face paint fail 4

‘How Hard Can It Be’ Does Not Stand Up To Face Painting

Over the last year my kids have had their face’s painted at a variety of places and twenty minutes later look amazing.

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This is from last year and set the stage for begging to look like a cat or a fairy or something equally awesome every time a face painter was near.

So with a set of overinflated egos, Scott and I decided to buy face paint from CVS. Armed with our motto “How hard can it be?” we set the expectations high and the paint palette on the kitchen table.

My daughter begged to be a puppy dog. My artistic husband did a little googling and set to work. A man-beard later, we were at an impasse. Daughter-not-looking-at-all-like-a-dog-after-sitting-for-quite-some-time impasse. Scott threw in a tongue.

face paint fail 1
And Groucho’s eyebrows?

The first time she looked in the mirror, I was shocked how strongly my 4-year-old could suppress disappointment. I thought that was a teenage-I-don’t-really-like-the-guy-my-best-friend-is-dating skill. I wasn’t sure whether to be proud or to start therapy. Instead, I promised to sew dog ears on her sweatshirt, she barked at me, and we moved on to my son.

I was smarter with him. I said: “You can’t know what I’m drawing until I’m done. It’s a surprise.” (possibly to me) Meanwhile, my daughter guessed and guessed and guessed wrong.

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It’s a football going through an upright. Because every child wants to be a field goal kicker when he grows up.
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I’m better with words.

To compensate our failures, we let them paint us.

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N painting Scott. Also, the tongue didn’t really help matters, did it?
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Scott looks pretty good. He’s the …. ocean?
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E was more upfront: Mom. It’s a red blob. You like red. Bam!

I guess we can’t run away and join a traveling Halloween store. Maybe those face painters do deserve emptying my wallet every time.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

41 thoughts to “‘How Hard Can It Be’ Does Not Stand Up To Face Painting”

  1. I love this!! And I can’t even tell you how much I needed that laugh and to see a family having fun together. My family is fine… I am studying psychology and doing a research paper on bullying… I used you as a work cited 🙂 (not this post but an older one)

    1. The products are the problem here. If you try to paint with Mayo or chocolate pudding, it’s gonna be gross no matter how artistic you actually are. “Bought at CVS” was the first Red Flag. The products labled ‘Face paint’ in craft stores are either Halloween grease paint or mislabled acrylic which clearly state to not use near the eyes on the back. These actually are in the same packaging as Acrylic and tempura paints and contain dangerous mold inhibitors that can redden or even blister skin. True pros only use Cosmetic Grade products that are specially designed for the skin and delicate eye area. They are pancake and activated by water, are designed to be bright and opaque, and wash off easily with soap and water. Go online and get the right product and you will find it much easier to paint like a pro while protecting your kids delicate skin.

  2. I have often thought those exact words…psisshawwww looks easy! How hard could that be. Now I’m terrified to ever try face painting because oh my! So many great one liners in this piece too. Had me giggling. So very smart of you to let them paint you. I bet that made up for everything and your husband TOTALLY looked like the ocean!!!

  3. That’s hilarious! My school did a health fair and the Nursing students were assigned to the face painting booth. Nurses aren’t trained in the wonderful world of art (sadly). We did not receive any training. Nothing. There were fairy designs, tigers, and spiderman. You can safely assume there were a lot of disappointed parents/kids and a lot of embarrassed Nursing students. Face painting is NOT easy.

  4. “Scott and I decided to buy face paint from CVS…”
    First mistake. And, sadly, fatal. The right supplies make all the difference. The right face paints allow even first timers to have success. I know this from much experience. Go to Premiere in Carytown. They have the technology. They can help you. 🙂

      1. Totally have to agree with Rachel,. I myself am i face painter also,.. What you work with makes a whole lot of difference! From the paint, to the brushes and skill! 🙂

  5. Scott looks kind of like a painter who got overexuberant and got paint on his face while creating a masterpiece. I like it.

    Also, several Halloweens have taught me that I am terrible at face painting. Apparently, I am slow to learn.

  6. I am so glad I chose to come over here instead of finishing up some work tonight.

    1) The red blob!
    2) It IS hard. I’ve tried it. I am so lucky I never wanted to work at a festival booth.

