Saturday, 25 July 2009
Chin Up, Bucky
I rediscovered the joy of face painting today at 'Bridgefest' (The Brige- 87.9 FM), an annual weekend summertime outreach and promotional event held in Ocean Grove NJ. At the meeting after the morning service last Sunday, one of the pastors informed the crowded room of volunteers that the face-painting tent was usually short on painters, and overwhelmed with lines of unpainted faces who would certainly be turned away come closing time Saturday. The image of crying children waiting in line for hours only to be "turned away" just broke my heart. Sad clowns. Furthermore, the pastor said that anyone who could pick up a brush and paint a heart would be welcome. Since I enjoy children and painting, and had some experience at a county fair over 30 years ago, I decided to sign up. Why not?
So this was my first activity with Calvary Chapel of Old Bridge, and it turned out to be quite fun and little of what I really expected. While most of the other face painters seemed to be transforming faces into beautiful butterflies and flowers, I did not have a single child ask for anything of that sort.
My first 14 year old customer asked for some kind of logo he had drawn on paper. Looked to me kinda like a red pitchfork pointing upward with a double ended arrow crossing the fork and pointing downward. He really could not explain much about the design except that it had something to do with Java the Hut. Star wars. As long it's Star Wars, and not some kind of occult symbol. He assured me that it was benign and mentioned that he was going into the 9th grade at Calvary Chapel HS so I didn't bother him about it. On to the next!
The second kid wanted the New York Mets logo, something which, though seen frequently in my home (Dad being a huge Mets fan), escaped my mind. All I could think of was Mr. Met.
" Do you mind drawing it for me, kid?" Because I didn't have a pen, the kid actually painted it on a paper towel for me. " OK, it's all coming back." Unfortunately, his dad was rushing him along (a game to watch, no doubt), and I had to wrap it up before I could apply the orange outline. Thankfully, some people's children are easy to please. This kid didn't care one bit, and was thrilled to have the interlocking NY in light blue on his prepubescent bicep. Good for him. Go Mets.
OK, so another little boy requested a dinosaur whose ferociously toothy mouth I painted around the side of his own mouth for an animated effect. When he smiled. the dinosaur would suddenly have human teeth. Really cute. Another child asked for a shark. "A shark, you say?".... It had been over 30 years since I had painted the Jaws shark. For some reason my blue shark evolved into a lively green alligator which, from tooth to tail, occupied almost the entire length of his forearm and part of his hand. It took a lot of fixing but again...it turned out cool looking. Seems to be be theme of my life. What made it more of a challenge was the fact that I couldn't really see well, since I forgot my glasses. Rats.
One little 3 year old girl requested a swan on her face. As she sat there quietly, I spoke to her about the gentle gracefulness of swans and other swanly attributes worth emulating. She seemed interested, until I lost her with all that talk about the old swan boats in Asbury Park. No matter, at least the image came out well. This was my personal concern. Being found out. Having the parent who was generally standing by with a camera in hand, thinking they could paint it better themselves. I completely understand. No parent wants to have their child's face messed up with marginal looking face painting. Each time a child came to me, I would wonder if I would leave the child crying and a parent annoyed. And so each time I'd pray before and just try to relax and paint as though I was painting on canvas. Sure, I would often wind up having to 'fix' something, but each time the end product would bring a smile.
My favorites were the tiger faces. Time consuming but well worth the wait. So this cute little boy was next up in line, he must have been 6 or 7 and kept asking, "Are you almost done? how much longer?" Finally it was his turn, he sat down and looked at the colorful photoigraphs from which eh could choose any painting and immediately pointed to a saber-toothed tiger.
"That's the one I want."
The boy had dark skin and big brown eyes with thick brown eye brows, and spoke with a certain clarity, frequently asking questions.
" This will cover your eyebrows. Is that OK with you?"
"Yes you can paint over my eyebrows, but can you do the horns last?"
"Sure, (whatever he's talking about) What's your name, kid?"
