The day before Phoenix Comicon 2017 I had the chance to interview a very talented body painter. Brandon McGill is the owner, operator and face of Art by Brandon McGill in Phoenix, Az. He is a self trained artist who shrugged off the cape of corporate America so that he could dive into his passion and create art on the human canvas. Here are a few examples of his work that we acquired from his FACEBOOK galleries…
Brandon has painted over 420 people, transforming them into characters, abstract emotions and moving art. He worked for over 18 years in the Information Technology Industry but never felt fully satisfied with his accomplishments. That was, until he took the first step with a body paint and never looked back. Abandoning a stable job with stable income was not easy for Brandon, he had some good support along the way and his own determination saw dreams come to fruition. He currently resides in Phoenix, AZ but is frequently requested to travel for music videos and gallery openings. He has painted live but he prefers to paint in the comfort of his own studio.
Why Body Painting
Brandon opted for the human canvas due to numerous inspirations but one in particular drove him the most: The desire to destigmatize nudity. He wants to embrace both the feminine and masculine aesthetic by creating ambiguity between the sexes as he paints. Brandon uses the body as more than just a canvas, he also uses the experiences of his customers to his advantage. He asks those he is painting questions about their life experiences, how it has molded them, what inspires them and what emboldens them. Using these stories he brings their life into a tangible picture that is then painted on their body. Body painting makes one vulnerable and this vulnerability generates a connection far stronger and more true than most people have ever encountered before. Brandon is breaking barriers in culture, sex, race, and faith.
Tools of the Trade
There is little that Brandon won’t use when painting someone’s body. Here are a few of the items/tools/materials he’s incorporated into some of his professional paintings…
- Water based paint (airbrush, sponge and brush application)
- Liquid Latex (clear and nude pigments)
- Spaghetti (used once as Riku’s clothing lines)
- Orange halves (painted to look like beaten metal armor)
- Tissue Paper (used to make a fake dress for She Hulk)
- Accessories (scarves, jewelry, gloves, etc.)
Brandon admitted that his favorite material is liquid latex as there are so many applications for it (build up, adhesive, scarring, clean up, etc.). He prefers to paint by hand (with paint brushes) but has used airbrush tools when details were important in a paint.
The project that I was able to participate in with Brandon is his Heroes vs Villains series. Brandon has learned a lot by observing human behavior but he thought it was time to get more into the inner workings of his clients by having them choose the Hero or Villain they feel they connect with the most. Not only does this help with the very vulnerable aspect of being nude in front of a stranger but it creates a conversation on something familiar and comforting which only inspires Brandon more. I sent Brandon a list of characters that inspired me most and we both agreed that She Hulk would be the best fit for our interview/painting session.
Why She Hulk? She’s strong, intelligent, has had a rough bout in life and is the epitome of physical “perfection”. I’ve aspired to be a fit, healthy individual for years now. I’ve lost over 100 lbs and cosplay was a HUGE driver to my success. I never did this alone, I had A LOT of help and guidance along the way so She Hulk just seemed like the best character to show love to because she, too, had help figuring out her place in the world. She also never gave up on her dreams and aspires for something better.
The process of painting can be awkward, at first, for someone as shy as I am. I don’t even undress in front of my own friends or family for the most part. I am body shy and have struggled with body positive ideals most of my life. Thankfully, Brandon keeps things casual and is willing to work within the confines of your personal preferences. I would like to suggest that you bring water and a snack as there is a lot of standing involved with the painting. Also… don’t lock your knees. I became dizzy at one point and it could have been due to me unconsciously locking my knees into position (this causes circulation issues for those who are not aware). Don’t be afraid to ask for breaks, Brandon understands that a body can only take so much. Here are a couple snap shots of the painting in progress…
Other than avoiding physical ailments/issues the whole process was a breeze. The painting went by fast (it took about 2 hours but felt like 45 minutes) and the photo shoot after was a blast (Brandon WILL ask you hilarious questions – he wants you to emote and those questions were excellent ice breakers). Here was the final result…
50+ people are involved in the Heroes vs Villains project and this isn’t the only project Brandon has planned for this year. He also intends to complete the following…
- Neon City (a black light project)
- Incarnations of Immortality
- Gods and Monsters
- A Bob Ross reminiscent YouTube Painting Channel
Brandon will be recruiting customers for his upcoming projects. Pricing for his body painting can be found HERE and his upcoming shoots are usually broadcast on his website and through social media. I would highly recommend him and encourage you to step into a once in a lifetime experience!