When you think about face painting, what comes to mind? Those sweet little butterfly designs you see on the cheek of every 5-year-old at the local county fair? Well, Seattle artist Dutch Bihary is not your typical monarch-embellishing face painter.
Bihary and his wife Brecky opened Contours Face and Body Art, their face- and airbrush body-painting company, in 2006, and thus became a one-stop shop for accommodating the face-painting needs of everyone from tiny tots to adventurous types who want full-body illusions. Sure, he can draw a rainbow on your cheek, but imagine your entire face transformed into one gaping mouth.
“There’s what people think we can do for them face painting-wise, and then there’s what we can actually do for them,” Bihary says. “You’re really only limited by your imagination.”
Bihary got his start in the biz in 2005. He had studied to be a comic book illustrator, but at the time was an out-of-work personal trainer who had been working with Olympic athletes. He received a call from a woman who owned a pumpkin patch. Her face painter had cancelled last-minute, so Bihary picked up a $2 face-painting kit and proceeded to the farm.
He’s been painting bodies ever since, although now he uses highly pigmented professional paints that are safer for skin, and his repertoire has expanded beyond 10 designs on a display board.
Bihary and his team have worked a slew of black-tie soirees, haunted houses, kid-centric events, independent films and software releases, including a Microsoft party inspired by the 2009 film The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. At one event, Bihary helped transform a team of Microsoft managers into rodeo clowns. At another, he gave the managers Sesame Street makeovers.
He also travels worldwide to train other face-paint artists.
Bihary says the general public has a pre-conceived notion about face and body art, but they’re often pleasantly surprised when they see the level of art his team can produce in a short amount of time.
“We get people jeering and smirking at us,” Bihary says. “Next thing you know I’ve got a line around the block.”