" My name is William."
" Ah, William. A very good name. King William, with a crown."
" Yes," answered William, " Kings get to wear crowns. Queens wear tiaras."
William was clearly a very bright and engaging child. I would have to be extra extra careful with this one. I wonder where was his mother is?
"Where is your mom?"
He pointed in her general direciton. Oh, there she is, off to the the side,smiling and busy with Willaim's siblings.
As I covered his face in orange paint, William kept up with the questions.
"Are you doing the horns yet?"
Horns...what horns? I glanced at the picture he held against his chest, suddenly realizing that the "horns" he kept referring to were the two sharp looking saber teeth.
"These are the teeth, William. Saber teeth like daggers. Pretty soon. "
I painted on the white area below his nose, and around his cheeks and forehead,and then added some yellow to the orange under his eyes. Throughout the entire operation, William here could not stop his constant fidgeting, all while firing off questions constantly.
" Are you painting the stripes now?"
"What exactly are saber teeth tigers?"
"Why do they call it saber?"
"Good question. I don't know, William. I guess the teeth resemble sabers. Whatever that means. Why don't you just ask your dad or 'google' it when you get home?"
"Well, Are you doing the stripes now?"
" Can I see at it now?"
" Well are you nearly done?"
"Almost, but not nearly."
" Just try to keep still, and put the chin up, William. Look up.", I directed, gently tilting his chin in the right direction. Try as he may, William could not seem to hold any one position for more than a second or two. My gentle requests for him to stop moving became punctuated with an irritable tone as my patience waned.
"Will...you..(grabbing the mirror and closing it) give...me...that...thing?"
And I wanted children. (Sigh) What kind of woman am I anyway...and where is his mother when I need her? Madame, can you please control your child's head movements? Sheesh, I am really getting hungry here (longing for one of those gyros I could smell wafting in my direction). Around that time a strong wind blew up, and the sky became misty and cool. Paint and water soaked paper towels were blowing around and I really needed to get to the porta-potty. Instead, started in on the black nose and line which went down to his upper lip which was also painted black. Soon William was receiving his tiger stripes. Three stripes per side, 6 dots near the cheeks. 6 whiskers. Again with the head movement.
"William, I need you to STOP moving in order to do these stripes right! Here's the mirror back. Hold it upwards and look into it."
After having to wipe the paint off of his face several times, I finally came to understand my my own lifelong struggle with a limited attention span, and the teacher's remarks on my report card regarding my day-dreaming. Sit still? We really can't. Almost everything around us is a distraction which draws us in.
Ironically, the most restless child was also the most involved and curious. The whole thing was very exciting to him. His mind was like a sponge absorbing everything his eyes looked upon. I wondered if every single day carries a certain excitement and newness to William and what he would wind up doing as an adult. God help him stay focused and as takes in every detail of every day...keep him safe and help his parents and teachers DEAL effectively with him. Finally we were down to the wire. 5 minutes left and 2 saber teeth later I handed him the mirror and he smiled at the saber teeth. Prince William was delighted. I was relieved.
Several minutes prior, we had been given the signal to wrap it up, and just as I began the clean-up, another mother was at my station with her little son.
"He's been waiting for a long while now and it looks like everyone else is done for the day."
I looked around. The other artists were finished and everything was being cleared away. Her 3 year old son stood quietly in front with her hands on his bare shoulders. She mentioned that she had 5 (FIVE) children between the ages of 8 and 4 months. Wow. Of course I can paint his face. As I prepared to do so, I thought about my own mother. 5 kids in 6 years. The memories she made for us. The times she'd gone to bat for us. I admired a parent who will speak up when their child is last one in line and the booth is closing up.
"If you could then, that black batman mask?"
The last few touches of paint to her son's face was made by that same mother who could see well enough to get those yellow bat eyes on straight. Bat eyes to see?
Matthew 13:1-17 "The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:
"Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
" 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."