THE PAINTED LADY: Kay Pike’s Cospaint Body Art

by Tiffany Pegram
images by Kay Pike

Kay Pike is a designer and model based out of Canada. You may know her from her viral videos where she is painted in the likeness of Captain Planet, Poison Ivy, Two Face, and many of her own unique creations. What you may not know is that she hand-paints herself, often taking 10-14 hours at a stretch, to get the amazing finished look that we all see. Kay dedicates an abundance of time and energy to creating a concept and painting these masterpieces from start to finish. We were lucky enough to have a conversation with her and ask her some questions about the whole process and her personal story behind it.

What got you interested in cosplay?
I have always played with my appearance, face-painting and making my own clothes ever since I could use a sewing machine. At the first anime convention I attended, I decided I wanted to dress up to try to get over some social anxiety to talk with the other cosplayers and learn a little bit about their interests and their world. It started as a social lubricant and turned into a way I could care more about others. I love learning about what humans are passionate about and learning about other people’s art and perspectives on the world. I took it to the extreme, starting a cosplay fashion line and becoming a professional cosplayer eight years ago. Being “the Canadian cosplay guest” I ran many panels retelling cosplay stories, teaching the craft, and encouraging others to share their experiences. I evolved into Cospaint when my health got too bad to sit and sew; I couldn’t craft marathon amounts anymore, but being a painter with a lifetime of facepaint, sfx and bodypaint adventures gave me tools to continue connecting with others in the same “cosplay” way.

What do you enjoy about the cosplay community?
Until recently, I never really got what people talk about when they say ‘cosplay community’ because where I live in real life, there isn’t one. I have made all kinds of attempts at building one: from running cosplay events to hosting arcade game rooms, from running panels to opening up my professional cosplayer workshop/ professional cosplay manufacturing tools and photo studio to everyone that wanted to be  cosplay friends, but honestly? From what I’ve experienced locally, so far people plain just want to have more “likes” then the next person and not real friendships. But I finally experienced the legendary “cosplay community” for the first time down in Florida recently! I was a “Cospaint” guest for Florida Supercon and wow, holy moley! The attitudes are so different. People wanted to smile and were interested in one another, not just getting themselves in more photos. It felt like I’d found my people, with a genuine interest in sharing passion and interest in crafts and nerdy things. It is such a completely different world. I actually really want to move down now, ha ha! What I enjoy about the cosplay community I guess then, is find out that there are good cosplay communities out there! We have built our own online on as well, in a way, with people just wanting to help one another in their projects. 

How do you choose the characters you are going to paint?
A good cospaint is good entertainment for my livestream on that’s my first priority. My goal is to create a positive, chill place where people feel comfortable sharing their art and cosplay stories. I focus a lot on being interactive with everyone live so I have a bot that will automatically record everyone’s bodypaint suggestions. We go through together and pick things that will make good bodypaints and good “lols”: for example, I just painted Harley Quinn and did her shrill voice half of the stream to everyone’s delight. You get this, right? Acting the character you are cosplaying is so very much fun. We work together as a group in the live chat to make decisions! There are so many time and budget constraints with producing a show, too, so that’s always a factor. If you ever want advice on fast prop-building, doing things inexpensively and intelligently, and making plans, we have the best people in the world who just hang out in the chat. I would not be able to do anything without the hive mind of friendship.

How did you learn how to paint so well, and on yourself?
I never went to any post-secondary education or art school or anything like that. I have cosplayed for years, since the days we just called it “costuming” (including painting myself green for Gamora) so that has helped massively with public speaking and prop-building and general entertainment skills. I have been a model and had makeup applied to me before, but never any lessons. I was, like many cosplayers, the little awkward art room kid. I had paints and paper, a pencil, and an imagination growing up. I have always played with face paints and sfx makeup ever since I could get my hands on it, so I just have seriously been painting all my life. I learn the most from streaming online; random ideas I make up as I go along and random suggestions from the chat. No one in the world is doing this yet. People have been painting themselves as comic characters for years, but these new weirdo techniques that make the paints really uncanny are all being developed live right now. You, too, can do incredible things if you honestly love with all your heart what you do and keep trying new things! I love streaming, I love connecting with people and encouraging creativity. That drives this little painter to keep inventing new techniques.

What’s the most rewarding part of a painting session?
The most rewarding part of the painting session is and always will be when people tell me I am helping them in their lives, whether that’s through fostering a positive community to hang out in or helping them with their personal dilemmas or art projects. I have very few powers on this earth as an artist, so any time I can use these powers for the good of others it drives me to keep doing what I’m doing. A 14-hour day of painting goes much faster when I know I am helping keep someone doing their art along with me. I can smile a little longer when someone tells me how they picked up their sketchpad again for the first time in years because I encouraged them to share their art. I can put in 40+ hours in behind-the-scenes work and hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to keep the stream alive PER PAINT way easier than most because of the good humans I work with and for in the stream. Sometimes the photos of the bodypaints don’t turn out or the video gets corrupted and it just does not matter to me at all, it’s all about sharing the creative process and the joys therein. And the greatest joy of this interview for me would be if, in any way, any dear reader could use this info to find a positive place online if they need one.

Facebook: @KayPikefashion

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