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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fashion Painted on the Body

Ever since the female of the species stood erect, women have been known to decorate their bodies in any number of ways. Some choose the more traditional route of cosmetics and accessories, while others are more extreme, opting for tattoos and body piercing. One current trend in body art - employing a method women used to adorn themselves thousands of years ago - is gaining popularity among women on the frontlines of fashion. And one of the leaders of this rare art form happens to be Moscow's own Larisa Sotnikova.

"Women will seek to attract a man's attention in any possible way," said Sotnikova, a stylist at the Wella-Dolores beauty center, one of the few Moscow salons to offer body art.

A professional hairdresser and makeup artist, Sotnikova started dabbling in body painting in 1997. She even took the grand prize during the annual competition of decorative cosmetics for her Tatlin Tower, a futuristic model that featured body art elements inspired by Soviet constructivism.

Six months later, professional necessity made her turn to body art again. The conditions of the annual Rose D'Or international contest in Paris required presentations of hairstyle, makeup and body-art design. Sotnikova's work once again took the grand prize. At the World of Beauty contest in 1999, she claimed the grand prize for a third time for her "In the Flatness of Dali" design. But in spite of these successes, she still considers her body art to be a hobby.

"After my victory in Paris, I didn't think I would continue body art - especially in our beauty salon. But some of my regular customers started to request it for big holidays or special occasions," she said. The New Year's season is a particularly hot time for Sotnikova.

"Often body art is an impromptu thing, but it must also be in harmony with the hairstyle, makeup and dress," Sotnikova said, adding that the style of the art must also be in keeping with the nature of the event.

"If it is a chic party in a fashionable nightclub there are no limits to the designs you can make. But if it is the Bolshoi Theater, something more modest is required - for example, a delicate design on the shoulder-blade under a transparent fabric," Sotnikova said.

Judging from her portfolio, Sotnikova can paint everything from authentic-looking fishnet stockings to much broader surface areas. But she saves her most extravagant works for the contests.

"The wall is a better place than the body for big paintings. Body art is an art that is washed away a few hours after it was created."

At the same time, there are certain challenges to this fleeting art form that one does not experience when facing a blank wall.

"The body is not a simple canvas," Sotnikova said, adding that it is necessary to take into account the individual's body when conceptualizing the design.

Among her clients, Sotnikova is best known for doing small drawings above low-cut necklines or on the open back. In addition to the more traditional flowers and butterflies, ancient ethnic symbols are also growing in demand.

"For those clients who don't want the design to be permanent, body art is an alternative to getting a tattoo. This way the client will never grow bored of it," she said.

Depending on the size of the painting, body art designs take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to complete. First the body is covered with a liquid foundation, after which the artist uses a watercolor paint made specially for the body. That design is then covered with a special spray that prevents the paints from running or soiling the client's clothes. The whole process can cost up to $200 - and is generally washed away with soap within a few hours.

A body art design may be as short-term as it is expensive, but this does not stop Sotnikova's clients.

"One of my body art clients was a 15-year-old schoolgirl whose extravagant mother wanted her to be the prettiest at her school's St. Valentine's Day party," Sotnikova said. "I painted 3-dimensional hearts on her cheeks and shoulders and covered them with gold powder. Do I need to mention that she was the belle of the ball?"