A great artist, they say, can paint on any canvas and for Khadijah Guzman, a pregnant woman’s stomach is her canvas.
Guzman, 23, began painting on pregnant women for fun five years ago, using her older sister, Kimberly James as one of her first clients when she was having a girl. She even experimented on herself when she was pregnant with her son. For her, the perfect time is when a woman is seven months as the stomach expands and is smooth.
“I had always had a passion for drawing, anyone who knows me well enough knows that. I also enjoy applying makeup. I started doing face painting and saw artists painting on bellies online and challenged myself to do it.”
Belly art is a celebration of motherhood, and, according to website parents.com, celebrities like Mariah Carey may have fuelled the trend but it also appeals to everyday women.
“For some moms, a beautiful bump is a blank canvas just waiting to be painted with amazing, hilarious, or downright adorable designs. Have a laugh or get inspired to create your own belly art with our favorite reader-submitted painted bellies,” said the website.
Spanx founder Sara Blakely, a few days before she gave birth to her son, began The Belly Art Project, which her website bellyartproject.org says, “is a movement inspired by motherly love, a creative way to capture and share a memorable moment leading up to baby’s big day. Blakely also wrote a book in support of making childbirth safe for women everywhere.
Although inspired, Guzman at first she thought her skills were not as good as she had seen, but with practice, compliments and encouragement to turn her hobby into a side business, she launched her company, Blue Town. Her designs range from $395 to $2,500 which includes photographs, framed photos and make-up.
She paints men too – those with an an increased six pack.
The name of the business simply came to her. There was no special meaning just something she couldn’t get out of her head. This was apt, she said, as their painted bellies is something she hopes her clients won’t forget either. It’s a way to add artistic flare to maternity photo shoots.
“One of my co-workers at Yes Careers Ltd told me that I should stop skylarking and start my business. Recently, I started charging clients and the hope is one day this becomes viable enough for me to leave my job and do this full time” said Guzman.
So far she hasn’t done any “weird painting”, she chuckled, most of her work is cartoon characters. She has a list that clients can choose from or they can either bring their own or if they have a concept she will work with them.
The challenging part for Guzman is drawing the character before painting. She starts by using white eye-pencils to draw the image then fills it in with water-based paint. To outline the paining she use water wax paint.
Once that is done, the 90-minute long task is virtually over.
Her model for the interview was Camille Seejoor-Coker, a lifelong friend and first-time mother. “I’m excited to get my stomach done. I saw her work before and to me it is a really cool idea. I don’t know anyone else who does it. I trust her work. To me this is just another way to document the pregnancy especially it being my first,” she said.
Seejoor-Coker, who is having a boy, chose the character Simba from Disney’s Lion King.
For those worried about the unborn child, Guzman assured that the pencil is soft and she does not apply pressure to the abdomen. She also uses water-based paint because it is easily removed. For clients with sensitive skin she gives a sample of the painting on the skin to allow for a test period. Whether the navel is inward or not does not affect her craft, neither does body hair.
“My biggest critique has always been myself. This is soothing for me. If I can do this full time I will. I hope one day to open a studio where the mothers can also do their photo shoots. I know this isn’t done in TT, so if I inspire others to get into the business then I will be honoured to have inspired others. There is no shortage of pregnant women.”
Her next step is to visit maternity clinics in search of her next canvas and solidify herself as the go-to belly artist.
Guzman can be contacted via Instagram and Facebook using the handle @BlueTownTT or phone 1-868-383-0886.