A Living Canvas

Local face and body painting artist helps people create a story on their own unique canvas

Connie Schaad and her daughter, Lianna, showing off a festive face painting courtesy of her mom. Photo by Boomer Jerritt

When Connie Schaad opens up her makeup kit, she opens up a world of possibility with color. Schaad is a face and body artist who uses her brushes and paints to turn her clients into the creatures of their dreams, decorate their bodies with temporary jewelry and tattoos, and just have fun.

Whether it’s festivals, barn dances, weddings, or birthday parties, Schaad relies on her body paints, mineral powders and glitter to create works of art on the human body that celebrate everything from an impending birth to the Winter Solstice.

Ask Schaad how she became a face and body artist, and she is at a bit of a loss as to where to begin. For Schaad, arts, crafts and the desire to create has always been a big part of her life. She comes from a long line of women crafters, with quilting, crochet and knitting being popular with many family members.

“Mom was always trying things when I was a kid,” says Schaad. “Whenever she could sew or craft or create, she did.”

That need to create was passed on to Schaad, who spent her high school years in the art room exploring drawing, painting, screen printing, pottery and more. Her high school provided a diverse art program for its students, and the teacher emphasized the importance of trying a bit of everything.

“I was very lucky to have a teacher who really pushed and encouraged us to pull out our creativity,” says Schaad.

The years after high school involved some travel, and a lot of photography. In fact, it wasn’t until she got married that Schaad rediscovered drawing and painting. With four young children at home, she sought out both quiet time and an outlet for her strong creative side. She found that with certified decorative artist Jill Paris Rody in Campbell River.

At the time, Rody was teaching acrylic painting at an arts and crafts store offering a bit of everything in Campbell River. Schaad took her first class in 1998, while pregnant with her oldest child. For the next decade, Schaad would take classes with Rody and later artist Anita Moody, making gifts for family and friends, and drawing portraits of her children.

Schaad’s first attempts at face painting happened, appropriately enough, with her own children. Watercolor crayons were a common item to pack on camping trips and other family events to keep the kids entertained. Soon word got around, and Schaad became the de-facto face painter for kids’ parties amongst friends and family. In cases of birthday parties, Schaad often offered her services up as a gift to the birthday boy or girl.

It was a chance meeting with a henna artist creating glitter tattoos at a dance event in 2011 that introduced Schaad to the possibilities in face and body art. Schaad got a glitter tattoo, and spent a lot of time quizzing the artist on her craft. Later, while searching for glitter products to create her own tattoos, Schaad also happened to find cosmetic-grade, professional face paints and a new creative outlet was born.

On her Facebook page “Connie Schaad Face & Body Art”, there are hundreds of photos of face paintings, glitter tattoos, and more. Schaad has a story for every one of those photos.

Take for example the 60-year-old couple in zombie makeup. The pair was referred to Schaad through a mutual friend. Their story is fairly simple—a friend of the couple had been holding an annual Halloween party for years, but the couple had never dressed up for the event. They had decided, though, that this was the year to go all out, and were looking for help with zombie make up. Schaad spent hours watching YouTube videos and practicing on her kids before creating the zombie-look on the couple. The whole thing was a big deal for the pair, and everyone (including the party host) was thrilled with the final result.

“With zombies, it’s all about the look of the skin. There is a very particular color and texture to the zombie look,” explains Schaad. “Honestly, the homework was as much fun as the face painting!”

Looking through the photos, it would be easy to imagine rows and rows of Halloween costumes, and yes there are many of those. However, there is a breadth and range to Schaad’s photos that hints at the full possibility of her craft.

In the same year that Schaad did the zombie makeup, she did a series of masks for an art gallery fundraiser. The theme was the Masquerade Ball, and Schaad offered her services to anyone wanting an alternative to a hot, stuffy plastic or fabric mask. The results were spectacular, with masks ranging from delicate pieces of colored swirl barely covering the eyes to bold swathes of teal that take up three-quarters of the face.

Other photos include temporary jewelry done as entertainment at a wedding, a wound drawn on a man’s calf muscle—stitches and all—done during a corporate staff appreciation day that including friends and family, and a chemical burn for a mad scientist costume.

“You can paint anything, and some people get really creative,” says Schaad. “I’ve been asked to embellish actual tattoos with color and glitter to make the design pop.”

Schaad is especially proud of two projects—the baby belly blessings and the ice-men costumes done for Winterfest 2014. An example of the first includes an African savannah in brilliant sunset colors with the horizon falling off the round curve of the mother-to-be’s belly.

“It’s an amazing way to celebrate a soon-to-be-born baby, and mom just gets to sit and relax,” says Schaad. “The moms are always surprised at how good it feels to have someone paint on their bellies.”

The ice-men costume was a special request and Schaad’s first foray into air-brushing. The technique is widely used amongst professional face and body artists for full body paints, and to create texture and dimension that isn’t possible with a brush. The photos show Nordic whites and blues with greys for shading, sculpted abs (all hand drawn), and silver glitter combined with blond wigs, Russian fur hats, and shaggy white vests. The finished costume is a personification of winter.

With every photo that Schaad picks out, one thing is very clear—she loves what she does.

“It’s fun to be part of these people’s stories,” she says. “I get to help them create the vision they have in their minds.”

Those ideas have encouraged Schaad to grow her skills, and push the bounds of her own creativity. Last year, Schaad attended the Face and Body Art Conference in San Francisco. The professional event was an opportunity to learn new skills, and get a real sense of what it takes to be a professional face and body artist. She took workshops on air brushing from two different artists, and was exposed to techniques like on stroke painting, where two to three colors are used on a single brush.

“We learned from some of the best in the world,” says Schaad.

The highlight of the conference, though, was the closing competition where artists with different skill levels and experience challenged themselves to design and execute a full head-to-toe body painting. Not only did the competition test competitors on their artistic abilities, but pushed their time management skills and ability to perform under pressure.

“The whole thing was eye-opening,” says Schaad. “Some of the competitors weren’t able to finish the designs they created in the time allowed or get the design to a point where it looked finished even if it wasn’t. They take points off for things like that.

“It takes a lot of skill to do a full body painting,” she adds. “Like everything, you need to practice and get better.”

For Schaad, that includes searching out other artists’ face and body art and recreating those looks on friends and family. “The thing with art is you can try and copy another artist but you won’t get it exactly the same,” says Schaad. “You have your own way of seeing and creating something. I can even paint my own piece again and it will still come out different. It’s your mood, your feelings, your brush strokes. It makes every piece different.”

Schaad does much of her work freehand, using an example as a guide. For pieces like glitter tattoos, that approach allows much more freedom for the size, color, and theme of the final piece. It also gives a person more say in the look of their body art, with the ability to make changes as the piece is drawn and it becomes more obvious what the art looks like on the body.

For her work, Schaad uses Caran d’Ache products that are non-toxic and gentle on the skin. Everything is safe for children, whether it’s the glitter, glue, mineral powder or paint. Any face or body paint washes off in the shower or bath, while the glitter tattoos will last up to a week even with washing, thanks to the adhesive glue.

“Anything that requires dress-up or embellishment can be improved by body art,” says Schaad. “It’s not everybody’s thing, but even people who aren’t sure about it and give it a try seem to come back for more. It’s a great way to be creative or even test out an idea for a tattoo.”

For more information visit or call 250-337-5011