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I got to tag along with my pregnant friend, Erin, to get her belly painted by Jeshka Yurash of Jeshka BodyArt. I actually didn’t know this was a thing — painting pregnant bellies — so I had a lot of questions for Jeshka about it. Here’s what I learned about the artist and her process.
Jeshka is a makeup artist, specializing in face and body paint services for adults and children. So besides maternity sessions, she paints for costumes, photo shoots and parties, and also does Henna and glitter tattoos. She has a background in theater and her flare for the dramatic comes across in the impressive designs she achieves.
To get to her current level of mastery, Jeshka explained that she and other artists like her complete apprenticeships and attend conferences, where it’s common to practice techniques nine hours a day for three straight days. Who knew? After I learned that, I don’t think I’ll ever take a face painter at a child’s birthday party for granted again.
What is maternity belly painting?
Jeshka works with each client to finalize a personalized belly design, and then uses FDA-approved, hypoallergenic body paints to create the image. Since the paint is temporary (it easily washes off with soap and water), she takes professional pictures for the clients to commemorate the experience.
And that’s what it’s all about — remembering this moment in time and celebrating the bump. This is an alternative to sitting for a traditional maternity portrait session, taking maternity boudoir photos or getting a belly cast. Some women do it just for the experience. Others do it as a creative gender announcement, or they throw parties where lots of pregnant ladies can get painted together.
My favorite example from Jeshka’s portfolio was an expecting mom who wanted to be painted as Wonder Woman. Jeshka not only painted the client’s belly, but her entire upper body, and it looked just like the costume. Talk about giving herself some extra confidence as she gears up for labor and delivery!
What’s the process like?
The best belly size for painting is when you’re four to seven weeks away from your due date. The end-to-end session lasts two hours with painting taking about one hour plus the initial greeting and planning, prep for the photos (she’ll do your make up for you, if you want) and the actual photo session.
Jeshka works out of a studio in SoMa on Mondays and Fridays and out of her home in the Sunset on the other days. We met her at her apartment, and it was a very casual set up. She painted my friend’s belly on her living room couch and the photo shoot took place in the kitchen. If you prefer a more professional setting, then aim for her time in the studio.
Typically, Jeshka speaks with her clients before the session to finalize a belly design, and this can be done in person as a free consultation or via email. Erin winged it, and she and Jeshka chatted about what would make a good design right there on the spot. Jeshka asked a lot of questions to pull ideas from Erin and also offered suggestions to get to a design that, as she likes to say, “the client didn’t even know she wanted.” It was fun to see the wheels turning in Jeshka’s head as she processed Erin’s likes and dislikes and formulated an image. Since Erin is due with a baby boy in late October, they agreed on an autumn scene complete with falling leaves and a little pumpkin.
Jeshka free-handed much of the design and then filled in some details with stencils and a touch of glitter. Erin said the paint felt just a little cold on her belly, but she was not the least bit uncomfortable during any of it. If anything, it was a good excuse to lay back and relax for an hour. Jeshka was quiet and focused while she carefully decorated my pal’s bump, which gave Erin and me some time to chat.
After the design was complete, Erin posed for pictures, and Jeshka said that spouses or partners often come along for the painting, so that they can take pictures as a family when it’s done. Jeshka also models, so she had great tips for getting just the right body angle for a flattering photo. Here’s my favorite: If you want it to appear like you’re looking down in the photo, don’t actually do it, just close your eyes. This prevents your neck from “disappearing” in the shot, which isn’t as flattering as the look of a long, slender neck. Try it. It totally works!
How do I sign up?
If you’re ready to schedule your own belly painting session or gift one to an expecting mom, visit Jeshka’s maternity painting website for all of the details. The basic package costs $300 and includes the belly painting session, photo shoot and ten to fifteen digital images. Just a reminder on the images – Jeshka, as the photographer, retains the rights to the images, which means she can use them on her website or in promotional materials. If you don’t want this to happen, you’ll need to let her know.
She also offers a full body paint option for $450 and a deluxe package called the Milk Bath Photo Shoot for $500 to $550, where, after you’re painted, you literally lay in a bathtub full of milk and roses for the pictures. Jeshka told me that one of the ladies who chose this package said it was the most relaxed she’s ever felt in her life.
If you’re interested in the other face and body art services that Jeshka offers, visit her main website, Jeshka BodyArt.
Do you think you’d want your belly painted? If you try it, hashtag your photos with #sfmomsblog, so we can see your designs!
Professional photo credits: Jeshka Body Art