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10 Cutting-Edge Artists Who Use the Human Body as a Canvas

Andy Golub

Andy Golub - Body Art

New York-based artist Andy Golub uses models to create his “human canvas” paintings. These spontaneous, colorful pieces are composed of multiple models who lay on the ground to form a surface for Golub's paintings and are then photographed from above.

The resulting works are bold, graphic pieces where individual elements are obscured to become part of the whole. Golub is also the founder of Bodypainting Day, which began in New York City in 2014. His work is as much about free speech as it is about creativity. “We're not using nudity as a form of exploitation,” he shares in regards to Bodypainting Day. “It's all about body acceptance, accepting each other as we are.”

Andy Golub - Body Painting


Emma Fay

Emma Fay Body Art

Considering herself a conceptual body artist, Emma Fay‘s work is about challenging visual perceptions. The British artist uses the human body to express a variety of social concepts. With her series Ridiculous, symbols are painted on different body parts to highlight our modern obsession with unrealistic and unattainable perfection. From a “trout pout” painted on a stark white face to a bread basket painted on a “muffin top,” her work cleverly, and cuttingly, reminds us how modern turns of phrase can have detrimental effects on our psyche.

In other work, she combines illusionistic body painting with clever poses to disguise her models as animals or mimic outwardly the calming spirit of yoga.

Emma Fay Body Painting


Natalie Fletcher

Artist Natalie Fletcher studied traditional painting, but soon turned to body art to satisfy her creativity. “I was experimenting with different canvases and mediums and getting weird with it, but I started to get really bored in my studio by myself,” she shares. “I realized that photo shoots with models were my favorite part of the work.”

Soon this led her to paint models, and she found her calling. “It was phenomenal. As an artist, I had to let go of the ideal of perfection. I used to work for forty plus hours on a painting, but I don’t have that time with people, especially if I’m painting outdoors.” Known for her incredible ability to create realistic illusions, in 2015 Fletcher traveled across the United States for the project 100 Bodies Across America. Over 200 days she painted 140 models—ordinary American citizens of all shapes and sizes. She's since turned the project into a documentary.


Emma Hack

Australian artist Emma Hack is best known for visually merging her models with patterned backgrounds inspired by wall paper designer Florence Broadhurst. As opposed to Liu Bolin or Cecilia Paredes, Hack paints models rather than being painted herself.  Her work gained international recognition in 2014 after collaborating with Gotye in the Somebody I Used to Know music video.

Emma Hack Body Painting


Gesine Marwedel

Gesine Marwedel is known for her beautiful skin illusions achieved through the use of negative and positive space on the human body. The German artist mainly focuses on natural forms, whether it be flora and fauna or expansive landscapes.

For Marwedel, “body painting is not just coloring on a living canvas, it is taking up the body forms in the motif, painting on and with the body. It is the transformation of a human being into a breathing, moving, living work of art.”


Guido Daniel

Italian artist Guido Daniele proves that you don't need to make use of the entire body to make a statement. His incredible series of animals painted on hands is a reminder that a keen eye paired with great skill can turn out unexpectedly impactful work. Called “handimals,” the series is inspired by his love of nature.

And while the work is difficult, due to the fact that skin isn't flat or immobile like a canvas, these challenges are what keep it interesting for Daniele.


All images via their respective artists.

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