The talented Calgary artist walks us through her incredible routine!
From Spider-Man to Lady Deadpool, Calgary artist Kay Pike has taken Cosplay to the next level, with her recreations of comic book heroes and villains, using her own body as a canvas.
Pike’s work is specifically based off of the artwork of well-known comic artists’ interpretations of the characters, as she uses her master painting skills to turn her 3D body into a 2D painting, using the power of shading to create optical illusions that appear to be unreal. As if that wasn’t mind blowing enough, Pike live streams the entire process, spending an average of 14 hours creating each character and interacting with her fans.
In celebration of “Marvel: Avengers Alliance 2,” Pike recently live streamed painting herself as Iron Man and Captain America, using Sam Wood’s artwork from the game as her guide. We caught up with the artist to discuss how she got into Cospainting, what motivates her to push through hours and hours of painting, her work in recreating “Marvel: Avengers Alliance 2,” and more.
Marvel.com: How did you get into body painting? Did you have any experience in makeup or body paint before you began your live streams?
Kay Pike: I have always [played] with my appearance. I remember making myself up as all sorts of wild characters in my childhood. I was told I was the best baby sitter in the world with marking face painting [as] an activity we did together. While in high school, I would eat lunch in the art room and often showed up to class wearing special FX makeup. During my costuming hobby days, I experimented with body paint for characters like, Gamora; it was so fun and easy being green, I [quickly] became comfortable in full paint.
Marvel.com: Your work has received a lot of attention both online and in the media. From your first Cospaint character to now, what has the overall experience been like for you?
Kay Pike: The experience has been a strange one. I often questioned, “why me?” People have been painting themselves as heroes since the dawn of time and the super hero has been the hottest trend in body paint for the past few years, done by hundreds of artists. I realized that it was my pure love for the art form as a discipline—not a skin show—and positive attitude that has helped my work stand out. By painting live, while encouraging others to get back to their art and pushing through 20 hour work days to create a piece, I have inspired creativity and positivity. Live art creation [and] not being perfect, but being honest and raw has encouraged good humans around me to try new things and remember their creative hearts; that has been the best experience I can imagine. When you do what you love and love what you do, you can do amazing things!
Marvel.com: What would you say is the hardest part about painting yourself versus painting another person?
Kay Pike: Painting yourself is a bit of an acrobatic feat. Okay, everyone practice writing in reverse and using your non-dominant hand—it’s a life skill! You have to be so careful not to smear or drip [the] paint onto yourself and you’re constantly aware of every part of your body—you have to be! The stamina required to stand that long in awkward positions would be unachievable if it was not for the encouragement and delight of the live viewers. I would say [that] the most difficult part of [it] all is right near the end of a paint, [when] your reflection becomes this weird 2D/3D uncanny comic creature [and] you have to wrap your own head around the optical illusions without being able to step back and have a look.
As a relative example of difficulty, I painted my husband as Beast and I was able to get four times the amount of painting done in half the time, with the same quality.
Marvel.com: It can take you up to 15 hours to complete one character; do you take breaks in between or is it a non-stop process?
Kay Pike: Yes, 15 hours is common and a 17-hour has been recorded. I am painting all day. There is no sleep and no sitting down at all when you are a wet canvas. I will take 5 minutes to grab a [snack] of course. What really helps [me] is the mental breaks; we are set up to do all sorts of interactive activities with the live stream, so I will stop to have a laugh with them all day on a regular basis. If it weren’t for the distractions, I would not be able to stay focused [for] so long.
Marvel.com: What do you love the most about Cospainting?
Kay Pike: Painting myself as a character is my endeavor in human connection. Art is all about communication, to take your feelings and pass it onto another. By painting characters [and] becoming the character, you can connect directly with another fan of that character. I believe that is the root of all the costumers that decided to be popular culture icons. Sure, playing the character is fun, the research is delightful and the planning [is] immerse, but that’s not all. We work all [of] our lives to reach one another and nothing bridges the gap like having a common interest.
