Friday Favourites ….. VENUES and VIEWS!

I’ve worked in a plethora of venues over the years – from tired, damp church halls and remote corners of wet, muddy, windy fields in the middle of nowhere 542386_4174060235955_1769070261_nto plush function rooms of five-star deluxe hotels and conference suites in top executive corporate offices in the City – they all have their own individual charm!

IMG_2109My trusted kit has been dragged on trains, across car parks and fields; squeezed in and out of lifts and heaved up a myriad of staircases – and my poor back and shoulders have taken the brunt of it!

As the years go by, my back gets weaker and I get wiser; my kit gets gradually smaller and smaller but I know I can still do better!  One day I hope to start a trend in “monochrome facepainting parties” … just think “painty friends” ….  a Grimas cake white, a Wolfe black and white and a bag full of sponges, three brushes, some glitter, a mirror and I’d be all set!!!

Over the last few months I’ve started keeping a photographic diary of my painting locations!  For all the jobs I moan about, I get twice as many that are just idyllic and I find myself in settings that make me very grateful for the business I’m in.

Each photo, as always, tells a story!  So here’s a glimpse of my favourites to date.  As always, in no particular order!

The first was a set up on the edge of the River Thames in the grounds of a beautiful mansion.  The party itself was being held on a riverboat moored up beside the house and the interior of the boat itself even resembled something out of Surrey Life Magazine!    I was set up in the boathouse on the river bank overlooking this wonderful view! 

River Thames

It was just me, the booze table and an amazing buffet spread!   The PA who had organised the party had so much planned and the guests were in for a fantastic event.   Unfortunately, half way through the afternoon, the Heavens opened and the pelting rain set in for the rest of the day.  The band rushed all their equipment into the boathouse in a panic and I dragged my set up further and further into a corner!  Before I knew it, the band and I were squashed up together at one end and all the sodden party guests filled the rest of the space!  It turned out to be a rather intimate afternoon!

One of my favourite bookings was a weekly Sunday carvery at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel in Guildford, sadly now ended but hoping they’ll have me back one day soon.   Every Sunday I’d rock up at their glamorous foyer and wheel my kit through to their beautiful restaurant.  The staff were so welcoming and I always felt like part of their team.  My view at this job was very decadent –

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– a stunning restaurant, with a very grown up feel but one that welcomes children!  Not bad eh?

A great place to work, however, if I turned 90 degrees to my right the view that presented itself was positively torturous ….

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My mouth watered and my stomach positively growled through every minute of the 2 hour booking each week!  They spoiled me on a couple of occasions and plated up a delicious roast for me to enjoy after I finished!  Yum!   Their restaurant, the Scoff and Banter, still offers a great choice for breakfasts or brunches to three course business lunches, weekend roasts and indulgent afternoon teas.   Definitely worth a visit, even without the face painting!

Jubilee weekend in 2012 brought one of my wettest, windiest but memorable jobs to date!!  I found myself set up in a vast expanse of field, surrounded by acres of more fields, under a flimsy gazebo with no sides and then the rain came down!

I found two little helpers to cart my kit across the soggy grass …

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… but as you can see the field was rather lacking in guests as they were still quaffing champagne and canapés at their street party 500 yards away!

So I twiddled my thumbs for half an hour and admired the view ….

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… eventually everyone started to ramble up the hill to the party area and I got ready with my red, white and blue!    Once again, as is the British weather’s want, the Heavens opened and the rain was lashing into the gazebo horizontally.  Fortunately, I had my wonderful assistant with me (my Mum!) and also some family members who were camping nearby who surrounded me with golf umbrellas and the show went on!!!  As you can imagine the paint didn’t last long once exposed to the elements and there were a few bedraggled Union Jack faces wandering around all afternoon!

My fourth favourite has to be one of my old haunts in my twenties, The Black Swan  in Ockham.  A fabulous pub in a stunning setting – I highly recommend it any time of the year, but especially on a warm summer’s afternoon.

Black Swan

Take your family for a walk in the beautiful Surrey Hills followed by a lazy, leisurely Sunday lunch in their cosy, welcoming restaurant or partaking in their mouth-watering barbecue in the idyllic beer garden.  I’ve already featured this pub in another blog so you can read more about it here.

And last but by no means least … the totally fabulous Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire!

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We are proud to be the preferred suppliers for this luxurious, glamorous hotel and have been working with them for the last couple of years.   Unlike many other elegant top class hotels in the UK, the Four Seasons welcomes families with young children with open arms.

