MY OUTLOOK: Stephanie McGathy, Body Painter
How long have you been a body paint artist?
My first paid body painting was about 18 years ago.
How many bodies have you painted?
More than 100.
How did you get started in body paint?
About 20 years ago I was working as an airbrush artist. While working with some other artists on a large pre-order of airbrushed t-shirt designs for a client, I got a bit bored doing the same design over and over again. One of the guys was shirtless so I told him I was going to paint the design on his chest. Technically that was my first “body painting.” Shortly after, one of the other artists heard about Coca-Cola needing airbrush body painters for the Super Bowl that year in San Diego and I was hired. Next year I was the primary coordinating artist for the event in Florida where we painted “Fanatical Fans” every day for a month.
How long does it take to body paint someone?
I’ve done body painting for quick camera-ready shoots in under two hours. For Sports Illustrated (SI), there are several things that happen throughout the body painting like interviews, several breaks, hair and make-up, etc., so it can take upwards of 12 hours. We try to let the model sleep through it so they can be fresh for the camera.
Do you know what you are doing before you start?
To do a good body painting, you really need to work out what looks best on the body. One design might look good on one girl, but on another, it may not be flattering. For SI, we have specific suits picked out for each model ahead of time so we have time to figure out what would work for each design.
How do you prepare a body for painting?
The model needs to be clean without lotions or deodorant since those can affect how the make-up stays on the skin. If it’s nude painting, obviously no hair except on their heads.
What is your favorite part about body painting?
I love seeing the reactions of people as they do double takes when they realize the “clothes” are really painted on.
What was it like working on a project of this magnitude?
This is my 5th year on the body painting team with SI. The crew is amazing and we all work very well together. Even though the work has long hours and lasts for several days, we get to go to beautiful and tropical locations.
How was working with Ronda Rousey?
With any of the models, you try to make it a very relaxed atmosphere. Ronda was very eager to be body painted and within moments she was quite comfortable with us and was joking and telling stories. We actually painted Ronda twice since the first time the photos were leaked by paparazzi. The second time we saw her, it was like we were family.
Is this your most prolific artwork to date? If not, what other work have you done?
This was our first cover for the SI swimsuit issue. Our other SI cover was Giancarlo Stanton last year where we painted on his Miami Baseball jersey. I’ve worked five years for SI body painting on models including Kate Upton, Erin Heatherton, Alyssa Miller and more.
How long does the paint last?
For quick photography in studio, we can use water-based make-ups. For SI, our models shoot in humid, warm environments, go in the ocean and lay and frolic on the beach. For this our make-up must not only be waterproof, but be able to stand up to pounding waves and sand.
Do you ever get a little sad knowing it will be washed away?
Not really, since there are always lots of pictures that last forever. On the SI shoot, we usually work overnight and into the next day so by the end of it you are so tired that all you can think of is going to sleep.