Saturday, 20 October 2012


When we are with the children on the programme with Volunteer Romania, one of the things they love most is Face Painting
It doesn't matter where we are, or which group we are working with, if we open the back of the car and the children see face paints amongst the goodies we have with us on the day, that's it, they will nag forever for us to start painting faces, and usually, at some point during the day, we give in.
Now, before  I came to Romania to work with the children I had never painted a face in my life. Being the father of two daughters it may be a sad and guilty omission on my part, but if they were somewhere that they could get their faces painted, I left it to others far more expert than me to do a good job of it.
I also think that this is a task for women, not men. Now calm down all of you, it's not that I am sexist or anything, I am just a realist. From an early age onward's, women are looking at themselves in mirrors and painting their faces in some way.
I can hear the howls of derision out there in the ether already from thousands of enraged ladies who don't spend too much time doing this, so I will admit that some spend more time than others and some have more success in doing this than others. However, the basic fact still exists that, in general, women will have had more practice than men at painting their faces, so they are better suited than men to this task with children.
So, imagine how I felt when on one of these occasions when we had about a dozen children all  screaming at us that they wanted to have their faces painted and Alison pushed a face paint set into my hand and sat a child down in front of me.
I looked at the child, fresh faced, healthy pink skin, and an enormous grin in anticipation of the masterpiece that I was about to produce upon her already very pretty face. I smiled back, trying to project an air of confidence and some optimism that I might be able to achieve something worthwhile and that wouldn't scare her too much when she looked in the mirror. She had come to me an Esmeralda, I didn't want her to leave as a Quasimodo.
I gulped, held my breath, smiled again and asked;

"So? What would you like to be?

She half leaped out of her chair, bouncing with excitement as she shouted;

"A tiger!!!"

My first thoughts were 'Oh no, I'm leaving'.
I looked at her oh so pretty face, I looked down at the face paints in my hand, and I had absolutely no idea how I could blend both to achieve anything that looked even remotely like a tiger.
I looked around me, towards three volunteers who were already busily applying paint to little faces (and who were all female, I might add!), then towards Alison who was doing the same, all with a lot of chatter and giggling, and all well advanced with the task in hand.
Briefly, Alison glanced in my direction, and she must have immediately recognised the chagrin in my face, the pleading in my eyes, the silent 'HELP ME!'.
With a slight sigh, and that little knowing smile she has when she can see that I am just a mere man and I need help, she placed her paints on the table next to her, excused herself for a moment from the child she was with, stood up and walked over the few paces towards me.

"What's wrong?", she asked, still with that patient, virtuous smile.

"This one wants to be a Tiger!", I whispered, hiding my words behind the cardboard packaging containing the face paints. Alison knew straight away from my tone of voice, and the look of panic in my eyes that this meant that I had no idea of where to begin, so she took the packaging from my hand and turned it around slowly so that I could see the printing on the front.
There, in glorious technicolour, and perfectly clear, was an illustration of a child's face painted to look like a tiger, using the colour's that came in the pallet in the box, and all I had to do was copy it.
She looked at me again, with that slight, patient, knowing smile. You know, that smile that only a woman can use, that smile that says more than a thousand words, and on this occasion meant things like;
'Don't you think I've got enough to do!'
'Use your brains Douglas!'
'Come on! You're supposed to be Arty'
'Typical man, never reads the instructions!'
etc, etc, etc, .....sure you get the point.

Sheepishly, I studied the illustration and made a plan from it as to how I might create something that came within a million miles of it, and started to apply orange paint to the child's face.

By the time I had finished, about twenty minutes later (all of the others were managing a rate of about one child in five minutes!) I thought that I had achieved something that looked like a cross between a manic marmalade tabby cat and road kill, but when I showed the little girl the end result in the mirror, she seemed happy enough, and didn't run away from me screaming in anguish and terror. As she left, I breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short lived as a little boy leapt into the chair in front of me and shouted;


This time I thought to look at the box, and sure enough, there was Spiderman, just like a tiger............... only with a spiders web instead of stripes.
Now, it is fair to say that some of the volunteers achieve better results than others, as can be seen from the pictures here, and I have actually learned that sometimes the best results are achieved when you give the children the face paints and let them paint each other. Your simple task then is just to be on hand and watch to make sure that the paints don't end up everywhere!
I learned this one through painful experience, when after applying this strategy to an afternoon's face painting, I got the job of cleaning up afterwards. It only took me an hour!
There is one warning though that should be given, and that is about allowing the children to paint your face!
There are no 'mixed' results here, there is just a mess. Yes, one child asks if they can do it, and being a nice person, you say "Of course" and sit back in the chair ready for another masterpiece to be created upon your visage. (In my case you might call it an 'Old Master')
At that point a riot begins, as you end up with about ten children all trying to paint your face at the same time, brushes poking into your eyes and disappearing up your nostrils, your mouth filling with paint, your hair ending up a sticky mess, and the results can be seen here. 
My face is never a pretty sight at the best of times, but when 'enhanced' in this way it becomes the thing of nightmares, or of horror movies (but maybe I could get a job as a Glam Rock star!). All of that paint also took about a week to wash off!

So, please if you are an expert at face painting, or even just a woman, wouldn't you like to come and make the children happy in this way?

Wouldn't you like to come and just make me happy by taking the task away from me?
Save me! PLEASE????????????? (After all, I am only a man!)


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Hi, let me know what you think, it's always good to get feedback