Face painting excites people of all ages

Madison Mock has been a face painter for festivals and parties for the last 10 years.
Madison Mock has been a face painter for festivals and parties for the last 10 years. CDT photo

Madison Mock has seen a lot of excited children waiting their turn and just hopes they calm down when their time comes.

She understands.

After all, who doesn’t like to get their face painted?

Mock, a Penn State graduate student, began face painting at local festivals, like Grange Fair, at her father’s caricature booth when she was 14 years old.

“I’ve been going to festivals with him my whole life, and around that time we were thinking of things I could do in his booth, so I started doing the face painting,” she said.

Mock’s face painting has turned into a part-time job, one where she has seen people from all walks of life giddy to have their face painted.

“It’s not just kids that get excited,” she said. “I’ve painted older adults in a wheelchair with an oxygen. People just like to get their face painted no matter their age, because it’s something they can have fun with.”

Q: Has your business grown since you started it?

A: I’m trying to grow it now. When I went to school for my undergrad at Rochester Institute of Technology it was hard to grow, because when someone asked if I could do a birthday I’d have to ask when it was happening, knowing I probably couldn’t be there. I had to tell a lot of people I couldn’t be there. Since I’m really back here in State College now I want to grow it and do more.

Q: How do you get most out of your business?

A: Right now it’s going with my dad to festivals. Also, since my dad does caricatures, sometimes he’ll ask callers if they also want face painting.

Q: You obviously enjoyed drawing and painting when you were young, but I’m wondering how you practiced face painting. Was it on yourself?

A: Sometimes I did face paint myself, and I can do it pretty well. When I first started doing it I wanted to have pictures to show for full faces. The smaller designs were really easy to show on paper, but the full face ones were really hard, so I did them on myself. One day I did like nine or 10, and my whole face was red from it. People that saw me thought I was just really sunburned, so I just went with it.

Q: You give people options of what you can draw, but do they go off script a lot?

A: Not a whole lot, but there are some that do. The really nice thing about smartphones is most of the time, if I have service, I can look up whatever they want. Sometimes people ask for all sorts of things you don’t expect. At Penn State women’s basketball games, one boy always keeps me on my toes, because he always wants something crazy. One thing I did for him was a dragon on his face shooting fire around a basketball. So, you never know what someone will ask for.

Q: Who are the hardest people to paint on?

A: Sometimes the kids that move around the most before they’re in the chain end up sitting totally still. I’ve had some really little kids be really excited and then end up falling asleep as I’m doing it, because it can be very really relaxing. So it is really hard to tell who is going to be still or who won’t be.

Men with facial hair or women with a lot of makeup on can be hard, too.

Q: How long does it take for a typical face painting?

A: Just a few minutes. It really doesn’t take long and depends a little bit on who I’m face painting and the line. A kid that wiggles around a lot I can do a simple butterfly that takes a minute, so they don’t move so much that it smudges the whole thing. If someone is still, I can use a little more detail for a few minutes.

Q: Have there been times where the line is so long you never really get a break?

A: Yeah, some festivals I’ve started at 9 a.m.and I just keep going until 5 p.m. Sometimes I’ll be paying attention to what I’m painting and hear someone say “No, the line’s back there.” Then I look up for a second, see how far back it goes and just think about how much I want to eat lunch.

Q: You said earlier you get some crazy requests. Like what?

A: I think it’s funny what some older people want. I’ve done David Bowie faces, which I didn’t expect to happen. Preteen girls will want names of people across their forehead like “I love Justin Bieber.” Some kids will want something really specific, like a Pokemon, that I don’t know anything about, so I have to look those things up on my phone.

For more information, email Mock at