Bank holiday weekends and special holidays are especially magical as they put on the Kids for All Seasons programme with an activity itinerary that fills a small brochure!  Parties, craft activities, pony riding, bike rides, treasure hunts, movies and of course face painting plus much more!   Rose Cottage, in the grounds of the Hotel, is a haven for small children; staffed by a wonderfully caring team, there are toys and games galore to keep the kids occupied whilst Mum and Dad enjoy a few hours peace indulging in treatments in the hotel’s opulent spa!   As I write, they have just been awarded the Real Critics Guide Award for ‘Real Outstanding Country Retreat’ 2013 and check out this fabulous review on Conde Nast Traveller!  Watch this space for an up-coming article specifically dedicated to this wonderful hotel.  And maybe one day I’ll find a weekend spare to actually book in and indulge with my own daughter!!!

So there you have it …. sure beats commuting to a stuffy office every day!

Where’s the best place you’ve ever worked?

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Friday Favourites ….. INSPIRATIONAL ARTISTS

Oh my goodness, where do I start … I am inspired every day by artists from all over the globe … many close to home who I have the pleasure of working with week by week and some further afield – this week I’m going to focus on my favourite international artists.

My top five change regularly depending on what I’m working on and what mood I’m in; but these guys are always at or close to the top, week in week out!

NICK AND BRIAN WOLFE – Orlando, USA I had the great pleasure of meeting Nick a couple of years ago and took part in an awesome training workshop with him.  Sadly, I never got to meet his equally amazing brother, Brian before he lost his battle with cancer last year, but was fortunate to receive messages of advice and support from both of them over the years.

Nick and Brian Wolfe

I adore watching them work; I could watch for hours – their style is unique; the speed with which the designs come together is awe-inspiring and their repertoire endless!

I feel hugely privileged to have been painted by Nick on his last visit to the UK (shouldn’t really have grinned in this shot as it ruins the mouth effect but couldn’t help myself!!)

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NICK WOLFE GALLERY

Check out their tutorial videos on FabaTV – as well as learning loads; you’ll laugh throughout too – the glint in their eyes is never far away!   I am very precise with my style of work and Nick and Brian both inspire and help me to “loosen up” with my painting and go with the flow a bit more.   If body painting is more your thing; then you can’t go far wrong checking out their work – many designs are like “magic eye pictures” the more you look the more you see – designs within designs within designs!

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LYNNE JAMIESON – Werribee, Australia.  Lynne is the magical talent behind Face Magic.  LYNNE 1

I have admired Lynne’s work from my first days of face painting and whilst I’ve not yet had an opportunity to participate in face to face training; I have relished the tutorials she has filmed for FabaTV.  Her application style is highly individual and it is fascinating to watch her effortlessly work her magic in front of your eyes.   Her humble and modest persona makes you warm to her immediately and she has a wonderfully calm and relaxed style of teaching.

LYNNE'S FACE MAGIC

Whilst her manner may be gentle; her artwork is flamboyant and dynamic – each design pops off the face and exudes character and charm.

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JENNY SAUNDERS – Melbourne, Australia.   Another antipodean inspiration; I have been a fan of Jenny’s work for some time; seeing photos appearing on various websites/social media sites over the years but it was an article in Illusion Magazine (Issue 18)  that really raised my interest and admiration.  Her work oozes with personality and character and is so vivid and vibrant.

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Each face instantly identifiable with its rainbow of hues and meticulous line-work and blending.   Her photographs clearly illustrate the joy and excitement in each child’s eyes and, in my mind, totally epitomise the wonder of our craft.

GENEVIEVE HOULE “JINNY” – Quebec, Canada.  An exquisite face and body painting artist whose seamless shading and decorative line work have always been a great influence on my work.    Her style of painting, particularly her blending, is more akin to make up application – beautifully smooth and totally precise.   She has produced a couple of fantastic training DVDs which are somewhat pricey and I’m not sure that they are still available in the UK – but if you can get hold of a copy – they’re fantastic.  

Alternatively, she has produced some wonderful youtube tutorials for beginner painters which can be found on her website  or directly at her youtube channel.  And, of course, you can also find her on FabaTV!

(I wasn’t able to make contact with Jinny before publishing the article to get her approval to share some photos but there are plenty to be seen on her website if you’d like to take a look!)

MARK REID – New Mexico.  How could I finish my top faves without including the inimitable “King of Cats”, Mark Reid.   Another amazeballs artist that I’ve also missed several opportunities to meet over the years!  There are very few tiger faces that I see painted that don’t scream out a hint of Mark in some form or another!  His brush technique and symmetry are exemplary and I understand from friends that he is a fabulous teacher – with, unsurprisingly, a huge emphasis in his workshops on linework, linework, linework!  He even has his own range of brushes and glitter gels!

