Artist Spotlight: Bodypainter extraordinaire, Craig Tracy - IntheNOLA.com
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Artist Spotlight: Bodypainter extraordinaire, Craig Tracy

Editor's Note: From the first time we saw artist Craig Tracy's creations on the human body, we were captivated and we featured him on IntheNOLA.com in 2010! With his bodypainting expertise, Craig is one of the featured judges of "Skin Wars" with entertainer RuPaul and fellow bodypainting artist Robin Slonina, and hosted by actress Rebecca Romijn. Be sure to check out the show and support one of NOLA's own homegrown boys!

At this year’s White Linen Night on Julia St., there was a little bit more color than usual. In fact, there were several painted people zigzagging in between all those white linen outfits. Yes, New Orleans, we said painted people. In case you were wondering who was responsible for this spectacle, it’s time for you to meet our new Local Artist Spotlight, bodypainter Craig Tracy of the Craig Tracy Fine Art Bodypainting Gallery, the only gallery in the world dedicated to the art of bodypainting.

Many people would say that Craig has the best job on the planet: travel, paint, live in the French Quarter, and not necessarily in that order. And IntheNOLA would have to agree that Craig’s job is pretty sweet. To have such passion for your art form and live in such a passionate city has got to feel good…amazingly good.


Like all of our other artists that we’ve featured, Craig always knew he had a special talent. “I’ve always been an artist,” he said. When I was 5, I knew I was an artist. The only thing that had me conflicted was that I also loved sports. So I would go back and forth with the idea of being an artist or an athlete because they usually don’t go together. I played football, baseball, and basketball. I loved the physical aspect of sports, but it turned out that I was 5’5” and 127lbs. So needless to say, I went with the art!”Craig Tracy New Orleans | InthekNOwla.com
Interestingly enough, however, Craig was not really drawn to the specific art form of painting. As a child, he drew with colored pencils and markers until he landed his first job at Pontchartrain Beach at the age of 15. “I made $2 an hour at my job at Pontchartrain Beach and I was able to save up enough money to buy my first airbrush. This was one of those pivotal moments in my life as an artist. Buying that airbrush changed everything forever. The next pivotal moment happened when I was in high school. During senior year, the guidance counselor looked at my work and asked me if I was going to art school. I told her that it was impossible because my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college. So she said, ‘If I can get you into art school without your parents having to pay, will you go?’ I said yes, and so began the journey.”


Craig’s transition into the bodypainting world didn't happen immediately after graduating from college. For a period of time, Craig worked as an illustrator for advertising agencies and editorial publishing houses, a job that he described as being “mind-numbingly boring andCraig Tracy New Orleans | InthekNOwla.com lonely,” where he felt no connection to the work he was doing. However, the days of illustrations came to a close after painting on a friend's body. “The pivotal moment with body painting came to me with the first body that I ever painted. I was 23 years old and I painted a radio station logo across a friend’s breasts that we then photographed in front of the police station as a prank.

"Then, in 1992, I saw an image of Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair in full body paint and that image stuck with me. Years later, I started getting asked to paint faces for Halloween and Mardi Gras, but I refused to do it for a long time. Finally, I decided to try it and loved it instantly.”

Face painting lead to naked bodies and Craig found himself enjoying the art form of bodypainting more and more until he finally told himself that it was time to become more serious about it. “Once I realized that I was really serious about bodypainting, I scoured the web looking for bodypainters. I was so fueled by the images that I was finding online from other artists that I knew this was something that I had to get into. I found some really great work from other artists around the world, but I also found that there was a lot of room for improvement and a lot of uncharted territory.

"So I did my first 25 bodypaintings, created a website, and started sharing my art with the world. While the website got a lot of traffic, no one bought anything. It wasn’t until I got my art in a gallery in Chicago that it started to sell. So I said, this is the way to roll and I started trying to get my art into other galleries. A friend of mine had opened a gallery on Royal St. and that inspired me to work towards attaining my own gallery. I saved my money, waited a couple of years, created some more art, and then I opened my own gallery. Of course, there was this little disruption called Katrina, but it didn’t stop me, it just postponed everything for a few months. I opened the gallery five months after the storm and I’m proud to have been part of the recovery effort.”

Two of Craig’s favorite pieces are “Twogether,” a four panel piece depicting two trees reaching to be united, and “Speed,” an awesome display of a cheetah sprinting on the side of a woman’s body.

Craig said, “A bunch of my work is paint brush, airbrush is about 20%, and I also do sponging and finger painting. I don’t paint in one way over and over again and I don’t want or have a style. Most artists strive to be recognized by painting the same thing over and over again so that it becomes their style, but I don’t do that. I try and break convention in many ways. I don’t want to be known for a style, I’m letting the art form be stronger. The art form is definitive enough that I don’t mind being a bodypainter, I actually prefer it. In fact, I’m not at all interested in painting on other surfaces. Bodypainting kinda messes your head up!”Craig Tracy New Orleans | InthekNOwla.com

And of course, Craig is a true lover of New Orleans, having been born, raised, and still living in the city.

“I thought, at first, that the influence of the city wasn’t significant, but when I thought about it some more, I saw how wrong I was. New Orleans, for me, is like my mother. Without New Orleans, I would not be here painting. I’m looking through my family’s photo albums and we’re painting each others' faces for Carnival. That’s when it hit me and I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. This whole time I was walking around thinking that I was just me, but I was completely wrong. If I had grown up in any other city in the world, I wouldn’t be me. I would not be here. I wouldn’t be in this art form. New Orleans is tremendously significant. We have a city that embraces the individual and not a lot of cities do that.”

So if you’re ever strolling around in the French Quarter, be sure to stop by the Craig Tracy Fine Art Bodypainting Gallery on Royal St. One of the things we loved about Craig and his gallery is how relaxed we felt inside. Usually, art galleries can be a little stuffy and pretentious, but please believe that anyone is welcome in this gallery. The main question is are YOU ready for the gallery?

You will definitely not be disappointed by what you find. In fact, you may want to get bodypainted yourself!

Craig Tracy Fine Art Gallery
www.craigtracy.com

827 Royal Street

New Orleans, LA 70116

(504) 592-9886
Last modified on Thursday, 07 August 2014
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