating the rinse time alltogether!
Just planning out the steps of your design better can really increase your speed.
Whenever possible, if I know a design well enough I try to leave negative spaces rather than just paint over the top. Eyes are a great place to utilize this. You don’t have to worry about painting the perfect eye shape because you’re defining it by the overlapping background color. And, the white stays super white because it’s not layered over other colors.
If you painstakingly outline every detail of a design, it’s going to take a while. If you can take even a few elements and figure out how overlapping with a neighboring color can help define or refine a shape, you can really speed things up.
I hope some of these tips and tricks are useful for you! I’ll try to add to this post as I think of more. Got any of your own tips for speedy and still detailed cheek art? Please do share!
Happy painting! 🙂