Transformed in six hours

ST journalist Bryna Singh sits for seven hours while a make-up artist paints spots on her face and upper body to create the illusion that she is full of holes.
The writer experiences what it is like to get bodypainted.
The writer experiences what it is like to get bodypainted.ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

I have always wondered what it felt like to be a model in a live figure drawing session.

Last Thursday, I find out. The only differences are that my skin was the canvas, I am not nude and the session will yield a video instead of a drawing.

Wearing a pair of black tights and a black tube top, I am to experience a body-painting session by Muse Body Art’s creative art director Chris Ruth, who will attempt to create the illusion of holes all over my body.

Though clothed, I feel insecure and exposed. The last time I wore a tube top was when I was a teenager, confident of my then lithe physique.

Now, here I am, a fleshy 31-year-old mother of one with stubborn post-partum body fat, subjecting my upper torso, arms and face to what would be a public video, albeit in the name of work and art.

The writer experiences what it is like to get bodypainted.ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

Ruth was inspired by an  Instagram video by American artist Jody Steel, which shows the artist painting 3D holes on her face and she is excited to recreate that look in her own style. This is her first time attempting this visual effect.

Ruth, armed with several circular sponges, water and water-based body paints, gets to work.


For six hours, I have to sit still because moving will affect the painting process, she says.

It feels strange doing something and yet nothing at the same time.

After using the sponges to stamp circles of varying sizes onto my body, Ruth fills them in with black paint.

Then, using a fat brush, she paints swathes of my skin black, giving my face, arms and body contours I do not have.
“Sorry to say this, but your body shape is not ideal. I’ve to do this to reduce the amount of flesh,” she says apologetically.

I laugh. “It’s okay, I understand.”

But the remark does not make me feel more awkward about my body. Instead, something positive begins to stir in me as I watch my physical appearance change.

I grow excited about the prospect of being a living piece of art. By the end of the six-hour session, the transformation is complete.

My colleague, Ashleigh, who takes the photographs, remarks that I look like a slice of Swiss cheese.

Gee, thanks.

It is time for me to showcase my “hole-ridden face” and body for a video.

I muse: I am no longer me. I am a piece of painted skin, an artwork and I am free to express myself.

Emboldened, I lose my inhibitions and begin contorting my face and writhing like a serpentine creature.

In a few minutes, the shoot is complete.

Later on, as I stand in the shower, watching black paint swirl down the drain, I feel a twinge of sadness.

So much time was spent creating something so temporary.

Yet, what a marvellous, liberating feeling it is, when one’s imperfect body is transformed into an artistic masterpiece.

That memory is here to stay.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 29, 2017, with the headline 'Transformed in six hours'. Print Edition | Subscribe