Michelle Johnson, from Bowie, Maryland, is a mother of two adult children. Her professional alias is "The Face Paint Lady," an unassuming moniker created by her young clients back in the 1990s when Michelle first began painting faces as a career choice.

A great way to describe Michelle is by classifying her as a deliberate artist for the unique way she approaches her business goals and face painting techniques. Michelle, with innate direction discussed only with her soul, carefully and precisely styles her hair, chooses clothing to wear, selects her spoken and written words and decorates faces, bodies and inanimate objects using flair and style that begins at the root of her thoughts. From the tips of her signature short, blonde spiky locks to her hard-and-fast one-cosmetic-sponge-per-child rule, Michelle exercises a deliberate artistry that is worth exploring

How it All Started

"I began learning Halloween / theatrical makeup in 1988 at Kinetic Artistry [theatric supplies retail store in Takoma Park, Maryland]," states Michelle. Michelle planted her admiration for face painting as a small seed of curiosity, watered and nurtured it through studies and eventually watched it bloom into a mature plant of popular artistry in 1991, when she formally began painting faces at a Halloween pumpkin patch at Darrow Berry Farm in Glenn Dale, Maryland.

Michelle recounts the fateful day in 1995 when she walked into the general manager's office at the Bowie Baysox, a minor league baseball team in Maryland. "[I knew I] got the job when I was asked upon walking in the door, 'Who painted you?,'" notes Michelle. She ended up painting faces of children at 500 Baysox games between 1996 and 2002! Exposure at the baseball games catapulted Michelle's business to great heights. She became instantly recognized as a local entrepreneur who made children happy. From that moment forward, children dubbed Michelle "The Face Paint Lady." Michelle fondly accepted the innocuous title and turned it into her professional name.

Current Work

After 2002, Michelle continued her winning streak by spreading the love to other venues. Michelle proceeded to paint faces at museums, public libraries, corporate and school events and private parties. Starting in 2013, Michelle began painting faces at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Bowie, Maryland and at two different Chick-Fil-A restaurants, also in Bowie. Michelle has also added face painting at Maryland farmers markets and a few select festivals to her repertoire.

Michelle is essentially a solo entrepreneur but receives valuable business help from her adult children. "My son Chad (24) helps me with tech, brainstorming, focus, mindset and groundbreaking practices … to take The Face Paint Lady (TFPL) to our next level. My daughter Natalie (20) has clarified what hashtag use can do when properly implemented," explains Michelle. In addition, Michelle has recently formed a group "Guest Artist Collective" to address creatives and artists she has met in person, and invites them to collaborate at her large-scale face painting events.

With big plans for the future and her nonstop mind focusing deliberately on the next stage of her artistry, Michelle recognizes that public demand for face painting has outgrown her one-person shop. "I am rolling out larger TFPL-branded events that require a team to run. I am doing this so that I can sell TFPL apparel, books and seminars that are intended for multiple generations … [to help people] connect with their own 'Art Selves,'" explains Michelle.

Introspection Versus Description

Michelle's introspection and views of her work is quite humble, resembling the crops of farmers. Farmers generally plant seeds systematically with proper spacing and water, weed them continuously and harvest them using exact tools. The end result is what we see and purchase at markets without realizing the amount of time, energy and effort that went into those crops.

Similarly, Michelle describes herself and her work using limited words without going into detail about all she has done to get to where she is today. "I provide highly skilled experiences and humorous face painting services to groups large and small," notes Michelle. Michelle prides herself on the speed at which she paints faces. "I paint very quickly … [and ] at private birthday parties [I can paint] up to 22 children per hour. I am known for my public speed painting."

It is understandable that Michelle proclaims her ability to paint quickly as a business strategy to help her customers better understand the value of her service. However, the speed belies the deliberate artistry Michelle uses on every painted child and adult, with little room to appreciate the years of practice and effort that went into perfecting the curves, lines and nuances of every painted stroke.

In a series of early videos published on Internet site MonkeySee.com, it is easy to see the proof in the pudding of Michelle's deliberate artistry. The videos feature Michelle looking at the camera, speaking intently and intelligently as she paints while she talks."Lines are more interesting when they have variations in width," says Michelle in one video. That simple phrase helps viewers understand that, despite painting faces quickly, Michelle deliberately chooses her lines to match her personal visions. Interestingly, Michelle outwardly states the opposite, giving credit to the children themselves. "I recognize that the imagination of children is what has grown my company," notes Michelle.

The Future and Social Media

Michelle is enthusiastic about working with new artists to help her meet the growing demands of face painting. Michelle is also happy that a class she took from DOODLEtoonz consulting agency in Bowie, Maryland, Introduction to Graphic Facilitation [also known as Graphic Recording], has brought a new source of income to her burgeoning career. She also has her heart ready to address the needs within her community through art-based fundraisers. Despite the increase in collaborators or the projects she chooses to do, Michelle remains grounded in her mission: "As a career choice, face painting is what I came into this world to do. It has been my door to learning about myself, my family, our world and how childhood is such a special time."

Michelle offers only a glimpse of her services on her website: thefacepaintlady.com. Readers can find a more thorough picture of her deliberate art through additional sources. She is on Facebook as: facebook.com/TheFacePaintLadyUS and Instagram as: instagram.com/thefacepaintladyus . She has proudly featured her own face in wildly colorful, imaginative and unique ways, painted deliberately with exact social messages, and is inspired by specific works of art on her Twitter account: twitter.com/facepaintladyus . Michelle appeared in a children's camp television segment "In the Community" on NBC4 in January 2018. She has videos of her applying alien makeup on a child which appear on MonkeySee.com. Michelle's unique work with "200 Tigers" was featured online in a Patch.com news story.


Amanda M. Socci is a freelance writer who lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband and two daughters. Amanda is passionate about many things, including school fundraising, Girl Scouts and recycling with art. Amanda can be reached at SocciWriter@gmail.com.