Self Improvement for Face Painters - FAQ

I had a thought for those that do not have the budget or time to attend the organized classes or for the opportunity to attend the face painting or clown conventions where formal face painting training is available. This is one of those things that certainly can be handled in a number of ways and can be as formal or informal as anyone would wish. It only takes two people. I suppose you good also do it with more. My suggestion is for you to find another face painter in your area that you have some respect for. This is even one of those suggestions where you can help them and then they can help you. You might find someone with much less training give you a suggestion or two. You do not need an expert to find helpful suggestions.
If you have face painted for longer than a year you tend to have a desire to do better. If you are like me, your designs continue from one morph to another. Especially, in relation to this forum and the photo pages you get to see and hear about different techniques and loads of ideas. You might try to combine the many small factors you like elsewhere and decide to incorporate these things into your designs. Sometimes it can be things as simple as buying a new brush and you see subtle changes in your design. If you look in a magazine and see a photo of a butterfly, that alone could spark a change in the way you paint your butterflies. I see other painters and I seem to be in a constant change in adding ideas and even possibly dropping those ideas almost as fast as I add them. You can learn from other's great ideas as well as from their failures or shortcomings. If you feel like this fits you, then I think you might be open to this suggested learning tool.
For your part, you must be open minded. It is kind of like you going to the doctor because you do not feel well. You tell him (or her) all about how you feel and then he gives you not only a diagnose, but a list of things for you to do. These could include all of the following... eat less, exercise more, drink less, stop smoking, sleep more, blah blah blah. If we were honest with ourselves we would follow the counsel, but often we do not. In this case, my suggestion is to at least make a long list of notes and keep that in our mind as possibilities for improvement. If we are going to make changes in our health or face painting then we need to be open for some critique. Keep in mind... as you go through this process, just like going to your doctor, you will have the right to accept or reject and suggestion given to you. My suggestion is to listen to what is told to you. I'm just saying be open minded, because your partner in this exercise is only there to offer you suggestions.
Your biggest challenge is to not take the criticism personal. They simply are giving you some suggestions with the intent to help you out.
Another suggestion for you is to simply select those areas where you would like to improve. If you feel you are real sensitive in some areas then tell them to avoid those areas. If you are sensitive in general then tell your painting partner this and they will go easy on you. Remember you are in the driving seat here. You might have a design that isn't turning out like you would like and you want someone to critique it for you. In other words they are specifically critiquing the final quality of your design. Another angle you might take is to have them critique it in terms of time. If your particular full-face design is taking you 7 minutes to do and you would like it to be accomplished in 5 minutes, then they might suggest several steps you could make to either speed it up in terms of technique or they could suggest you simply leave out a few of your extra steps. I think you know what I am suggesting.
In terms of the critique... your obligation is to understand exactly what their objective is. The job of being a critique is not for the timid. They are coming to you for your opinion. It does not mean you have to beat them to death but they simply DO want you to offer opinions on how to improve. You are not doing them any favors by sugar coating every flaw they have. They have come to you to improve. Help them out.
Sometimes people that do painting, or for that matters  anything else... they THINK they are doing it very well when in reality there is much room for improvement. Do your best to point out the positives as well as those things that need improvement. It is not necessary to be overly bold. You can give them the news softly. Try to think of it as you are trying to teach your four year old how to tie their shoe. Put on your "gentle hat" but do what it takes to help them learn the areas they need to improve. Just like in my example... a child will never learn to tie their shoe if you tell them they are doing it perfectly when they are not. You need to walk them through the steps. If you put pressure on the child, they simply will stop trying. Be encouraging as you work through this process.
You might come up with a whole range of items to review. This is the good part. You can be as general or specific as you wish. One thing for sure is you should try to paint the face in the critique, in the same amount of time or scenario as what would represent the real world. Try to make it as real as possible. Do not spend ten minutes on your painting when you normally paint it in five minutes. Allow the critique to be of the greatest value to you. Be honest with yourself. By doing this you will have the greatest gain.
