Jen Seidel had no idea that when she decided to shake things up at a costume party eight years ago, she would end up falling in love with body paint artistry and turning it into a successful career.
Now, Seidel has released a coffee table book, "Covered," featuring photos of her modeled artwork and hopes to use it as a tool to help others and continue to "paint it forward." In a recent phone interview, Seidel, 45, who lives in Reisterstown, talked about how she got started in body painting, where it's taken her in her career and why she, well, does what she does.
I read that your first body paint was for a costume contest. What was your costume and how did people react?
It was a Halloween costume contest at a club in D.C. I painted myself as a cheetah, but I wore a bathing suit because I was scared. I didn't know how people were going to react to body paint because it was so new. And people were flipping out! I felt like a celebrity. Nobody knew who I was, but I was still being talked about for three months [after].
Do people ever get uncomfortable when you start painting them?
No. I would say I have the type of personality that is very welcoming, and even if they are nervous, I have a way or warming the situation up. … And especially after they watched the paint go on in the mirror, because they watch themselves get painted, they see how much they're covered up and all of a sudden, they went from nervous to excited.
So why people instead of painting on a canvas?
I'm a people person, so I like to put my artwork on the human body because it's fun for me to be able to create on something that's alive. … A piece of artwork just sits there, and ... it's up to you where you place it. For human beings, they're actually interacting and being social and walking around. So they're like pieces of walking art.
What would you consider your proudest moment in your body painting career?
I did a body painting for the Chamber of Commerce of Rockville, and there was about a thousand people dressed up in suits. And understand, this was after a fight of pulling body paint out of a dark place of taboo … . And I think also when my son finally approved it because, at first, he thought I was really strange.
As far as your book: What do you hope people really take away from it?
I hope that this is just the beginning, and I hope that people enjoy the images just as much as I did making them and at the same time, understand I'm doing this to "paint it forward." That is the campaign I came up with. So every time we have an event, I donate some of the proceeds from these books to the charity of whatever event I'm doing. Now I can put out my art, have people really appreciate it, love what I'm doing and still help the world.
To buy the book or for more information on "Covered," go to jenseidelcovered.com.