Girl Illustrated at the World Body Painting Festival

by Sammi Lim

The beauty of the body. Image by Sammi Lim.

Warm weather and the allure of countless arts and music festivals are two things to look forward to come summertime. Sure, our parents had Woodstock, but I’ll bet the likes of Burning Man and Bamboozle never entered even their wildest dreams.

If you’re not ready to rough it in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert or bump shoulders with strangers in mosh pits, start making plans to witness another mind-blowing fete: the World Body Painting Festival. What started as a humble event has now grown into a full-blown festival with competitors from 46 nations.

 A Brief History of Body Painting

Anthropology reveals that body painting has long been entwined with human culture.

This ancient form of body art upholds tradition and superstition amongst aboriginal peoples in Australia and Africa.

The uses of body paint and makeup by clowns and performers in the entertainment industry subsequently led to its application on the silver screen and in Hollywood to promote spectacle and induce make-believe.

However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that body painting began to gain recognition as a fine art form.

Reality shows such as Naked Vegas and other media have helped bring body painting to the public eye. We are now open to a wide interpretation of the ‘canvas.’

5 Reasons Why You Should Attend WBF:

1. It’s paradise for art enthusiasts.

As a body painter myself, I attended WBF to seek out artistic inspiration. It was intoxicating to see so many original ideas, and I gained plenty of tips about the body-painting industry.

The festival takes on a new theme every year. This year artists were required to create works of art embodying ‘Pop Art’ or ‘Artificial Intelligence.’ Marilyn Monroe’s iconic visage was a popular concept, as were alien beings, creatures with multiple heads, or a combination of the two.


2. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful venue.

Since its inception in 1998, the World Body Painting Festival has been held at various lakeside venues in Carinthia, Austria.

Located in the tri-point of Austria, Italy, and Slovenia, Wörthersee Lake has served as WBF’s picturesque background for the past few years.

Come equipped with your smartphone; your snapshots will be the envy of all of Instagram.

3. You don’t have to spend a bomb.

Accommodation: Unsurprisingly, vacation resorts and hotels in the Wörthersee region cost an arm and a leg. Cutthroat proprietors even hike up room rates during the weekend of the festival!

The answer to my financial woes was Couchsurfing. 

A local organizer answered my plea for help and played the role of gracious hostess. Splitting the cost of a rented apartment proved an economical choice for a group of friends traveling together.

I also befriended a solo backpacker who simply pitched her tent on the festival grounds.

Admission: Getting into the festival as a spectator is pricey, so I offered my services as a volunteer.

My initial concern about being worked to death was far from true. Volunteers get plenty of rest and relaxation in between work shifts, during which time you can explore the festival, grab beers, shop for souvenirs, or even get tattooed!

Competitors at the World Body Painting Festival hail from 46 different nations.

4. You’ll meet the coolest, craziest peeps from all over the world.

I had a good hunch that I was going to make some friends for life at WBF.

Sure enough, I connected with and had a blast with a bunch of Go-Girl-like characters. One can only expect a sense of adventure from those attending a body-painting festival. We were all wild at heart.

5. There’s a pre-party as well as an after-party!

Among my duties as a volunteer was to paint partygoers at the opening event a.k.a. Body Circus.

Beauties and beasts frolic in ensembles at this surreal gathering where drinks flow easily and music reverberates through the castle grounds.

Did I mention it takes place in a castle?

I felt like Alice in Wonderland with orders to paint bodies instead of roses.

Equally exciting, the Color Splash party that caps the festival is a messy affair and wicked fun. Non-toxic paint is available for purchase from the information counter prior to the event. Think paintball, but more hands-on.

Be sure to wear something you’d toss out the morning after!


Approximate Schedule* (spread over the course of a week):

– Body Painting Academy with workshops
– Opening party | Body Circus
– Conference with invited speakers from all over the world
– Competition, judging, photoshoots, and catwalk presentations
– Closing ceremonies | Fireworks and Color Splash Party

*Events are interspersed with concerts, dance performances, fashion shows, and the like.

Tip: Keep an open mind to trying new things and meeting new people!

Sure, I never pictured putting false eyelashes on a man in a latex leotard and leopard-print, but I did it (albeit with shaky hands) and was offered champagne by my very pleased model.

Boy, that was interesting.

Need more convincing? Check out the jaw-dropping photo gallery on the official WBF website:

Images by Sammi Lim.

You may also like

Leave a Comment