Here are some things you might wish to consider in your evaluation...
1) Did they over run the time allowed? Should they have spent less time in the design? Or possibly should they spend just another thirty seconds on the design to avoid a noted flaw.
2) How was the base coat? Was the full surface covered? Was it even, transparent, did it have streaks, blotches or other noted flaws?
3) If there was blending on the base was it a smooth transition or did it have a sharper contrast as desired in the particular design.
4) Did the base fail to cover the full face (if intended)? Did they go too far like into the hair, on the ear, or on the collar of the skirt? Did they properly cover those difficult areas like on the sides of the nose or near the center above the eye? If the base shading was meant to be an accent in the face (like a tigers nose) was the shading appropriate in the proper area?
5) How about the line work. Were the lines flowing or choppy? Was the transition from thin to thick proper and even? Were there spots on the face where the lines were void? If it was a circular design, did the lines flow accordingly? When doing the lines was it opaque to your liking or were they translucent to your liking? Were the colors appropriate? Did they pick up too much or too little of the color under the line? Should they have been longer or shorter? Thinner or fatter? Should they have more character, giving your design some depth?
6) What about the choice of color? Did the colors seem to go well together. Were there too many or too few colors used in the design. Would a variation in the colors give it more uniformity, interests, depth, individuality?
7) Do you consider this design unique to this artist or just exactly like ones you see regularly in face painting books? Can you offer some suggestions there?
8) In looking at the face does it look over complicated? In other words if they left off a few strokes of paint with it add to the design?
9) If the design was meant to be symmetrical was it?
10) Most of all did it pass the what is it test. If you can not tell if it was a rabbit, mouse or kangaroo then it failed the test. It should be obvious on what the design was meant to be.
I think you could add even more areas to this evaluation if you gave it some thought.
In looking at the Spiderman design that is so very popular and soon will be even more popular. How is YOUR Spiderman? Would you consider your design as perfect? Something's in design make a great deal of impact. For example improving the shape of the classic "tear drop" eye. You might wish to look on an official Spiderman comic book or web page. I would bet your eye is not true to its intended target. The tear drop has a very specific shape and is not a true tear drop. Could you improve on the little "hook" on the outer corner of the tear drop? What about the variation in the width of the black lines around the tear drop. Have you noticed the eye looks so much more pronounced when the bottom part of the outlining is much thicker? Where exactly do you make the web meet? Do you do it like in the comic or movie? I bet most of you end it at a central point rather than the circle design in the comics. If you do it that way for a reason (like it is faster, it seems to look better, etc) it is OK. Is your tear drop white, silver or something else? Does this affect the design. Do you put any shading, drop shadows, accents to the web in the design? Would this help your design? Do you take the time to accent the cheek bone? Would that help? Do you add in any extra highlights or shadows in other areas to give your design a little more depth or character? Again, you get to decide how you make your Spiderman designs as you paint them. You do what YOU want to do. If you like your current design do not change a thing. I'm just trying to open your mind to making changes to make all of your designs better.
My point is... if we wish to improve we have to be open to change. You might always be on the move with your faces. I would guess that all of our designs are a work in process. You generally do your designs in a general pattern. This is especially true if you do a lot of three to five minute designs and the line is very long. You will attend a class by an instructor and your designs tend to pull toward your last instructor. That happens, until you take your next class and then there is a slight pull to your new found skills. Everyone is looking to do it better. "Better" is for you to decide.
So there you have my free self imposed improvement. If you know of no one in your area ask someone outside the face painting arena to give you a critique. You might also look at the extensive list at and locate the nearest painter to you and get together. Grab someone at your next convention, guild meeting or jam and take the time for this process. You might even set some guidelines like five minutes for the design and ten minutes maximum for the critique and then you swap roles. Do this several times and I think you will see some market improvements to your face painting and it did not cost you a single penny.
Also keep in mind SNAZAROO will come to your location and teach face painting classes FOR FREE AT THEIR EXPENSE. See the details for this at
Ok, now it is up to you.


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