Sitting in the Discovery Coffee on Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria, you’d never guess Kristin Grant has only been body painting for two years. As we chat she gets visits from more than one patron admiring the canvasses on the walls.
“I’m sorry to interrupt but I just heard you’re the artist and I wanted to say, I really admire the work – it’s amazing,” one woman says.
Inspired by Dogwood Initiative’s No Tankers campaign, Grant set out to combine her love of body painting with local Vancouver Island models and photographers for a unique fundraiser as part of a course through Landmark Education
“I was feeling really disempowered by the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and thought for a long time that they were just going to go through with it anyway,” Grant says.
Her vision was to represent the beauty of British Columbia’s land, community, fashions and animals through images that would create awareness, appreciation and community support for those impacted by the proposed pipeline. Soon, Stand Together: Art for the Love of B.C., was born.
The end result was 12 canvasses, ranging in stunning imagery: one model caresses a glowing spirit bear, another catches the last light of day in a powerful mountain-top scene and others represent the energy of the forest through dance and play. The canvasses are for sale at the Oak Bay Discovery Coffee in Victoria and prints are for sale online at Urbanheart.ca. They will be on sale till Dec. 30 with all proceeds going to the No Tankers campaign.
A Victoria Times Colonist classifieds employee by day and live painting coordinator by night, Grant first got into body painting when her father had a specific chore in mind for his daughter.
“My dad gave me an airbrush because he wanted me to paint his car… I never did,” she laughs.
Completely self-taught, Grant’s first body painting experience was for the 2010 Victoria Zombie Walk, where her work was heavily photographed. From there, her work was a smash hit at Halloween and during subsequent appearances at Victoria’s late-night music and arts venue, the Sunset Room. Grant has since done countless hired projects for events and photo shoots.
The Stand Together photographs were shot throughout southern Vancouver Island: Nanaimo, Elk Lake, French Beach and various locations in Victoria including Mount Doug and Moss Rock.
Grant took advantage of her skills as an up-cycle artist to complete many of the looks. For example, patterns on the legs of the Reptilian Goddess were created using plastic from six-packs and her spine spikes were made out of egg cartons. The monster in Breaking Up with Oil donned a cloak of shredded garbage bags and many of the models wore paper mache pieces complete the 3D look. Grant spent anywhere from two to 12 hours painting each model.
From straddling mossy logs in the middle of a swamp to help achieve the perfect lighting to setting up giant crystals to complete a forest set, Grant organized and directed every aspect of her photo shoots including makeup, styling, lighting and photography.
“I would seek out specific models and photographers to represent each concept the best,” Grant says. “A lot of other painters think that body painting is taboo or tacky. I want to legitimize the art.”
The project has had many highs, such as doing a live painting of the Golden Wolf at the Moss Street Paint-In. “30,000 people watched! Hearing everyone comment positively was really rewarding,” Grant says.
Like anything, the project had some lows, such as when she and a model were locked out of a car at French Beach on a cold day. “The poor thing was just covered in paint, molasses and sand!” Grant chuckles.
“Funding the initial cost of the printing was also a big challenge, but Art Box gave us a really great deal. Lots of people think the canvasses are a great price considering their quality,” Grant says.
Part way through the project Grant decided to open the project to other Canadian artists. Cougar was shot by a team of artists in Calgary and Life Blood was shot by a team in the Comox Valley.
Grant says she’s had countless opportunities to explain the issue to people.
“It’s been really rewarding because a lot of new people are learning about the Northern Gateway proposal and the No Tankers campaign. I’ve been able to introduce the issue to a lot of the fashion and art world.”
Now that everything’s said and done, Grant feels a great amount of pride and satisfaction.
“Seeing it all completed and how beautiful they look – seeing them hanging on the wall together… it’s amazing.”