P A I N T E D   S K I N   D I V E R

In early January 2001 I once again had the opportunity to work with Meria Birchak and this time I painted a skin diving wetsuit on her with liquid latex body paint.  Only two colors were used, purple and black, but the interesting "prop" used for this session was a real zipper for the suit.  Instead of hand painting a zipper, I purchased a coat zipper at Walmart and used the latex to glue it to Meria's skin.  The black paint only took a single coat, but the purple required three coats.  The painting took about one and a half hours to complete and then we headed out to Saguaro Lake to do the photoshoot.  Luckily we got there about a half hour before sunset when the suns rays are "warmer" for daylight balanced film.  Ed Clapper was on hand to take digital images of the process and, of course, the final product and Rachel Deboer also joined the team as my apprentice/assistant.  Also on hand was a very special guest, Jose Garcia, a reporter for The Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix.  He was actually writing a story for food and dining section of The Rep's entertainment guide so I was asked to prepare a dish and I think everybody got a kick out of the dish that I chose.  The article can be found on the net at http://www.azcentral.com/rep/dining/articles/0118bohemian18.html or the easier way would be to just read it here below.



A matter of taste

Body artist's nudes are highbrow, although his foods seem lowbrow

Jose E. Garcia/The Arizona Republic
The old saying, "Different strokes for different folks"? It applies to Mark Greenawalt for two reasons: one, his affinity for a mix of sausage, mustard and grape jelly - and two, for his unusual art.
"Yucky" is the way Mark Greenawalt's eldest child, Sage, describes his father's part-time job of painting nude models.

To Sage, 7, being infatuated by girls just isn't hip. But give Sage five years or so and he'll likely instead be saying "Yahoo!" after seeing the models his dad gets to touch up.

That said, yucky also is the way one might describe the ingredients for Greenawalt's funky food creation: finger-size sausages, mustard and grape jelly.

"I call this recipe Tennessee Smokies," Greenawalt says proudly. "This is a recipe that no one can mess up. It's been a hit at parties."

We can see it being a hit only if people are drunk and don't know exactly what they're noshing. Sausages, mustard and grape jelly: It sounds like something a desperate and broke college student would come up with in his dorm room.

"Maybe if it was named differently I'd eat them," says Ed Clapper, a photographer who helps Greenawalt on his body-painting jaunts.

Surprisingly, the Tennessee Smokies turn out to be a tasty treat. Another surprise is that Greenawalt's sessions with models aren't for hedonistic purposes.

"You can tell that this isn't finger painting." Greenawalt says. "It's not done in a sexual manner. This is museum-quality artwork."

Greenawalt isn't somebody you'd peg as a body painter. He's 33, the vice president of a mechanical and electrical engineering firm in Phoenix, drives a family van and was at one time a country songwriter with a No. 1 single on the Mp3 charts.

Greenawalt, who at age 9 started taking private art classes, recently invited us to get a firsthand glimpse of the artwork that has made him a sought-after body painter in the past year.

During this odd but interesting get-together, Greenawalt works, feasts on some Tennessee Smokies and then finishes the day with a photo shoot.

Depending on the setting and what the models want painted on them, Greenawalt will use an airbrush or a paintbrush to apply liquid latex body paint, which you can rub right off after it's dry.

"It feels like a Band-Aid when it's on," model Meria Birchak says.

Greenawalt is painting a wetsuit on Birchak, who will only be wearing an actual wetsuit zipper stuck in place by body paint. When Greenawalt is done, it looks pretty convincing from a distance.

"That's what I want," Greenawalt says. "I want people to say, 'That's paint?' "

People are also surprised by Greenawalt's Tennessee Smokies.

As Greenawalt and Birchak head out to a nearby lake for a photo shoot, friends try some Smokies.

"Everybody is always a bit surprised that such a concoction could be so good," Greenawalt says.

A bigger surprise awaits other lake visitors.

To contact Greenawalt, visit www.futureclassx.com.

Tennessee Smokies

  • 10 tablespoons of grape jelly

  • 10 tablespoons of mustard

  • 2 bags of Smokies

    Mix grape jelly and mustard in a crockpot. Heat on medium setting for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Smokies and cook for two hours on medium setting.

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    Reach Garcia at jose.garcia@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8855.

    Copyright 2000, The Arizona Republic. All rights reserved.

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