Article By Catriona Finlayson — I got into this as a science teacher working in zoo education. Horrified by the quality of their face painter, my first attempts began on hectic zoo days, and then progressed to busier County Fairs. Moving to Hong Kong in 2006, I painted at my first kids party; 100 guests was normal, and luckily not my first shot at big crowds.
Now HK Youth Arts Foundation (YAF) and I paint at the annual International Rugby 7s. Roughly 40,000 people turn up daily in fancy dress. During event week, we primarily paint faces, and then body-paint fans during finals weekends. The Rugby hires us; all money taken in goes into the Rugby’s Charity boxes. We are a huge part of the atmosphere; we’ve been front page of the national papers at least once every year during the event, and our art (or us working) are the press’s favourite non-sporting shots and TV fillers.
Over the years we tried everything, and this is my advice, which I’ve transferred to similar events in the UK:
We use a fairly large crew of artists, all mostly untrained in face painting. However, YAF uses these same artists at all their massive events, which helps. After teaching them the basics, each artist has design photos, stencils and a kit to practice with. Stencils are a great help when trying to reproduce high quality team logos fast and will help you cut the queues. Make sure you get permission to copy team logos and don’t cut them too fiddly or they’ll rip. Hot-pen stencil cutters and Mylar are a must!
We have to offer face designs supporting the 28 international teams, as well as ‘normal’ ones. We settled on a scale, from fast and small, to bigger and more time consuming.
These are examples of designs that we offered from cheapest to most expensive:
Rugby ball – A stencil with rainbow or flag and team colors sponged through (Some details added by brush).
Logo – Many nations have rugby logos or flag motifs – Australian Wallaby, NZ Fern, Welsh Flag Dragon etc (Some details added by brush).
Half face – Flag, larger hand-painted team logo, Half butterfly or tiger, princess crown, patriotic eye designs.
Full face – Team and country related or normal. ‘Awkward’ requests get sent to me. 2012’s most memorable was a man wanting a boxing T-rex fighting a ninja….
Body-paints – Chest or tummy, torso (40 mins for flags, fake shirts etc), full body (90 mins for tiger or avatar etc). I have stencils for anything I can think of to speed this including stars in many shapes and sizes. Some book times, others get sent to me from the queue. They get what’s possible in the time they pay for. I start when gates open at 6am; face paint teams start at 8am.
Get creative – Work flag or team details into a flowery or sparkly design and more ladies will choose it!
I mainly import Snazaroo Face Paints for this type of set up. Each artist has the same kit, set up the same way, so they can swap tables without confusion if needed. I make large split-cakes in 75 ml Snazaroo pots – painters get through several each daily. Keep twice as much spare black & white, and 1/3 more red & blue spare – those are the most used! Snazaroo electric blue is in nearly every flag, and looks better than matt “classic” blue. Invest in larger brushes – most flags don’t need fine detail and small flat brushes the correct size to do flags’ stripes in one stroke so it helps speed you up!Spare supplies (and valuables) stay in waterproof crates under each table.
We each have laminated sets of the displayed designs, with added pictures of the flags and team logos in case people want us to elaborate on them.
We moved stalls around the 1st year, settling with 3 on different levels, near food outlets. Work out how best to arrange furniture to get people through without bumping artists. Designate someone to empty dirty water buckets and refresh clean water.
Wear comfy, washable shoes! By the end of the day, you will have had face paint and the occasional beer or soft drink splashed on your feet which is why I prefer wearing rubber wedge sandals. I dump water on them if they get yucky and they dry quite fast.Team shirts with ‘FACE PAINTER’ in big letters front and back advertises us and occasionally lets us skip bathroom queues.
We’ve tried tickets and offered booking times but only queuing really works. Design boards and signs with ’30 mins from here’ to help people in the queues judge where they are, what they want, and if they’re willing to wait. Once paid and given a ticket with payment details, the next ten customers to be painted are given seating space until they are called. Artists collect the tickets which helps avoid freebies and gives us an idea of who painted what. Volunteer queue managers also take money and help choose designs. You need someone like this so you can concentrate on painting!
In HK staff meal boxes are expected, with water crates. You might queue for the bathroom your entire break, so handy food helps! We rotate breaks and make sure we go on time, you have to take them – soldiering on won’t be appreciated by your body, or clients if you get tired and cranky.
We work 8 am-6 pm minimum, leaving early during finals if quiet. Stall managers stand at queue ends turning people away. Large closing signs help, with free glitter squirts.
You can only paint as fast as you can so don’t worry about long queues. If clients wanted everyone painted they’d hire more of us! People mainly want team spirit on fast so you can’t waste time making things ornate – stencil it on and let them go cheer, drink and be merry!
By Catriona Finlayson
Lead Artist HK Rugby 7’s
UK Face Painter of the Year 2007
Winning Body Painter at Phizzog 2011 & Body Factory 2012
Welsh International Glitter Tattoo Painter of the Year 2010
UK Face & Body Festival Face Painter of the Year 2008
5th in World Face Championships 2007