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What goes on 'Behind the Scenes'?

An Underwater Adventure!

Today I will share a story with you - a story about the craziest body art shoot I have ever done...

It has been quiet here on the blog for a little while.

I've been busy putting the finishing touches on the Bodies of Art book, as well as preparing for its launch on Kickstarter - now less than 2 weeks away!

It's all Go Go Go at the moment, but I wanted to take the time to let you have a little look inside the book and talk about what goes on behind the scenes of a body art shoot.

Each chapter of the the book is built around a particular artwork. Each work has a written statement as well as a bunch of atmospheric behind the scenes stories and photos.

Today I'm going to share with you part of chapter 3: KHAOS

Chaos means complete disorder and confusion. It is the "nothing" before creation.

In greek (where the spelling Khaos comes from) it is referred to as a gap or a chasm - the space between heaven and earth.

Its meaning, though, is now much broader.

It has become a descriptor for all things that are not just unformed, but confused – everything that peace, certainty and order are not.

But it is also a place of potential. From chaos comes creativity. Out of uncertainty comes invention.

Read more about KHAOS and its meaning in Bodies of Art - I don't want to give it all away just yet.

But what I do want to share with you is how I created this piece.

Read on to find out what went on behind the scenes of this crazy underwater photoshoot...

Creating KHAOS was a technical and challenging process.

In terms of the paint job I had to use different techniques to how I normally work.

I enjoy working with an airbrush, but it’s something I usually use in addition to my hand-painting techniques, rather than a stand-alone thing.

However this piece was painted entirely with airbrush. The reason for this was to ensure the paint job would last underwater – it therefore had to be done with alcohol-based paints.


As alcohol works both as an activator and as a remover, this paint is hard to apply with brushes and sponges.

As you dilute the paint with alcohol, every time you go over the base to add details you risk taking away the paint underneath.

As light changes underwater, it was also hard to predict how the colours would react.

The actual body paint was quite purple, but as reds are the first to disappear underwater, the final images appear more blue.

The other challenge was to choose the right team members.


My model had to be underwater for a long time

and comfortable not only holding her breath, but also embracing some challenging poses and looking relaxed while doing so.

For this task, I could not have picked a better model than Jane Wenley.

Besides being a wonderful person, Jane is a dancer, performer and a confident swimmer.

It was a joy collaborating with her, and she truly brought my vision to life.

There was never a doubt in my mind which photographer to use.

Brett Stanley specializes in underwater photography.

Brett is originally from New Zealand but now resides in Los Angeles.

I find his photography inspiring, and when I heard rumours he was in New Zealand on a visit I contacted him and together we developed the concept.


Warren Dion Smith, the multi-award-winning

hairstylist and wig maker, helped me with hair.

We knew the wig would pose a challenge under water, so instead of applying it in a traditional way, Warren braided Jane’s own hair into the front of the wig, and hand stitched hundreds of little pearls into it to make it look like tiny bubbles under water.

The paintjob and hair work took seven hours.

We then travelled to a dive pool that I had rented out after hours for the shoot.

With a lifeguard on standby it was time to get to work.

Not being able to keep up with Brett and Jane under water, i decided to watch from the edge instead.

Everytime they would come up for air we would look through the photos, make some adjustments and come up with new poses to try.

After two hours in the water we left tired but extremely happy – and with so many photos it proved impossible to choose only one.

In post-production Brett cut three photos together to form our final image.

It seemed that the three of them combined gave a more true representation of what we were trying to capture than any one of the photos could have done by themselves.

If you would like to read more about these amazing team members, check out their pages below:

Model: Jane Wenley

Photographer: Brett Stanley

BTS Photographer: Neil Mayo

Hair: Warren Dion Smith

Body Art: Sofia Bue

Next week I'm excited to host guest blogger and creative writer - Ben Egerton.

Ben has been my co-writer for Bodies of Art.

His blogpost "Writing about Art", will be about how to use writing to explore art further.

Here is a little teaser:

"Art allows us to express the inexpressible.

Perhaps to write about it is to deny its gift.

But, paradoxically, writing about art can allow us to take ownership of the art

– not in an ‘it’s mine, hands off’ kind of way; but it lets us humbly give art the time and space it needs to share its truth with us."

If you have enjoyed this post, drop me a line in the comments below, and make sure to sign up here to receive my weekly Artist Blog via email.

#behindthescenes #concept #makingof

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