Mug muralist

Mercedes Brereton

PHOTO courtesy of Mercedes Brereton

Face painting is more than just child’s play to 22-year-old artist and puppeteer Mercedes Brereton. It’s an expression of the soul rooted in ancient traditions worth preserving. It’s also a lot of fun, and Brereton is happy to paint faces of all ages through her service, Face Painting Madness. Brereton, who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, answered questions while painting the faces of children at the Silver Dollar Speedway. She can be reached at and through her Facebook page under Face Painting Madness.

How long have you been painting faces?

I’ve been painting my own face since I was a little kid. But I was professionally trained in 2010 in Chicago by a woman whom I found by a park painting the inside of her car, which was covered in sequins. It was really shiny, so I had to talk to her, because I knew she had something to teach me. It took three months to get her to do it, but she finally took me to a party, took me to the store to show me what to buy, and I was set.

How about professionally?

When I came back to California I started doing it because I wanted a job and had a lot of fun with kids. Then I started realizing that, artistically, not only does it inspire me, but [also] the kids. By asking them questions about what colors, what elements, what animals they want, by really talking to them about it, I not only realize who they are, but they realize they are capable of coming up with artistic ideas, too. This war paint really has a lot to do with what our souls are saying. So when a kid asks me to paint a lion or a cat or a snake or a bunny, there’s always something behind it.

Do you do a lot of adults also?

I love painting adults with things like this (points to her face). I don’t like how face painting is viewed as just something silly and just for kids. Most face painters aren’t trained fine artists and just do simpler designs, but I feel like I need to supply war paint to humanity, to bring back the aboriginal décor. I think of African body art, it’s just beautiful work. I don’t see people doing that here, except eccentric artists, and I want to make it more normal. I want people to be able to paint their own faces confidently and go out and say, ‘I look like a badass and I’m powerful because of these colors.’