  7. As a professional face and body paint artist, I want to thank you for posting your results. Many people don’t realize how hard it can be to do what we do and get consistently good results. Those in the business who are good at what we do make it look easy, but as you have seen… it is not always so simple. Thank you.

  8. Like anything you want to get really good at, in some ways it gets harder to do as your standards rise. 🙂

    Even though I’m a professional face painter, I no longer try to face paint at my own parties. It really does take total concentration; you are not only dealing with the art challenges, you are relating to a person one-on-one. You really don’t have to do everything!

    Also I’m fairly sure from the packaging that this article’s writer used oil-based cream face paints, as opposed to water-based. They are much harder to apply, they smear, and they are harder to remove. Spend a little extra and go with water-based for best results. The Halloween store or discount store face paints are really disappointing.

  9. Good attempt at your face painting, but I have one suggestion/comment. You need to buy quality name brand face paints. You would be surprised at the difference and the price is worth it (even if your only painting for fun). Google Snazaroo, Ben Nye, or Wolfe Bros. face paints. You will even get great tips on face painting for beginners.
    Hope this helps on your next attempt.

  10. This is so funny. When my husband was in college he went to Marine World and got a job as a face painter. He lied on his application and said he was an art major because…how hard can face painting be? He had kids crying and parents complaining because his whales looked like amoebas. He was fired by his boss, who was a clown.

    1. This had me roflmbo! I have a friend who had that attitude… I can paint faces how hard can it be??? Well she should just stick to her day job and leave the artistry up to me. She asked me to paint for FREE!!! That’s another thing people don’t understand… our products and body art conventions cost money let alone our insurance, licenses and gas money to get to these functions. I absolutely hate to hear those words… oh I can do that it’s looks so simple/easy.

  11. Yea but they have fancy tools and your kids are more apt to sit still for a stranger with sharp objects near their face than you. True story.
    I think that with a couple more applications, you’re kids will look awesome…under a paper bag. Kidding. They can rock anything.

  12. Thank you so much for writing this. Firstly because I wasn’t quite awake and now I am and with a smile on my face from the laughs you provided in this cleverly written piece. Secondly because, as a professional face and body artist, I have been on the receiving end of comments well meaning parents make to their kids about being able to do what I do easily. 9 years of training and muscle memory development have made me the painter I am and it does sometimes sting when people say things like that within earshot. We charge what we do because of the costs involved in being a professional: thousands of dollars for training and materials (one of our colors can easily cost more than the quick DIY kits at Wal-Mart and Halloween stores), insurance, and travel. Thank you for validating what we do and for sharing your adventure with us! CJ

  13. Face painters DO deserve everything they are paid. They work hard and spend a lot of time practicing. To encourage these parents…your main problem is the cheap paints, not your creative abilities. Buy some better paints and a couple of good brushes and try again…I guarantee your kids will be smiling about your creations next time.

  14. I could KISS you right now! I just posted a link to this on my FB page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Cheeky-Chipmunk/643387299047493

    Thank you SO much for understanding how hard we work! I seriously want you to know that if you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods (NYC), you and your kids (hubby too!) are going to get FREE face paintings from me! One for each of you! On the house, as a huuuuge THANK YOU for this amazing awesometastic article. You rock! 😀 Thanks again!

      1. Lemme just say, Lenore is VERY GOOD oo!! Im part of a Face Painters Group on Facebook where they have monthly challanges for us to practice everyday with daily themes! – We just DID ‘Inspired by Lenore’ Day! THATS how much a gifted face-painter you will be getting if you look up & get facepainted by TheCheekyChipmunk!

  15. 20 mins they come out looking amazing? i can make your kids look fab in a few mins each! Im so glad someone acknowledges the skill needed. the “i can do that attitude” really grates on me. Thank you

  16. ITs not really the tools. I can do great facepainting with cheap tools. Its technique and that needs practice, a lot of it. And offcourse good paints, which are not cheap. Knowing which paint to use for what , cause there are different good paints for different techniques. Knowing how to use the face and the best painters work without examples, so you need to know the why, what and how. And yes we do work hard, 8-9 hours non stop without a break is something that does happen, cause you just can’t tell a kid: oh you have been in line for an hour, well just wait another half hour cause I need a break. Most of us love our job and its nice to see people appriciate that, cause a lot of parents see you as their personal slave, so to say.

