Green, pink, red and blue cloths are draped around the model’s body, and her skin is painted in the same hues. Branches and flowers sprout from her shoulders and the transformation is complete. Although you can see that you are looking at a decorated the person, the illusion of a beautiful garden us real – this is the power of face and body make up.
This is one of the skills that Sin Thuokna has introduced to the Kingdom. Thuokna, who is currently working mainly on background and character design for animation projects at Phare Creative Studio, has raised the bar for face and body painting. This in turn has paved the way for the younger generation, who through his success have realised that it is possible to make a dream come true.
He shared with The Post that after finishing high school in 2013 he had no money to continue on to university, and wasn’t sure what he wanted to study anyway.
“One of my older brothers was attending casual drawing classes in Phare after work. One day he saw all the drawings in my room, as I used to draw all the time on my school books’ covers. I guess that’s how I eventually ended up studying animation at Phare Visual and Applied Arts School,” he said.
“To study there, I had to stay far from my family with no money to live, study or eat. I managed to find shelter in a pagoda and got accepted by the school with a subsidised scholarship and a free meal every day. I was always encouraged to express myself and the Phare founders also helped me to find small jobs. Looking back, I am so grateful for that,” added Thuokna.
Although he learned his animation skills from Phare, his body painting skills were effectively self taught, until he got a shot at studying with Dou Puthmolita, also known as Apple, a Hollywood movie makeup artist.
The 28-year-old said before his four days training with Apple, he had already practised some techniques using Pinterest images, YouTube and Facebook. He had been developing his skills alone for two years.
Morgane Darrasse, Phare Creative Studio’s communication consultant said students at the Phare Arts School learn animation, graphic design and visual arts. However they are free to develop techniques and art practices of their choice.
Face painting is something the school likes to do as a workshop when they do events. It is very popular during the school’s open days, but Thuokna is taking it to a more professional level thanks to his training with a Hollywood professional.
“When Thuokna saw that Apple was coming to Cambodia to offer a short course earlier this year, he jumped at the chance and was selected among the happy few to learn from the master. Phare Creative Studio supported his training fees and he’s been practising ever since,” said Darrasse.
One other interesting skill he’s adopted is caricature. He said people really enjoy seeing themselves turned into cartoon characters.
“I will always remember the workshop we had on caricature drawing, it became one of my passions and I am still practising it today. The caricature was often used by artists before the civil war, and I want to bring it back. It makes people happy, and me as well,” said Thuokna.
Today, Thuokna nurtures many aspirations: from character design in animated movies, to face and body makeup, he dreams about becoming a movie director one day.
Thuokna wants to take advantage of his new skills to create a film that features body painting, says the fiction will be the first of its kind in Cambodia. He believes that art is about experimenting and is no afraid of making mistakes. To him, every work of art is unique and has value.
In the future he will develop the first Cambodian movie that features body makeup. At present he is working in the studio, supporting a collaboration with the NGO Lakhon Komnit to create theatre puppets that will be used in October on the “Beat Plastic Innovation Campaign.”
“We are doing this with the support of the UNDP Cambodia. This campaign will be both a social media campaign and a theatre tour of schools to raise awareness among kids about plastic waste. It will feature a plastic monster puppet and a fish puppet that Thuokna helped to design and create from recycled materials,” Darrasse said.
“The story focuses on throwing rubbish in a playground or in the mountains where demons or fish live. In this regard, we want people to manage their garbage in public places responsibly, not just throw it where it will cause harm,” said Thuokna.
He said that his body painting skills could be used in many ways, including circus acting and film art. Nowadays people like things which are new and creative and he encouraged more students to study this skill. He had even seen short courses offered.
Darrasse said movie makeup is mostly associated with fantasy and horror. She knows there is a real appetite for these in Cambodia. Although nowadays a lot of this kind of cinema comes from the United States or Korea, Cambodia made very popular horror movies in the 1970s, such as Neang Neath. The imagination of Cambodians is still populated with ancient legends and folk tales; they are a great source of inspiration for contemporary artists.
“I believe this kind of skill could have great potential in the future! Not just in cinema, but in advertising and fashion. One of the missions of our mother organisation Phare is to preserve Cambodian artistic culture and help the arts flourish by creating opportunities for the young,” she said.
“We want to encourage all kinds of artistic skills to be showcased and recognised, and that is also what Phare Creative Studio does by supporting their young staff to develop their aspirations and skills in the audiovisual field,” she added.