By Heather Green <3
The face painting industry has very low barriers to entry, there isn’t a certification process that gives you the “seal of approval” to open your doors and call your self a professional face painter. Face painters do not have a governing body, or a rule- making hierarchy that outlines proper etiquette or standards. Most of us just make things up along the way, and it seems to be working since our industry is still thriving. But every now and then a horror story about a drunk Santa, inappropriate face painter, or late twister surfaces and I wish I had the capacity to start an association to really establish the do’s and dont’s for our industry. Nothing is worse for business than a blank canvas for standards because bad news tends to spread like wildfire and give everyone a bad rap. Look at the Henna industry, they have been battling “black henna” forever and in turn, it has caused worldwide negative media coverage over something true professionals would never dream of using. The use of forums on Facebook have been tremendous in providing advice and feedback about given scenarios, and over the years I have also complied my own list of do’s and dont’s while on the job.
So here are my 5 things to avoid while on the job to keep a professional appearance and to be respected by your clients. Let me elaborate a little. When I started face painting I had to dress as a clown, because it was very rare that someone besides a clown was face painting. There were many times I was heckled because of my clown appearance and rarely was I considered an “artist”. When I stopped face painting in clown attire I started getting asked more questions like “Are you an artist?” , “Do you paint canvases” and I kept thinking what changed? It was my appearance… (some) of my clients prefer the professional colorfully clean look and my look helps me command more respect and money. Ill start with #5 thing to avoid while on the job.
I am fortunate to be part of several local booking agencies rosters. I get booked by all size event companies and one thing stands out on each of their contracts… NO eating on the job and lets not forget alcohol- absolutely no alcohol should be consumed while you are working. And this quite possibly be the hardest thing to do. We are paid to attend parties, not clean trash from the side of the road or answer calls in a call center, we are paid to have fun and party. Most of the food at the events we attend is AMAZING and something to salivate over. More often then not I am offered plates of food, and because of the culture here sometimes its rude to turn down their offer. So I resist the urge to down the delicious dulce de leche cake and if the client insists I accept the food and place it in under the table or hidden. I do this for 3 reasons. 1) Because its unhygienic to have food near your paints at risk of dropping crumbs in them- I avoid ants, crumbs and any possible contamination. 2) I once did a party for the creators of the garlic festival. As you can imagine everything was drenched in garlic at the party. If you know anything about garlic then you know that it tends to linger on your breathe, clothes and fingers. I avoided eating anything at the event because I didn’t want to be the smelly painter or leave that event to go to the next one smelling like I was trying to ward off vampires.
3) The last reason is because I do not want the kids to touch it or parents to leave their plates because they think its trash. So in a nut shell if you are going to accept food, hide it until the event is over and then you can dig in!
#4 Daisies are flowers not shorts
As face painters we are creative with our attire and overall look. We are also active while we work so comfort is of extreme importance. I live and paint in one of the hottest places on the planet, and there are days where if I could I would paint naked because of the heat I would. But I have a standard uniform I stick to that makes me look and feel professional. I wear either black or khaki pants and my bling shirt. I find that my clients appreciate the appropriate attire considering my main clients are children. Recently I was working an event and another face painter showed up in yoga capris and a tank top. I cant lie, she had a great body and booty but we quickly found out that every man at the party was thinking my thoughts exactly. So within minutes the birthday mom was super irritated and I can only assume she wont be recommended or hired again. Daisy dukes, yoga clothes, and any clothing 3 inches above the knees should be avoided on the job, especially when you are catering to kids.
Find a go to outfit that you look and feel good while painting and attract the right kind of attention, instead of just the pervy guys.
#3 Put Your Cell Phone Away (unless you need a selfie of course)
Have you been to dinner lately with a group of friends? Have you noticed no one talks anymore, everyone is on their phone taking pics or texting? It’s super rude and annoying right? Well the same rules apply while you are being paid to work. I try to always put away my phone in a pocket or somewhere where I only have access to it to take pictures or for emergencies. Phones are distracting and rude when someone is paying for your attention. Nothing screams unprofessional like someone doing more texting than painting.
#2) Do you need to use the bathroom with that mouth?
I was born into a family of sailors (figuratively) we like to use colorful language and sometimes I forget my manners, but NEVER at a job. I was working a bar mitzvah last weekend and one of the other vendors was working with her husband/boyfriend. She persisted to scream “BAE” help me , “oh papi can you help me work this out”. “Cabron y jue puta !” I am sure she thought nothing of it, and never took
a breathe or glance to see the kids around her laughing. As the adult, and professional, it’s important to mind your words and be respectful of your surroundings. She was under the assumption these children didn’t speak Spanish, but they did and they were laughing at her. If you want to be taken seriously and want to be remembered for your talent and not your mouth then leave the potty in the restroom and avoid words you wouldn’t use at Church or if you met the President.
#1) Violence is never the answer
I remember watching the movie Cry Baby with a Young Johnny Depp. I loved that movie and didn’t think anything of the jailhouse scenes or that he was “bad guy”, the tear drop tattoos didn’t phase me. Fast forward 15 years later, and tear drop tattoos and gang signs are everywhere in pop culture. But that doesn’t mean you have to paint them. I have a rule and it’s personal…. I do not paint anything obscene, vulgar, violent or disrespectful on anyone younger than 21. I have had 8 year olds ask me to paint a tear drop on their face or a gun on their arm and I politely respond that it’s against the face painting laws for me to paint anything like that. I will also add that I will never ever fight on the job, and I have a clause within my contract that if the crowd or event puts my job and the patrons in an unsafe situation I reserve the right to pack up and leave but full payment is due. Sadly I have been at events where fights breakout and children have been fallen over and hurt (over face painting) so I practice professionalism and peace, and avoid bringing anything negative into my services. It will be impossible to avoid mean clients or unruly guests but fighting or screaming on the job will never win. Not only will you be setting a terrible example for the kids, you will likely loose more clients than you can ever gain by just walking away. So, when you are deciding your business guidelines and good practices make sure you include a violence and age appropriate policy to help avoid angry parents, and mixed messages to the future generations.
If you are really concerned about losing gigs to price under cutters, the best way to stand out and apart from them is to show and preach your worth. As someone that employs face painters, I can personally say that the ones that follow my 5 tips will always be at the top of my list.
I hope my rules of thumb, can and will help you build good business practices. So that when someone googles, talks about or recommends a painter they will always regard us as friendly, professional, respectable artists that deserve $100+ per hour <3 <3
Happy Painting my friends make today awesome!