It’s a form of art that often feels like a form of magic. Body paint artists can literally make a person disappear into their surroundings by painting them to replicate whatever they are sitting on or standing next to. Others paint clothes so realistic that some models walk naked in public with no one knowing.
This Halloween, a lot of people are trading in their costumes for something far more inventive.
“We’ve actually brought body art from being kind of a back-room sort of erotic thing into more of an accepted social art,” said David Caballero. Thanks in large part to Caballero, Denver is now one of the hubs for body paint artists to gather, teach, and learn. He is the Artistic Director at Disguises, a costume shop in Lakewood. He also hosts the monthly Face Paint & Body Art Jam at The Fusion Factory in Denver.
He said when he started the monthly gathering of artists, models, and photographers 10 years ago, he couldn’t find six body paint artists in Colorado. Now there are hundreds, many of whom can be hired to paint Halloween body costumes. They do everything from a simple face paint to a full body metamorphosis. “Anything you want to basically transform yourself, to become something new, we can make you,” Caballero said.
Mythica von Griffyn is one of his top students. She said superheroes and zombies are particularly popular this season. “A lot of people try to be creative and combine something they like with zombies, for example, a Superman zombie or Homer Simpson as a zombie,” she said.
Griffyn was introduced to body painting eight years ago when she went to one of Caballero’s jams. Last year, she worked on Body Keepers, a horror movie set in Nederland, Colorado. In 2014 she was on the first season of Skin Wars, a competitive body paint reality TV show hosted by RuPaul and Rebecca Romijn. (Griffyn made it through four of the eight episodes before being eliminated.) She also travels the country taking part in competitions, exhibitions, and comic-cons.
“Normally I am at Fantasy Fest in Key West for Halloween,” said Griffyn, who is now available for hire in her hometown of Denver because of hurricane Irma. “Mostly people hire me for one-on-one sessions.”
Those can take anywhere from 45 minutes to upwards of eight hours. She also caters to a very diverse clientele. Being “very openly bisexual and polyamorous” helps put many people in the LGBTQ community at ease.
As for Caballero, you can find him most days at Disguises. “Lots of people come in and we teach them [how to do body art] right here,” he said. If he doesn’t have time to do a job for you, he can recommend dozens of people who can. With nearly 20 years of experience, he’s been a mentor to body paint artists here in Denver and across the country.
Caballero has done everything from glow-in-the-dark body paint parties to apocalyptic-themed events, vampires to biblical characters. The more creative the project, the better. If you don’t know what you want, he’s also happy to help. “I throw out an idea and we want people to use their creativity to come up with something based on that,” he said.