MARK REID

Like all of the artists I’ve mentioned today, you can get access to his training through FabaTV and Mark has also produced several books and DVDs which should have pride of place on every face/body painter’s shelf!   In the UK you can purchase these from Illusion Magazine, The Face Painting Shop, Facepaint UK, Dauphines and probably others too!

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So that’s my top five – I’d love to know who inspires you … please feel free to comment below!

(Links to all the artists websites can be accessed by clicking on their names!  I urge you to take a look and be inspired too!)

FROM SMALL ACORNS …

I recently felt the “OCD” need to clear out some of my 24,000 photos on my hard drive and came across a load of images of when I first discovered the magical world of face painting.  So, after some onerous pontificating and as we approach the end of my 6th year in business, I thought I’d be brave and share them with you!

Allow me to take you back to the spring of 2007 – a visit with friends to a local bird sanctuary, Birdworld in Farnham, and my daughter and her best buddy had their first experience of facepainting!

We queued rather tentatively for some time, as is the norm at these places; the children totally mesmerised and hardly uttering a word as they watched the lady at work.

We finally reached the front of the queue and my beautiful, pretty, girly, “pink in every way” daughter asked to be … “a COW”!   All my coercing towards the butterfly and princess photos on display fell on deaf ears and a cow she was going to be!

I gulped, as a lump lodged in my throat, watching the intense concentration on her face as she tried so hard to keep still for the face painter.

And as for the expression on her face when she took her first glance in the mirror?!  My heart totally melted and from that moment on I was set on the idea of recreating that reaction for her again.   The two of them spent the rest of the afternoon admiring each other’s faces with delight!  (If anyone has any idea who the face painter was then I’d love to know – I’ve never managed to track her down since – and I’d love to thank her for being one of my inspirations to start painting!)

First Time

The idea for Fascinating Faces was created just a few months after!  It was a beginning that many professional face painters will relate to – I picked up a cheap set of paints and decided to just “have a go”.  I got hold of the usual beginners books and set to work on both daughter and husband; my very first attempt being a CLOWN.

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That face was to prove rather significant in the months and years to follow!

During the summer I decided to organise two summer parties for all of my daughter’s friends!  Fairies and pirates were the theme and, as a wannabe make-up artist since my teens, I was in my element with brush in one hand and sponge in the other!  (oh … and wings attached of course!)

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By then I was hooked and as they say, the rest is history!

My first “official” party had a circus theme and was held 120 miles away in Somerset by my daughter’s Godmother, Sophie, and good friend of mine since the age of 4.  The nerves kicked in big time and I spent hours surfing the net for clown face ideas, techniques for sponging and brushwork and attempting to buy the best paints I could for the job.  It was way back then that I discovered the virtues of Grimas cake white and I’ve never been without it since!

With shaking hands and my heart pounding I set to work on Sophie and her daughter followed by Daddy, Granny, Granddad and the Godparents!!!  They had all gone to town with their costumes and within no time the house was filled with white faces, red noses and crazy wigs and that was before any of the guests arrived!!!  I was then joined, somewhat surreally, by the lady who is the voice of Bella in the Tweenies and between us we painted our way through 15 more mini clowns and the party was complete …. all except me …. after all the nerves and excitement I ran out of time to paint myself!

At the party two photos were taken of Sophie and Ellie Mae that have remained as a constant in my portfolio ever since!  They were just so smiley and cute and summed up the atmosphere of the party and my initiation into the facepainting industry as a professional!!!

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Five years on I had an opportunity to recreate that magical day and painted Sophie and Ellie once again!

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Clowns have been an underlying (and unrealised) influence since my childhood love of Pierrot and they now represent a very important part of my life – my business – something I’m extremely proud of.

It has given me an opportunity to combine my two passions, art and children within an industry that has allowed me to use my business and creative skills to the max without compromising my most important role in life – being a mum!  It has also introduced me to some incredibly talented people who I am now proud to call my friends.

I’m now going to brave sharing with you some photos that illustrate my journey in the early days and would invite you to check out my current website gallery to see the progress that is possible as a result of an investment in training; hours of practice and the support and guidance of some amazing people in this industry.

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Early 5

In 2008 I plucked up the courage to enter a competition!  Ended up being put in the “Intermediate” category by mistake after applying as a “Beginner”!  Didn’t get placed but was proud to see my work on display!

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And just a few years later something happened that in 2007 I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams ….. the theme was “Heaven and Hell” and the live competition was “Face Painter of the Year”.

