Matt Huntley is a body painter living, creating and working in Portland, Oregon. His Facebook Fan Page was recently removed due to “nude” photos of his models on his page. Though all models are covered in artistically executed paint and craftsmanship, censorship remains a key issue for body painters like Matt who are trying to push the norms of artistic expression.


Interview with Matt Huntley

by Aly Laube 


About: Matt Huntley is an experienced body painter who works primarily with fantastical, horror, and special FX painting.

To see some of Matt’s work, go to:


Body painting has been a part of the Expo for a while now. Is this your first time taking part in the event and if so, what are you looking forward to?
2013 was my first time attending the event.  I met some wonderful people, and the experience was a good one.  I didn’t know what to expect, but had a blast, and placed 2nd, so I’m coming back for a second time. 


How did you get started in body painting?  
I’ve always been an artist, and got in to special effects.  After many years doing SFX and theatrical makeup, I got tired of the same work over and over.  How many zombies does the world actually need?  So I started doing body painting, and love every minute of it. 


How did you receive your training?  
I’m mostly self taught.  I was an art major when I first went to college, but quickly changed career paths.  I did intern in the Special Effects field for a few months, and received a decent foundation, but over all I just research various forms of art, talk with painters, sculptors, and makeup artists.  I practice all the time with new products, various paint brushes, and airbrushes.  


What is the best thing about working in body painting? 
I like turning the human canvas into a piece of art.  The human form is already such an amazing art piece, so to use it to create is really the best part of body painting. Also, I do like that it’s temporary (this means I don’t have stacks of canvases piled up in my studio.)


The art that you do is very creative. How do you experiment with your work? 
I’m always testing new techniques and designs.  I test new brushes and new products.  I test to see which products work best with each other and how various paints lay on top of each other.  I also check my designs against what has already been done, and if I’ve duplicated someone else’s work, I try to change my design when I can.  When working with photographers or models, I take their input on what they want the design to look like, and I try to think of a way to get that look as well.   I’m always pushing myself to grow as an artist in all aspects of my art.  


What inspires you? 
Everything.  People, shapes, nature, other artists.  I get inspired to create different things every day.  Sometimes this becomes overwhelming, so I keep a book that I jot down my ideas in. 


How have you evolved as an artist over time? 
My work has become cleaner, bolder, and more detailed.  My use of time has improved, and I’ve become more confident with my designs.


Did you always want to go into body painting? 
Actually, I wanted to be an art teacher. After years of exploring all forms of art, I happened into body painting and fell in love with it.


A lot of the work you do is very fantastical. Is it your own ideas or others that inspire you in this area? (i.e.: movies, books, art)
Most of the work I do are my ideas.  I do also collaborate with models, and photographers on a basic concept, and they give me artistic freedom.  Some of my work might also be an interpretation of some other art work.  I have painted a person and a horse, based on work from artist “Olivia De Berardinis”, and of course as a huge Star Wars fan, I have also done a few pieces that follow that genre.


Many different models are used for your artwork. How do you think the model is important to the piece as a whole?         This is a tough question.  I have designs that are designed around very specific models, and then I have some designs that are designed around body shapes. (tall, short, petite, curvy, etc).  That being said, when I’m designing a new painting I will ask the model what his/her favourite colours are, I look at skin tone, eye colour, hair colour, height, length of torso, legs, etc.  the shape of the model is important to the design, and the design is important to the model.  If you paint a model with a design she loves, she will make that design hers and work it. That being said, some designs are meant for a single shot, straight on, and the model becomes less important.  For instance, if I’m hiding a model in a mural, or against a back ground (camouflaging them), for this type of painting the most important part is the placement of the model and lining up the painting. 


How is body painting different than other forms of art?
Bodypainting is temporary.  First and foremost.  Also, what might take an artist painting on canvas 2 or 3 days (or weeks) a body painter must do in a few hours.  Our canvas is alive, they move, they stretch.  The movement of a foot can change the lines you’ve painted on a cheek… so taking all of that into consideration is very important.


You’ve painted on both men and women. What do you consider the important differences? How about similarities? 
Differences? Body hair.  When a man is going to be painted, they will shave or wax their entire body before. Rarely will a female model shave or wax her entire body, and then they will make a comment about body hair.  Every model, “every single person”, has body hair.  It’s just biology.  Most of it is light and small and can’t be seen… but you hit that with some paint, and from up close this can be seen. Nudity.  Most female models have no problem with being naked for a painting, whereas only a few male models are comfortable enough to get fully nude.  Body shape.  Simply put, women have more curves, breasts, hips, legs, they are curvier and softer.  Similarities? The initial reaction to the paint.  Be it brush, sponge or airbrush, their reactions are the same.  Most have the same questions about how one gets into bodypainting, as well as how to clean up, so I would say the differences are mostly physical and the similarities are mental. 


How did your home life/childhood impact your decision to become an artist?
I’ve just always been an artist.  I can’t remember not being an artist.  I’ve always drawn and been pulled to various art.  My art drove my imagination and my imagination drove my art.  Some people are inspired by music, or theatre, or sports, and I was inspired by colour, shape, lines, and creating.


What do you hope to explore as an artist in the future?                                                                                                               I’m planning my first trip to the “World Bodypainting Festival” in Austria, June/July 2014.  I am hoping to compete, but at the very least paint. I’m hoping to get to work at conventions, as well as do more “Larger” production paintings involving multiple photographers, costumers, and hair stylists.  





 Read Matt’s interview with the Oregon Times for details about his recent run in with Facebook:  

“Portland body-painting artist fights Facebook over nude photos”