American artist Craig Tracy uses the body as his canvas and the curves of a woman’s form to create stunning visual illusions that tease the eyes.
Merging a painted backdrop with a model’s painted body, at first glance it is often difficult to distinguish one from the other.
Take a closer look, however, and you will see the lines of a woman’s naked body posed in various positions to form a lion’s head, a mountain landscape and even the flames of fire against a night-time sky.
Craig’s startling creations are helping take the ancient ritual of body painting into the realm of fine art.
Born and Raised in New Orleans, Craig credits the city’s authentic and vibrant culture for inspiring his creative passion, as well as the support of his parents, who he describes as “working class hippies”.
The ritual of self-adornment was a part of his early childhood, with family members taking it in turns to paint each other’s faces as part of annual Mardi Gras celebrations.
Many years on and Craig’s creative focus remains very much on the human body.
Craig’s intricately detailed artwork takes up to one day to complete, with the finished creation then photographed and hung in his New Orleans gallery.
Entirely dedicated to fine art of bodypainting, the gallery is the first of its kind in the world.
Craig began his career at 16, working as an airbrush artist at a local shopping mall. His canvas: t-shirts and other personalised gift items.
“Anything, on anything, was what those days were like. I’d often paint 50 to 80 hours a week and in doing so, I learned some very important and useful skills,” he said.
After graduating with honours from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Craig went on to work as a professional freelance illustrator in the advertising industry.
However, Craig says the commercialised nature of the work was mind numbingly boring and left him feeling empty.
He eventually quit illustrating to concentrate on re-igniting his passion for art.
He began to explore painting on a variety of surfaces, including murals, clothing, faces and eventually full bodies.
“It really clicked, from the very first time that I painted a face, it was strangely powerful. I later realised that I had quite literally fallen in love with body painting,” he said.
Craig spent years researching and perfecting what remains a relatively unchartered art form before opening his gallery following 2006’s devastating Hurricane Katrina which razed his hometown.
Filled with spectacular photographic, paper and canvas prints, hundreds of art collectors and visitors now flock to his gallery each week to see the process first-hand.
Craig, who also paints on newborn babies, says the sharing aspect is the most rewarding part of his work.
“I really do love people and being able to paint on them is truly a privilege that I intend to never take for granted.”
the Experience Network