  17. At least you had a great time together! And kudos for letting the kids take a turn face painting you, too! So many times I have children and adults in my line and the adult is trying to force the child to get a face painting that he or she wants the child to have rather than the design the child has chosen. One way we face painters combat this is to suggest the child get the design he chooses, and let the parent get the design he wants the child to have. Parents will sometimes rethink their position at that point. They don’t seem to realize that a great part of the fun for children is getting to choose their own design.

  18. As a professional face painter I love this article because it perfectly illustrates why face and body painting is a professional business especially in the last decade, it’s huge! (Did you know you can get training/courses that leave letters after your name like a degree does???). I do on occasion get the odd, could do this at home and i’m sure there are very arty people out there that could, but I tell you what, from my first attempts to now in only 1 year of being a professional face painter, I can see why it’s a serious career and profession and not just a hobby that a lot of people think it is. I’ lucky that i’m an artist and a good copier so what I started out with wasn’t bad at all and now i’m just WOW and have to turn down bookings as I get more than I can do!, but ask me to step in to teach primary school maths? I would be a wreck as i’m dyscalculia (dyslexic in maths) lol. Different people are good at different things and if it looks easy, it usually isn’t because of the amount of practice and training goes into making it look easy, like Ballet and the perfect souffle lol Now I make a wicked carrot cake but I can’t make an un-lumpy custard! I can pirouette but can’t ice skate! It’s basically art on skin xxx So please don’t look at us and think it’s easy and it’s ‘part time’. It may have been back in the early days of face painting in the 80’s but like the first computer took up a whole room and is now hand held, so have we also progressed x So thank you for being frank enough to say you know what? It is worth hiring a professional x We need more parents like you! LOL I know I would hire a magician for example as that’s not in my skill set for my kids x Saying that though there are loads of tutorials on youtube which help if you want to do the odd one for your kids which I used to do on Hallowe’en x And remember, always use professional paints because they aren’t cheaper than the myriad of cheapy cheap Hallowe’en face paints. They cost for a reason, it’s hypoallergenic cosmetic grade safe skin paints x Emma x Have safe happy painting! x

  19. I loved this post!

    I just want you to know that 2 years and 9 months later, this article is still being shared on professional face painter forums and groups, and we all LOVE it!

    I got into face painting by accident 17 years ago with the thought ‘how hard could it be?’ And i WAS a life long artist too! Even being an artist is was NOT easy at all! Like if you asked someone who sculpts if they could paint a portrait of you, it’s an entirely different medium all it’s own.

    17 years and a pro kit later, this is my career, and I’m still practicing, learning, and getting better at my craft.

    I wish event organizers would read your article and all the comments, when thinking about getting volunteers to try and do what we do. *wink*

    Thanks for the appreciation and thanks again for writing it! Cheers!

  20. I love this!
    I am a face artist as well as many others commenting here. I remember my first time face painting a kid (for a church fundraiser) and my ‘art’ was sooo bad. Who knew it could be so difficult! Now that I have the right products and training, I definitely think it is worth paying to have your child be professionally painted. I have a three year old that gets painted by other artists all the time because he sits better for a stranger than he does with me. I bet this was a fun activity for the family even if the outcome was less than stellar, hehe.

  21. I loved reading your article. I am a professional face and body painter with over 16 years experience. I does take some practice! Not only is this a great family memory shared of fun and laughter, it made me smile reading it and you gave my profession a good word. I thank you. 🙂 ❤ I would be happy to paint your family’s faces any time!

  22. Omg…..split my sides . As a pro face painter, theatrical make up artist in my 53 years of this business……it’s a continuous learning curved. Kids are unique and every one presents with different challenges. Yes…the wrong supplies do make the task difficult or manageable. Nowadays there are hundreds of tutorials and every stay at home Mum wants to be a face painter and make lots of $$$. Mmmm…don’t we all. Some do…many more do not. So much more is involved that painting a butterfly, kitty or puppy than any of us expected when we all first started. The term ” face painter” wasn’t even being used generically when I started. So yes, leave it to the pro painter…but if they take more than 3 minutes do do a good design…….they’re not yet at pro level.

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