First and foremost, introduce yourself to our readers. What is BLVisuals and how did your conception come to life?
I’m Brad Lawrence, a Fine Artist from Michigan that graduated from College for Creative Studies with a focus on hyper-realism drawing. My company, BLVisuals, was formed in 2011 as a moniker for my fine art career and a way for me to paint abstractly and outside of the traditional gallery realm, but has ultimately transformed into a group of artists utilizing hydrodynamics to create one of a kind apparel and temporary body paint in a more abstract fashion. With UV reactive, skin-safe colors, our body marbling has become a way to enhance people’s experiences at festivals and concerts – but ultimately, this company came into being after I developed chronic tendonitis in both of my wrists through drawing so much and was unable to continue in my solo artist career. The larger paint bottles I use gave me a way to continue to express myself while slowly strengthening my damaged wrists, and painting at festivals and meeting so many cool people was the distraction from my daily pain. One of my best friends from growing up was just returning to Michigan after receiving a Purple Heart through the Marine’s – and wanted to help me recover from my physical limitations after going through the rehabilitation process himself, so he was the first to join the crew and help me get my equipment to festivals and set-up my painting tanks. Since then, many friends and family members have joined the crew to bring color and the love of art to festivals and special events across the country and it’s been amazing to see what this idea has become in just a few years.
Walk us through the process of getting a body part morphed into a work of colorful, abstract art through body marbling.
We start each person off in a salt water soak. The salt water dries on the skin and acts as a sort of bonding agent that gives the skin a texture for the paint to stick to. Once the salt water is dry on the skin, an artist begins to create a painting on a fluid surface, which can be manipulated as each color is added. Dragging pins through the colors gives an extra unique look. The guests then dip their arms, slowly, through the painted surface. The paint adheres immediately, and the excess paint is rinsed in a bin. What’s left is an incredible temporary tattoo sleeve!
What is your perception of the connection between tattooing and body marbling? How do you perceive the two mediums complement one another?
Tattooing is an incredible art form since there are so many different styles and each artist has their own unique creative input. Body marbling is definitely a bit easier in the overall design, since it’s abstract, and can only really be abstract. But there are definitely a lot of really good connections, like the understanding of how colors work together, or how they complement and contrast. Though body marbling is definitely appreciated by those that are looking to get colorful body art without the commitment, we’ve certainly painted up hundreds of tattoo enthusiasts, and we love the way the body marbling allows tattoos to show underneath, adding a new color scheme to their existing line work. It’s also really effective at covering up scarring, which is pretty neat for people who may not be able to get tattoos on newer scars.
Any upcoming festival or show appearances that you can fill us in about?
We’re looking forward to Okeechobee in Florida again this year, where we’ll be featuring our body marbling alongside our apparel, hats, and accessories! We also have our fingers crossed that we will be returning to Electric Forest festival where I first debuted body marbling in 2013. We’re not entirely certain what other public shows we’ll be working, but we always update our Tour page on our website to keep everyone informed!
Tell us about some of the recent projects that you’ve worked on and those you have collaborated with?
We recently collaborated with Zappos, the e-commerce shoe site, who ended up being such a great client with an inspiring culture that we are working with them in an attempt to collaborate on a series of Vans or Converse x BLVisuals shoes. We are hoping that we can do a mix of live painting some of the shoes while also having certain patterns and designs sublimated and printed in order to be able to get our designs on potentially thousands of feet across the world! We’ve also been working with the duo of illustrators known as Black Ink in order to turn some of our paintings into a deeper piece by painting in characters or images within the abstract painting to create memorizing collaborative pieces. We hope to work with more and more visual artists in order to continue developing a portfolio of these amazing combination paintings with a variety of styles being brought to our abstract work. We’ve also been trying to collaborate with more models and photographers to create gorgeous full-body paint images, and after working with Natasha Wilson from DeAnastacia Photo and Christine Adams from Idiivil we are very excited to continue pushing this avenue and bring even more beauty into the world.
Have you connected deeper with those around you and awakened possibilities in life that you didn’t necessarily know in mind prior through your artistry?
It’s definitely been a wild journey, and we’ve learned a lot through our connections and travels. We know it’s really important to be able to appreciate the beauty in life. We try to take extra days after busy events to soak in the sunshine, climb a mountain, reconnect with old friends, check out a gallery, or explore the local regions we’re staying in. Art definitely helps to balance the stresses of life and becomes a constant reminder that what we’re doing is amazing and that we’re all incredibly lucky to have such a strong crew of friends to create with.
As you are on the road quite often, what are your thoughts on the ever-changing and artistic transformation happening in your hometown, Detroit?
It’s been incredible watching Detroit grow and blossom. Many would note that on the whole, there are still a lot of intrinsic problems that are holding the city back as a whole, but the counterculture, the artists, the underground theaters and event spaces- they’re all thriving. It’s amazing now that there are so many different activities for artists and creative minds in Detroit. Collectives of poi and acro performers can be found in the streets during Noel Night or Theatre Bizarre, art galleries are everywhere, free yoga events and inexpensive shows and concerts can be found almost every weekend, and we’re all so proud to call this city home.
2017 is bringing us all across the country, making body marbling much easier to partake in. We’ve been gearing up for possibly more festivals than last year, which are always an absolute blast (we tend to stay out late and start dance parties in our booth, complete with all of our wild lighting and trippy 3D glasses). We’re hoping to touch more lives and spread the love of color further than ever before, and though we’re not entirely certain what this new year will hold for all of us, we know we’ll be packing the good energy and paint all year long! We are hoping to make even better connections during our travels to hopefully collaborate with some bigger names in the art/music industry, launch a shoe design via Vans or Converse with the help of Zappos, and also hope to get an opportunity to do a semi-permanent installation based art experience in the near future.
If you could share any words of wisdom with your younger self when you began to bring BLVisuals to life, what would you say?
Do not get frustrated! Stay focused on the reasons why you started BLV and keep them when the finances get tight – or else you’ll never find the motivation to push through. Keep your eye on where you want the company to expand to, and chip away every damn day to make it happen, and when you step back in a year or two you’ll be amazed at what you’ll have accomplished. Being on a journey with your best friends and traveling the country meeting other great humans is well worth the stress and challenges that come with trying to be the master of your own universe. Stay positive and keep relations with your crew as good as you can because at the end of the day they are the ones that have your back when outside forces take your feet out from under you.
Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for admirers of BLVisuals?
Thank you all for your tremendous support, whether you have followed us for years, or just discovered us online last week. You’re the driving force behind our art, and without your enthusiasm and love, we never would have been able to create such a strong group of people dedicated to art and the healing powers that come with it. We hope to share more memories with you all very soon, and as always, stay colorful!