If someone had told me five years ago that I would become passionate about painting faces for a living, I would have laughed at the ridiculous joke. And yet, here I am, in year three of professional face and body painting under the name of Painted Love by Jennifer Sekella.
It all began in July of 2013, when I volunteered to paint faces for the Elmira Street Painting Festival via Elmira Downtown Development. I took a brief training class hosted by Kim Eveland and Lynn Williams of Giggly Girls to learn the basics of using water-activated face paints, along with sponges and different brushes to achieve quick but effective results. After two days of turning children into tigers, kittens, and princesses, along with painting footballs, flowers, and rainbows, I was hooked. I didn’t really look at it as a possibility for actual work, but people began to invite me to face paint at different community events.
I found that I really loved building a repertoire of images I could offer, so I joined different face painting forums on Facebook. There I learned from people who were successful and had a great deal of experience in the field. I also had the benefit of “meeting” a professional face painter named Terri Connolly, of Artistic Impressions, from the Binghamton area. I say “meeting” because we have not as yet met in person, though we’ve had many conversations online, and I now submit articles for her face painting publication, Q Magazine. Terri offered me valuable advice in terms of buying different paints and brushes – which brought my designs to a higher level.
Then I started to look into training. My first training was with the New Jersey Guild of Face and Body Painters, taught by Shawna Del Real and Ronnie Mena, both of southern California, on painting Sugar Skulls. These are designs that celebrate the traditionally Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, a commemoration of loved ones who have passed away. I learned a lot, but it was equally wonderful meeting other face painters who were improving their craft, pushing their abilities, and learning to grow their businesses. The attendees were all kind and willing to share tips and tricks that they’ve figured out while on the job and the artist with the longest experience, over 20 years, had been a combination face painter-children’s entertainer (clown, magician, balloon twister).
To really push myself in terms of owning the concept of being a professional face painter and entrepreneur, I decided to attend Kapital Kidvention this February in Alexandria, Virginia. I applied for and received partial funding through the Artist Development grant program administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and funded by the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc. I went by myself for three days of classes, painting jams, a vendor room, and the amazing opportunity to meet many artists and entrepreneurs whom I consider personal heroes and heroines within the field.
Now, I am continuing to build the Painted Love by Jennifer Sekella brand, to increase my skills, to expand my abilities, to create a business that is profitable and works with my particular art form, as well as with my life as a person living with Bipolar I Disorder. Ultimately, I am bringing magic to children and adults alike – one face, baby bump, body painting, and glitter beard at a time.
Jennifer Sekella, Painted Love by Jennifer Sekella