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Body Art for the Mainstream

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You could Mark Greenawalt a man for all seasons. During the day, he’s vice-president of Sullivan Designs, an electrical engineering company; at night, he moonlights as a musician. Not one to merely dabble, Greenawalt is a round-the-clock success. This past September, he scored a number one country hit on www.mp3.com with a tune titled “Simple Life”. And now, Greenawalt has found another arena to conquer: body art.

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Despite his recent entrée into the world of skin painting, Greenawalt is no stronger to the art world. He first began taking art classes at his mother’s beckoning when he was 9 years old. Boris Vallejo quickly became a favorite as the young Greenawalt developed an affinity for fantasy art. He bough his first airbrush from a local hobby shop when he was 14 years old.

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Greenawalt, 33, was born and raised in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, but now lives with his wife and two children in Phoenix. “When you think of black and white photography, you think of Ansel Adams; fantasy art, Boris Vallejo, and so on. I’d like to be that guy or role model that transcends body painting,” he says. “Right now, Joanne Gair may be the highest profile body artist, but I’d like to take it to the next level.”

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For all its recent popularity, body art still remains a certain counterculture cool as it staggers on the brink of mass appeal. “The underground grunge scene, like the tattoo culture, is accepting body art more widely, but I’d like to promote it more to mainstream society,” he says. “With the help of Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair, and GQ, this could well become the next hottest art form. In fact, I’m seeing body painting featured more pervasively in magazine editorial and ads these days. I recently picked up a Las Vegas magazine featuring a beautifully painted model on the cover, and some painted models for the ad on the back cover.”

Greenawalt points out that several posh spas in New York City and other areas have recently added body painting to their pampering repertoire, spraying anything from small temporary tattoos to full-body paintings on customers for four-figure fees. “Since I live in a mecca of high-end resorts in Phoenix and Scottsdale, I’d be a fool not to test the market and see if there is an interest in getting painted instead of getting a massage or a steam bath. The stories that I have heard would blow your mind about people with no concept of money. Princes from the Far East stay for a week, buy ‘ a top-of-the line Harley-Davidson and then give it to the bellhop as a tip.

“I would have to say that my direction is more focused on producing an image of my body painting that is marketable. I have to admit that doing five or six paintings a week at $2,500 a pop sounds pretty intriguing.

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