Marve.com: How long does it take you to prep for a new character and live stream?
Kay Pike: Preparation is key to pulling these characters off. Choosing the character is its own adventure. These are mostly requests from the live stream; we go over references and have polls and vote. Or, [the character] may be something from my heart or one of my friends’ hearts that mean a lot to us. Once the character is chosen, the real work begins.
I’ll pull around 8-10 different iterations of artwork. To get it to a suit design, I mash [those pulls] into one artwork. If optical illusions are required, I’ll plan those in Photoshop by sketching, skewing, and warping a character to overlay my body. I would say [that] reference prep [is] 2-4 hours and another 1-4 hours in there is wig work to do. On go day, setting up for the stream takes 2-3 hours in setting and prepping the room and adjusting cameras. When we’re streaming for the 14-hour average, that’s the easy part. Then come photo shoots for an hour or two, removal for another, and countless hours in post getting images and videos ready.
Marvel.com: What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of recreating Sam Wood’s Iron Man and Captain America?
Kay Pike: Sam Wood decided on very, very, very technical artwork. Beautifully detailed equals terrifyingly challenging. But, if your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough. Iron Man is going to have a hidden nose illusion; this will take perspective and angle trickery to hide my nostrils and lips. The face will be maximum intensity hard; it’s always easier to add more to a character than use illusions to fade them away. Cap is just going to take a lot of stamina. I can see him taking hours and hours longer with the texture of his outfit and his shield.
Marvel.com: You’ve painted yourself as Iron Man before, how will this Iron Man be different than the one you did previously?
Kay Pike: I painted Iron Man as my second paint ever, and I was not live streaming it yet so it was incomplete. I quite frankly got annoyed [and thought] “how on Earth is anyone going to paint with their left arm?” Without the support of my friends pushing me through boredom and fatigue, I quit after four hours of painting. That’s the magic of sharing your creation process with the world. With so many good humans powering you along and being encouraging, I can add 10 hours to that time now and be glad to do it. Going from your worst paint ever to four months more practice, a big attitude change, and the power of friendship is going to make a huge difference.
Out of all of the characters that you’ve painted, which one is your favorite?
Kay Pike: Lady Deadpool was incredibly rewarding. I have been Lady D as a body paint model before and [during the process] all I could think of the entire time was “oh my gosh, what about this, what about that? I should be painting this! I can do a great job because I have been painting all [of my] life, I can participate, I can be more than just a model!” It’s really liberating to feel [that] you can express yourself outside of what you look like, put value in talent and creativity, and say [you’re] more than a pretty face. By allowing myself to challenge the role, social etiquette, and standing as a polite model—risking it all by taking painting seriously—I broke out of the shell of a body to become an artist that helps others find themselves. I could immediately think of a thousand ways to take comic body art and make my own style out of it [and that] really inspired me.
The trick, for me, it imagining the entire scene in a comic panel [and] imagining difference source lighting [like], warm light, cool light, and ambient light. With Lady Deadpool, I went ham with lighting for the first time; I imagined an elaborate scene with street lamps, headlights, and reflections off of downtown buildings at night. Tying all [of] that into imaginary material highlights was challenging and so satisfying.
Marvel.com: We know you’re painting both, but if you had to choose, are you Team Iron Man or Team Captain America?
Kay Pike: Steve Rogers is fighting for his principles that he will stick to ‘til bitter end. Tony Stark is willing to adapt his values to achieve a goal if he likes the end result—a real heart versus brain struggle we all deal with. Furthermore, Iron Man seems to be trying to take care of the entire world, while Captain America seems to be doing his best to take care of his friend. I would, if I had the power to take on the entire world, do anything to help my loved ones. I would face down Team Iron Man to protect any single one of my friends; [I] definitely have the right mix of vigilante and love in my heart to emphasize. I also scream, “language!” at people on a regular basis.