As little girls, when other children were setting up lemonade stands in their front yards to make money, Dylan and Star Cag were painting faces. Armed with a neon pink blanket, a can of change and some paint, the sisters would set up in the park, charging money to paint designs and characters on other kids’ faces.
Years later, Dylan turned art into a career — after studying theatre at Concordia University for a year, she was accepted into National Theatre School’s Design for Theatre and Film program. Since then, she’s worked in the art, wardrobe and make-up departments for all kinds of television, film and commercial projects across the country, and has designed and facilitated local events by theatre companies like Resource Centre for the Arts and Rising Tide. She also teaches art and has produced programs, workshop and classes for students, including those studying theatre at MUN’s Grenfell College in Corner Brook.
Dylan met artist Derek James during Earth Day celebrations in Ottawa about five years ago, and began working with him as Wandering Brush. In 2010, James, who lives in Ottawa, handed over the Wandering Brush name and business to Dylan.
Today, Wandering Brush is a collective of artists that offers face and full-body painting, balloon twisting and special effects character make-up for different events, like birthday parties, night club parties, photo shoots, theatre productions and commercial gatherings.
“Wandering Brush really started on a grassroots, spiritual platform,” explained Thomas Jordan, Wandering Brush’s administrator. “The name Wandering Brush is a metaphor for how we paint each other; how we influence and affect each other in life.”
Thomas is a basically a longtime, self-taught artist with a 10-month Youth Arts Program under his belt. Until joining Wandering Brush, he specialized in murals and portraits. Art is his life and his passion, he said; particularly working with children.
“My interest is in people, but especially children, because I can unleash the most powerful thing kids have — their imagination,” he explained. “It’s my biggest reward.”
“I love working with kids. They’re so open and have the craziest ideas,” added Dylan.
When it comes to children’s events, Wandering Brush artists can use water-based face paints and glitter to transform children into just about any character or animal, or with any design. Kids at holiday parties this year have been asking for Dr. Seuss’ Grinch, reindeer, Santa Claus and designs with strings of lights.
Butterflies, superheroes, TV and book characters and animals are popular choices all year round, Thomas and Dylan say, and the more mythical and magical, the better.
Because of the detail, skill and quality of Wandering Brush work, the artists find that adults often like to take advantage of the experience at parties, too.
In their new studio on Queen’s Road, Thomas and Dylan offer painting just for grown-ups, either to enhance or transform them. They’ve painted pregnant bellies for photo shoots, tattoo-like designs, and full-body art pieces.
“It’s an interesting challenge to paint on somebody,” Dylan said. “Adults are more socially conscious of their position in the world and often enjoy being able to express themselves this way.”
Earlier this week, Thomas executed a double full-body piece: a couple came into the studio to be painted together, as one.
“They are both bodybuilding competitors, so I thought along the lines of the theme of strength, and I came up with an oak tree,” Thomas explained. “I wanted to try and conjoin two bodies to create one tree.”
Full-body pieces can be modified to incorporate whatever amount of clothing a person feels comfortable with, Thomas said, and most opt to remain scantily covered. He and Dylan, working under a black light, like using special paint that’s only visible under the light, which clients particularly like for nights out clubbing.
Dylan has done years of research into face and body paints from around the world, and all Wandering Brush’s children’s paints wash off with soap and water.
“Face paint has come so far over the past few years,” she said. “I like using different brands, because sometimes it’s hard to get a certain colour as sumptuous as you want it. I’m always looking for new stuff.”
Next month, Wandering Brush will travel to Thailand for a special event with local businessman Ron Stamp, founder of Iceberg Canada Corp. Stamp makes vodka and bottles water sourced from icebergs, and Dylan said he’s launching a new iceberg beer on Thailand. She and other Wandering Brush artists will transform models into “ice queens” for the launch, she said, which could easily take up to six hours per design.
In the coming months, Wandering Brush is hoping to expand their work to include a calendar project, featuring local children with face paint designs inspired by local scenery, wildlife, music, history and culture, as well as books. Dylan would also like to somehow paint the top 10 rock ‘n’ roll albums of all time in the form of body art, she said.
“There’s not much you could throw at me that I couldn’t work out a design for,” she said, laughing.
Thomas sees himself more as a performer than an artist.
“We offer the best in visual art, and our real success comes from the entire process; the entire experience,” he said.
Wandering Brush can be found online at dylancag.wix.com/wanderingbrush, or by searching Wandering Brush on Facebook.