Face Paint.

  • May 22, 2013

CanavanMake-up by Steven Canavan.

GrognardMake-up by Inge Grognard.

OhlundImage by Andreas Ohlund.

George Catlin’s American Indian portraits, on display at the National Portrait Gallery, are not merely amongst the most valued visual representations of Native Americans to have ever been created – they have also renewed our interest in the art of face painting which, in today’s creative world, lends a dramatic and vibrant feel to any contemporary editorial story. Used by Native Americans for its spiritual and cultural role in ceremonies and at war, face paint is given an array of poignant meanings. Whether by incorporating it into a Native-inspired shoot or by drawing inspiration from it for a more modern take, make-up artists and photographers alike have understood the power of face paint for conveying an emotion and adding tension to a photograph.

What we noticed amongst Catlin’s paintings was a subtle reference to black face paint which, according to the beliefs of indigenous peoples, symbolises power, aggression and strength at war. Inspired by these symbolisms, we sieved through the talent featured on The Creative Directory to find three images that we believe best embody a sort of Native American spirit through their vivid and striking use of face paint.


George Catlin: American Indian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, until 23rd June 2013.


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