Art of war for face painters: choosing your battles

Posted by Elizabeth Mackinney on

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Problem: You’re face painting at a party, and the guests are primarily little children. In the midst of the controlled chaos, you realize that one of the parents has snagged your small visual reference book from your kit and is paging through it a few feet away. The smaller book is what you use if you need to remind yourself of a design or for when you need to show it to a child in the chair to be clear what he or she wants. You have placed a large book with your designs in it at the head of the line, which is at the parent’s elbow, and is almost exactly the same as the smaller book.

You turn around and reach for the book, telling him that it’s your reference book and not for viewing by guests. The dad does not let go of the it, even when you take hold it of it as well and explain that it’s the same as the larger display model. He comments that he’s just passing time and does not let go.

The truth is, you’re annoyed. He removed it from your work space without asking and obviously has no intentions of giving it back until he’s finished looking at it, even though you’ve requested he return it. What should you do?

Solution: Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence for face painters. Occasionally guests will even help themselves to small containers of face paint or other small items without asking, sometimes with intentions of keeping them.

In the case of the scenario above, it’s best to stay calm and consider your options. The guest is most likely doing exactly what he says, which is just looking at a visually interesting book while he’s waiting in line with his children. Was it respectful or right for him to reach into your kit and take your equipment without asking? No. Should he have returned it when you requested that he do so? Yes. But is he actually harming it or keeping it? No. While it is irritating when guests do not respect your equipment, this isn’t a battle over which it is worth it to potentially alienate your hostess or a guest (who is also a potential client).

Guests will not know that you’re wary because you’ve experienced events during which your book disappeared entirely, like the time the hostess searched frantically because you had to leave for your next event, and finally found the book under a pile of clothing in her son’s bedroom. People who have never performed at a child’s party also won’t realize that you can’t leave your other equipment unattended to search for things that they have walked away with.

For this situation, the best thing you can do is smile, stay calm, and make sure the guest understands that he needs to stay by you while he looks at your extra book. It’s not easy to work and keep an eye on him, but if he begins to move away, you can be more firm in requesting that he return it immediately because you need it and cannot leave your kit to search for him and it.

Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in the NW Chicago suburbs. Stop by for more of her face painting tutorials. Beth also writes for as the Chicago Face Painting Examiner.

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