If you have attended a school carnival, child’s birthday party or street festival in Alameda in recent years, you have likely seen her in action. Alana Dill, the community’s face painter extraordinaire, seems to be everywhere.
A bit more than a year ago, the East End resident branched out into all-over body painting and now hosts a Body Painting Jam the second Wednesday of each month at the Frank Bette Center. The event runs from 5 to 7 p.m. and Dill said models are always needed.
“You do not have to be a model with a capital “M” to participate,” she said. "People from the dawn of time in all shapes and sizes have decorated themselves with paint.”
Models are not completely bare, she says, and provide only as much skin for her canvas as they choose. While some strip down to bikini bottoms and pasties, others opt to receive partial body designs.
Out of these body painting workshops Dill is hoping to create a themed collection of pictures, working with fine arts photographers such as Alameda’s Anne Kohler.
Last month Dill participated with 40 other body painters, makeup artists and hairstylists in the Subzero Art Festival in San Jose. She assisted a fellow artist, Trina Merry, in painting four models head to toe over a 12-hour period with virtually no breaks.
A total of 15 models were painted at the event, in themes such as Wonder Woman and Poison Ivy. There was also a Mad Hatter and a mermaid.
“I hope to organize a similar event in Alameda next year,” said Dill, although she has yet to scope out a venue.
Dill even had an entry in this month's Alameda Fourth of July Parade — a woman painted as Martha Washington. “Some people thought she was supposed to be Lady GaGa,” chuckled Dill, explaining she had fun updating Mrs. Washington’s image.
The artist said she is “slammed” this summer with children’s birthday party engagements, and she also receives increasingly frequent requests from adults to be painted. Pregnant women, for instance, regularly book her to paint their tummies, which they photograph and use in birth announcements or baby shower invitations. She recently painted a beautiful garden scene on the belly of one expectant mom.
"Painted baby bumps help moms express their hopes and dreams for their babies," said Dill.
Dill is also sometimes hired to body paint adult women for Girls Nights Out, and has worked in nightclubs where she has painted models who then hit the dance floor and mingle with the crowd.
“I am always interested in talking to businesses in Alameda and elsewhere that want to integrate body painting into their events,” Dill said, noting that body painting also is being used more frequently in commercial art and advertising.
Right now she is considering creating pinup-style calendars featuring painted female models leaning on classic cars.
Dill hopes that one day painted bodies and faces become as natural as putting on our clothes. "Our Western culture is the only one where people don't decorate themselves in this manner," she said, noting that many other people around the world still use henna and other paints on their bodies. In some places, she added, it is too hot to wear clothes so people cover themselves with mud.
“People tell me I could make a lot more money being a tattoo artist,” said Dill, “but I would never want to use needles. I like that with face and body painting you can be one thing now and another later. You are not stuck in the moment.”