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“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”  

C.S Lewis

Happy Halloween

It’s Halloween
by Jack Prelutsky

It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can’t be seen
On any other night.

Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.

In masks and gowns
we haunt the street
And knock on doors
for trick or treat.

Tonight we are the king and queen,
For oh tonight it’s Halloween!

Spreading Paint and Glitter Across the World

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Woking Hospice is a place that is very dear to my family.  The team there have cared for two of our good friends in recent years and helped their families cope with the heartbreaking loss of their loved ones.

I have been so impressed by the counselling that is provided for the bereaved children particularly by a rather charming lady, Julie Cole, Children’s Services Manager.

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Several years ago, a specialist counselling group was set up by the hospice in memory of a young man (and friend of my stepson) called Tom Di Felice who was tragically killed in a road accident on 15/12/2009 – he was 17 years old.  Through tireless fund raising by Tom’s family and friends, the “Tommy D Project” was launched.  The group is there to help young teenagers, who have lost someone close to them, through their bereavement.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Julie last year and was in awe of the work she does with this group and the “Footsteps” group for the younger children too.

In 2012, Julie had the idea to plan a trip to Kenya to take the Tommy D group to volunteer at The Children of the Rising Sun Orphanage in Malindi, Kenya, which is home to 60 orphaned and abandoned children.

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Each member of the group had to fund raise to cover their £2,000 travel costs.  Endless car boot sales, car washes, quiz nights, mufti days, sponsored walks etc followed as they all worked hard towards their targets.

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Following a fund raising event I organised for the hospice in August last year, I was invited to meet the team and offer some basic face painting training to give them the skills to offer the service at various events to help add to their fund raising efforts.  One sunny but chilly day in Woking in October we spent several hours spreading paint; glitter and smiles around the room; set them up with some mini kits and sent them on their way to raise valuable funds.

12 months on and I received the most wonderful email in my inbox.  A message from my young friend Megan, just back from Kenya, full of emotion and excitement about her trip and attaching photographs that made me shed a few tears.   The teenagers had all taken their face paints to Kenya with them and had had an opportunity to paint the orphans who had never experienced face painting in their lives.

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It was so moving to think that just a few hours training a year before led to something happening 6,641 miles away that will no doubt be a memory they treasure for the rest of their lives.  (Loving the fact that I now know, thanks to Google Maps, the exact mileage from my home to Malindi, Kenya!)

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Total respect to Julie Cole, Kate Whyatt, Nick Di Felice, Lisa Jones, Megan Lowe, Joe Plume, Liam Grant, Andrew Baynham, Francesca Sleet, Rafaella Barratt, Lucy Braithwaite and Robin Guy who made up the team.

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Most importantly, the kids self confidence grew, and they pushed themselves to limits they didn’t know they had!

FUN FACT!! –  as a group they lost 71 lbs in weight!  Result!  Wish I’d joined them!

The team hope to return next year, with some possible new Tommy D members who have joined in recent months as well as those from the previous trip!

If anyone would like to help by contributing to next years funds, they should specify, Tommy D, or Tommy D Kenya when donating.  See links below.

To read more about their adventures please click here.

http://www.wsbhospices.co.uk/our-care/counselling/children-and-young-adults/kenya-trip-2013/#.UlKt4WT47y_

To make a donation:

http://www.wsbhospices.co.uk/support-us/ways-to-give/donate-online/#.UkxsMGT47y8

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Mirror Moments!

Special “mirror moments” are what makes every face painter’s day!  Thought I’d share a few of mine with you together with a little ditty I wrote some time back for Face to Face Magazine!

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MIRROR MOMENTS

 

Oh little child upon my chair

Look up at me but please don’t stare

Close your eyes but don’t squeeze tight

Just gently like when you say “goodnight”

 

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Pirate? Princess? Tiger or Clown?

I’ll make your face the talk of the town

My sponge will dab and my brush will swirl

Stroke by stroke the design will unfurl

 

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No, don’t peek yet, it’s not quite done

If you look just now you’ll spoil all the fun

A few star bursts and a couple more dots

A sprinkling of glitter will ensure you love it lots

 

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Ok my sweet, your time has come

Open your eyes and see what you’ve become ….

A curious face in the mirror peers

A slight intake of breath then the smile appears!

 

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That smile is the reason I love my job

The first one I saw almost made me sob

In this complicated world of sadness and woe

I carry my paint and glitter wherever I go

 

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I hope I change lives in some teeny way

By bringing a smile to those having a bad day

For our mirror moments will always be

Unforgettable sights for all to see.

 

Claire Guest

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