New Orleans-based artist Craig Tracy is considered a trendsetter in the art of body painting. He spends hour painstakingly painting his subjects’ bodies with water-based paint, before taking photos of them in unique positions.
The first time we featured Craig Tracy on Oddity Central, was in January 2010, right after he created a jaw-dropping image of a tiger from the contorted bodies of several models. It was one of his most amazing works, but the American artist now has an entire collection of mind-blowing images painted on human bodies. Born and raised in New Orleans, Tracy always knew he was going to be an artist, in fact everyone else knew it as well. “There was never any question regarding my being or becoming a professional artist. It was always just obvious and understood,” he says. Craig’s parents, whom he describes as “working class hippies”, nurtured his creative development and gave him the freedom to mature as an absolute individual. At 15, he received his first airbrush, as a gift from his parents, and just a year later, working as an airbrush artist in a local shopping mall, he had already learned to draw almost anything on a vast array of surfaces. After graduating from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, the young artist became an illustrator for advertising agencies and editorial publishing houses, and hated it. After six years, he left his career as an illustrator behind and started painting “murals, t-shirt designs and just about anything and everything possible”.
It was this variety of surfaces that led him to discover painting on faces and then full bodies. “It really clicked, from the very first time that I painted a face, it was strangely powerful. I later realized that I had quiet literally fallen in love with Bodypainting. It did however take me years to properly process and respect such an uncharted and ancient art form. It was similar to how people don’t take things seriously because they have no example to follow. Rock and Roll or Rap for example, It was hard to take these two seriously at first, but we see how that all turned out. I personally didn’t take Bodypainting seriously for five or six years. The day that I finally asked myself ‘why’, why I liked painting on people so much, that led me to… Well,,, What if I take this passionate interest seriously? That one question and a quick Google search changed the course of my life,” Craig Tracy remembers. He started doing online research and collecting body-painting works from artists he admired, and before long, he started making his first serious collection of body-painting images. Now, he is credited with revolutionizing this ancient-yet-contemporary art form.
For some of his paintings, Craig uses only human volunteers, while for others he merges them with backdrops to give more depth. But his works are so incredibly complex that it’s sometimes hard to tell where the body-painting stops and the background begins. He will sometimes spend two days just planning out the artworks before applying a drop of paint.
Photos © Craig Tracy