TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — A few years ago, Renee Fowler was a single mother of a special-needs son. She needed steady income.
After doing extensive online research, she turned to face painting in September 2015 and she hasn't looked back since.
"I needed something with very flexible hours and I really love art," explained Fowler, who owns Vibrant Shadows Entertainment. "I just kinda put the two together and this is how it came about.
"It's been a labor of love. I've put a lot of hours into it. I did a lot of research on the Internet ... about how to find the right paints, how to find the right glitter. It all has to be cosmetic. If it's not, it's dangerous. So there was a lot of Youtubing and things like that."
Fowler, 41, lives in North Terre Haute. Her son's name is Devin. She graduated from South Montgomery High School in 1994 and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 2006.
Fowler remembers growing up in Crawfordsville back when she and her sisters would attend the circus.
"My sisters and I got painted as a clown," she recalled. "I thought it was the coolest thing."
Years later, after her father died, Fowler noticed their old clown photos while going through his belongings.
"I remember it being a good childhood experience," she said.
Back then, people in Fowler's current profession used acrylic paint on faces. Since then, she's discovered that is not the safest way to go.
"As I was researching face painting and how to do it as a business, I was finding out that the industry has become a profession," she said. "I also found out the acrylics that we were getting put on our faces when we were children are not safe. The allergic reaction (that some people suffer) almost looks like a burn.
"Also, craft glitter is made out of metal and glass and the dye that they use to color it can leach out into the skin and it's toxic. ... If you get craft glitter in your hair or in your eyes, it can get into your eyes and scratch your eyeballs and you can lose your sight."
Fowler wants parents to be educated about the various products. She uses cosmetic glitter that she purchases online or from specialized beauty salons.
"After a gig, I clean all of my paints," she added. "I use 91 percent alcohol and I spray all of my brushes, even throughout the day after I rinse the brushes out and I know I'm going to use them again. Before I use them, I spray them with alcohol and set them aside and let them dry a little bit before I use them on the next child.
"One time, I will use a sponge and then place it in the dirty bag. Then the next child gets a new, clean sponge. You don't ever use the same sponge on multiple children. You don't ever use the same brush on multiple children."
Fowler, who also mentioned that professional face paint is easy to remove, does most of her work on weekends at festivals, mostly in Indiana. She said the festival season generally lasts from late April through the end of October.
Most individual paintings require three to five minutes to complete inside one of the family canopies. She needs to work fast if there's a long line for her services at a popular festival. Devin usually sits at a table next to her to apply glitter tattoos.
"This is a family business," Fowler emphasized. "We do festivals. We do corporate events. We do private parties, birthday parties, baby showers, weddings. ... When the festivals crank up, so do we. We are usually booked every single weekend."
Sometimes there's a long line of customers.
"They will wait in line, (because) they enjoy it so much," she said. "I try to paint as fast as I possibly can. Sometimes we use the regular face paint with the brushes and sponges. We're also adding an air brush, which makes it even faster."
During the week, Fowler practices on her own face several times.
"Like any professional, you have to hone your skills," she said. "You have to constantly stay up with the times."
Fowler has 56 designs to choose from, such as popular characters from movies or television shows, but she's always willing to learn new ones.
"Kitties and puppies are real popular for the little kids," she noted, "plus princess faces and princess crowns. Lots of superheroes, too.
"At the 'big reveal' ... when the kids giggle with joy, that is the best part of the whole thing."
Beth Busse, who hired Fowler for a corporate picnic in Crawfordsville last summer, noticed plenty of smiles on children after Fowler had performed her face-painting magic.
"Not just kids," Busse added. "We had adults with their faces all painted up as well. It was very fun."
Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, http://bit.ly/2v499M6
Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com