Face painting along with body painting has its roots in ancient history and has been associated with cultural practices and traditions. Both face and body painting have existed around the world. There is some evidence that even Neanderthals may have practiced face painting. Face painting has been employed for religious or cultural traditions, hunting, military reasons, theatre, or for artistic purposes. Unlike tattoos which are permanent, face painting is a temporary work that lasts several hours or even days as with the case of henna painted decoration.
Today, artists and face painting artisans use cosmetic-like paints to decorate faces. These products are deemed safe for human skin and can be applied using a myriad of techniques to achieve a desired result. Face painting does not have a strong tradition in fine art; however, professional artists and cosmologists ploy their trade for theatre and film productions where there is a strong tradition for face painting.
Otherwise, face-painting is often viewed as a form of entertainment one finds at local fairs, carnivals, and other events where both children and adults may are present. Face painting is also an integral cultural practice for many cultures world-wide. For instance, brides are often painted with henna in countries like India. Some archaeologists think that the use of cosmetics today may have evolved from the practice of face painting. Indigenous people who still practice face painting traditions invariably use pigment or paints made from natural materials found in their landscapes. For instance, henna is a natural dye obtained from a certain type of flowering plant.
Body painting, including the painting of faces, did enjoy some popularity as a fine art form during the 1950s and 1960s. The French artist Ives Klein is most closely associated with the painting of models. While models have been painted as if their skin were the decorated canvas, Klein painted models and then instructed them to roll on sheets of canvas to achieve his desired effect.
Around the world there are face painting festivals, conventions, and even competitions to celebrate this art form. Several galleries are also promoting body art exhibitions. Some artists like Danny Setiawan paint reproductions of famous classic art works on people; his work has been featured on talk shows. Many professional face and body painters ploy their trade for magazine publishers as well as the television and entertainment sectors. Designs, of course, run the gamut from abstract painting styles to recognizable forms.