Male Face Painters - FAQ

In my ten plus years of face painting I have come across many times a little surprise when people learn the fact that I make my living in the world of face paints and face painting. If you would have told me twelve years ago I was going to earn my living this way, I would have laughed at you. On the discussion list, we often get the inquiry of why aren't there more male face painters? It is also asked what are the advantages or disadvantages for men in this face painting world. I'll try to tackle all of this in this FAQ.
First of all males are certainly the minority BY FAR in this unique business niche. Simply going to any face painting convention you will find twenty women to each guy. However, there are some that do quite well in this world. In my personal opinion the Wolfe Brothers, Olivier and Mark Reid are literally the four best face and body painters in the world. Last I knew they were guys. I credit them with this accolade because not only do they have great artistic skills but all four are also very creative. With these guys you can toss just about anything at them and they could generate a good if not great design. Give them thirty minutes to an hour and from their imagination they will deliver something spectacular. I pass on this compliment even with each of them representing face painting products that compete with SNAZAROO. Despite the competition, I consider several of them good friends that I enjoy laughing with.
I've shared this experience before about me but I'll take this time to share it again. My wife manages our Dallas/Fort Worth based face painting company called Party Faces Inc. Where I do not go out that much any more and do face painting at a bookings I have grown accustomed to my wife telling me at 11pm that she failed to fill all of the bookings for the next morning and I was going to fill in for the open 11am face painting slot. On more than one occasion I have showed up to the event only to have the mom answer the door with a raised brow and the comment "I thought they were going to send a girl face painter". Well these people do not know who I am. They do not know that I teach people all over North America how to face paint. They also do not know I actually own the company. All I know is they were expecting some pretty, bubbling personality, college age girl to paint the children at their event. The did not expect to have a fifty year old guy show up with a red back pack full of face painting supplies. I've learned to give them a smile and simply say "they sent me and I'm sure you will be happy. In fact if you are not, then feel free to have me paint the children for free." With this comment I always get a big smile and they quickly invite me to come in. With that said, they always seem to be happy with my work, range of quality faces and certainly my speed. I'll add, in this market, more often than not, I get the hourly wage comparable in this area plus a nice tip. In the end and after they see the results, they never complain about the male painter that showed up.
I would agree that it is quite sexist but the typical mom really would prefer the cute, bubbly female painter. In fact if I was honest, I would say that when I add to my team of face painters that is the cute, college age female is the ideal candidate. I'm not saying I would not hire and train a male worker because I have several men on our team. I'm just saying people expect to see a female so I target this. My ego can handle the fact that they are sometimes a little surprised when a guy shows up at the door.
I think in this day and age it is sad that people might have a thought of an adult guy touching their child as weird. Sorry, but the news in the last several years has not helped this negative thought pattern. I do not think this should discourage a male from entering this unique field. Just do your best. Be aware of this thought pattern and most of all have a nice smile on your face, in your voice and in the cloths you wear. If you do this and really earn your money at the event, then this negative thought pattern will go away. I know this is true, because I am requested as the preferred painter all the time. After all, in the ten years we have had the face painting and family entertainment company I have painted thousands and thousands of kids.
Here are some hints I suggest for the male face painter. Many of these tips could also be of worth to the female painter. One nice thing is face painting is generally a very public thing. 99.9% of the time the face painting is done out in the clear open where you are in full view of quite a lot of people. If they stick you in a back room where there is the possibility you could be alone with a child I would strongly advise you to avoid this like the plague. If you find yourself in this situation request to be moved. You just do not want any opportunity where you can be accused of something that was not true. Always position yourself where you are in the clear view of others and even better adults. Besides, you want the exposure of them seeing your great face painting.
Some will tell you that you should never touch a child. Well I disagree agree with that. I think there is such a thing as a good touch and a bad touch. I think both are obvious. I do most of my face painting while sitting down. I might use my hands to help a child get up into a chair if they are real little or offer some sort of block to keep them from falling down as they climb into the chair. In an effort to save my lower back I also have the child sit real close as I paint them. I do not ever want to have to lean way over to paint them. If you do this you will have an aching back even after painting only for a couple of hours.If the child is sitting far from me I grab the chair and pull them up close to me. I am right handed and I generally have them sit where their knees are literally touching the inside of my right knee. If they sit with their bodies pointing the wrong direction, I will touch them below the knee and say, why not move your knees over this way and then I push or direct them to face the right way. I say this loud enough so the child and adult can hear what I am doing. I also generally touch them on the head as I paint. I do this to direct their head, I do it for balance and I do it to sometimes even hold a wiggly child a little more still. I have found they will be much more still with a light touch to the head. Often you also have to do this to move the bangs from the forehead.
For kids I'll also touch them if I am painting on their arm, leg or other appropriate location. YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES. I'm saying avoid anything that might even seem suspect. I routinely will refuse to paint a design around the belly button of a young teen girl. Personally I just would want to avoid any such conflict. My daughters are older now but I would not want any male painting on my daughter's belly. Call me conservative. Again, just avoid any situation that might raise an eyebrow. If you are at an adult event then get as wild as the event dictates if that is your thing but I'm telling you when it comes to anyone under the age of twenty-one you need to be very careful. Watch your tone also. Watch your humor and keep it all above board. I think we have covered this enough.
One thing that is much more natural to females is to chat with the person they are painting. This applies if they are old or young. You guys have to get out of the churn and burn mode of painting and not paint like a robot. Instead chat with the child as you paint. It is even better if you tell them a few one liners as you paint. Often little children might be a little apprehensive about the painting experience. This can be magnified if the painter is male. On the little kids three and under talk to them during the whole process. Tell them what you are doing. A couple of techniques I have adopted is to have those two and younger sit on the parent's lap as I paint them. If you need to paint a little something on the mom's (or dad's) hand before you paint the child. Also follow my rule if the child does not want to be painted then simply refuse. The worse thing you can do is force your painting on them.
Sometimes for the real young, they might be a little scared to have their faces painted. For those I offer to put something little on their arm or leg. For little girls I like to show them my sheet of SNAZAROO peel and stick gems and say "what is your favorite color". Then take that color of gem and make them a little ring and bracelet on their arm. This is always a big hit and then the little girl will walk around for the next hour showing off their jewels.
Well, that should be enough. You guys do not be shy. You have the opportunity to change the thinking of some narrow minded people with your positive actions. While you are at it I know there are many great face painters even among the lurkers on the discussion list for face painters. Be bold, send in your designs for the Face-Off contest and give these women a run for their money.
Gary who is a male painter last time I checked.


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