The year was 2009 when Atlanta body painter and special effects makeup artist Stephanie Anderson watched her career in real estate implode in the midst of the crash of the U.S. economy. That shattered reality became the catalyst for her to explore her artistic talent for painting and sculpture.
After submitting her work to a traveling art show out of Los Angeles by the name of Pancakes and Booze, the show’s curator asked Anderson to paint a living person — the human body as canvas — something she had never done before. With some hesitation, she did, and it sparked a new career and direction in life.
Anderson’s credits include special effects and specialty makeup for a variety of film and television projects, including The Gifted, Dynasty, The Nice Guys and Project Almanac; prop painting for Spartan Race; and special effects makeup for Welcome to the Burbs, The Originals, The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead Escape and Dead by Midnight. She has also created scary characters for the Netherworld haunted attraction. Her more whimsical specialty makeup for The Grinch can be seen up close by families this holiday season at Ponce City Market.
ArtsATL spoke with Anderson in advance of this weekend’s International Make-up Artists Trade Show (IMATS) at the World Congress Center, November 16–18, where she will create a full body paint in three hours and answer questions at the Make-up Artist magazine exhibit booth from noon until 3 p.m. on Saturday.
ArtsATL: How has your art progressed and evolved since you got into body art and makeup nearly a decade ago?
Stephanie Anderson: It’s not even the same animal. There are the obvious progressions one would expect regarding skill, knowledge and ease of execution. But what I take pride in most is the love that I feel for every piece. Body art is a temporary experience, and as the years pass, I feel more and more attached to the pieces that I paint for people. When you’re creating a personal suit for someone, the collaboration becomes very intimate. The shared vision manifests itself into the material world and can create a magical moment for those it touches. It grows more and more difficult to send these works down a drain as I grow older and more selective in sharing in my time, energy and art.
ArtsATL: As a busy, active artist, how do you balance your art and other elements of life?
Anderson: I do my best. This is very difficult at times. You must know your value and not say “yes” to every project. I’m firm on my rates, and I place great value on my personal time and private life. Family first. Everything else falls into place.
ArtsATL: How big is the profession in Atlanta, not only in the television and film industry, but also for live events?
Anderson: I have seen the body art community here grow from about five of us to an uncountable pool of incredibly talented artists. The infusion of artists from all over the world to fulfill the film industry’s need has been nothing less of incredible and fast. The pressure to grow your talents, education and sphere of influence has been mind-blowing. It has been an incredible experience to see so many people inspire and challenge each other at such a quick pace. I personally love it.
ArtsATL: This is the first time the trade show event has taken place in Atlanta. What is its importance for the city and especially its importance for you as an artist?
Anderson: With the film industry growing so rapidly, conventions like this are essential to the growth, education and camaraderie of the community. Being asked to create a piece for my community here in Atlanta and Make-up Artist magazine is an honor and definitely a highlight of my career as a professional artist.
ArtsATL: Even with the professional boom in Atlanta, are body painting and special effects makeup arts becoming recognized by the more traditional “arts” community? What are your own hopes for that?
Anderson: I honestly don’t worry about that. My art is personal and reflects my life experience. If people feel something or enjoy it, that brings me great pleasure, but I don’t spend much energy on how it will be perceived. I believe beautiful galleries, like the one owned by Craig Tracy in New Orleans, are a gift in the way that they present body art in a traditional and dignified space. This allows a viewer to experience the art form outside some of the more lively arenas. My hopes are that Atlanta and the world keep a healthy appetite for art in whichever form it chooses to manifest itself.