Tag Archives: painting

Astoria face and body painter brings out inner child with colorful designs


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of The Cheeky Chipmunk

For one Astoria artist, your face is her canvas.

Lenore Koppelman, 39, is the owner and artist behind The Cheeky Chipmunk, where she has turned face and body painting into living, breathing art.

Born in Queens and raised in New Orleans, La., Koppelman recalls that it was a tradition for her and her family to go to the French Quarter every Sunday after breakfast and get their faces painted. Koppelman said that every Sunday morning she would talk about what she would get painted on her face that day.

As she grew up, she went to college for interior design, and her inner knack for art and creativity followed her throughout the years.

Having lived in Forest Hills from when she was 3 to 6 years old, Koppelman decided to return to Queens eight years ago, and she made the move to Astoria. But her decision to make a career change did not happen until just last year.

While on a walk by Astoria Park with one of her best friends, Pamela Bob, Koppelman pondered over what her true calling was. Realizing that she loved art and loved working with people, she put the two together.

“We both realized at that moment [the face painting business] was going to happen. So I just felt this wave of calm come over me, like I had finally figured out what I was here to do,” Koppelman said. “I got goosebumps and said, ‘I am going to be a face painter.’”

She began painting her friend’s children’s faces for free and realized that something was missing.

“I was terrible. I was really bad. I had no idea how difficult face painting was. I think a lot of parents think, ‘How hard can it be?’” she said. “I then said, if I’m going to really do this, I’m going to have to learn how to do this.”

She began practicing, on herself and others, and reached out to the face painting industry. Koppelman said she was surprised to see the unity in the face and body painting community and she began attending workshops, and meeting other face painters at “jams.”

Koppelman also signed up for an online community called FABA (Face and Body Art) TV, where instructors from around the world share tutorials and tricks on design ideas. She also attended a workshop called Face Painting University and got to learn from professionals in the industry who had appeared in shows such as Skin Wars and Face Off.

“It really took wanting this so badly in order for me to really commit to learning it. This was a whole other level of passion and want. And aside from my little boy and husband, I couldn’t think of anything else I’m more passionate about,” Koppelman said.

Since taking the classes and becoming involved in the community, Koppelman said she felt an increase in confidence. Since September, she has been starting to book more gigs painting faces and bodies, and she even dabbles in maternity belly paintings.

The decision to name the business The Cheeky Chipmunk came from a childhood nickname given to her by her parents and her love for alliteration. She’s now busy offering face and body painting for almost any occasion, from birthdays to corporate events.

Koppelman has also spent her time volunteering for different organizations and events, most recently at a fundraiser held at an Astoria bar called The Quays for a local boy suffering from a rare blood disorder.

She said her favorite moment is the reveal—the moment when a child or adult opens their eyes after sitting patiently through the painting process just trusting her.

Although she is constantly learning and changing designs to meet the latest fads, Koppelman said she still can’t believe she is finally doing what she loves as a career. She hopes to one day publish a book with all her paintings done on her own face and start doing paintings on things in New York she would like to celebrate.

“It’s all about having fun and getting in touch with something inside of you that is magical and youthful and free,” Koppelman said. “Nothing horrible will come of it; it’s paint, it washes off, and it’s a good time. I would love to see more people find that kid inside that just wants to be free. Let the glitter fly free.”


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Painting helps connect Ridgewood resident to his home


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

The simple act of painting his surroundings helped draw a Texas transplant closer to his new hometown of Ridgewood.

David Nakabayashi, 52, has been painting since his early childhood. He moved to Ridgewood from Texas in December and right away began painting the landscape of his new area.

“This takes me out of the studio and connects me to my neighborhood,” he said. “It’s a great area to paint.”

Nakabayashi can be spotted throughout the neighborhood about two to three times a week as he does his paintings of Ridgewood en plein air.

He picks a spot to set up his paint stand and illustrates the scene taking place in front of him on a tiny 7-by-7-inch canvas.

During his usual four to five hours of painting, in which he finishes about two to three canvases, locals stop to admire the work and talk about the history of some of the buildings or scenery he may be painting.

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“There are times where I’ll be painting a building and people come up to me and start talking about different stores that used to be there or the different people that once lived there,” he said. “If I hadn’t been out on the streets I would have never learned so much [about Ridgewood].”

Nakabayashi is a self-taught painter. He relies on his artwork as his main source of income but does it for more than just monetary purposes.

“I feel it is my civic duty if I’m a talented guy to give back to my neighborhood,” he said. “Although my paintings are about the neighborhood what’s really important is the connection between me and the art.”

He described Ridgewood as a tight-knit community and said he has never had a bad comment come from any resident who passes by to watch him paint.

“Ridgewood has been super nice to me,” Nakabayashi said. “It’s an ideal place to paint because there is so much diversity in the area.”

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He said he has held many “normal” jobs throughout his life, mostly in Texas and New Mexico, but none have given him more pride than painting. The art scene in New York drew him to the city as he is now just a train ride away from some of the most famous art museums in the world. He believes that Ridgewood has been the place for him to live all along.

“I never had the experience of being able to go anywhere and see art all over,” he said. “I think this might be home. I like it here.”

To check out more of Nakabayashi’s work go to www.davidnakabayashi.com.

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Painted into my memory


| josh.schneps@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Galerie Porte Heureuse.

On our recent honeymoon to Spain and France, my wife and I wanted to bring something home that would remind us of our trip for the rest of our lives.

I have collected a few pieces of artwork from local artists over the years and thought a painting, sculpture or photograph would be a great memento. We started off in Barcelona and made sure to take plenty of pictures, but didn’t find anything that caught our eye.

From Barcelona we flew to the south of France, staying in Cannes. Cannes was one of our favorite stops. We spent our time relaxing on the beach, taking in breathtaking views of the Mediterranean and dining at fine restaurants. It reminded me of the Hamptons on steroids. But nothing caught our eye to take home and everything was extremely expensive.

We drove through the hilltops of historic Provence to get to our next destination, which was a beautiful town in the hills of Provence called Joucas. The hotel and spa, Le Mas des Herbes Blanches, was a spa overlooking a magnificent landscape of the valley below, full of wineries with hills in the background.

Before checking in, I noticed a painting from a local artist displayed in the lobby. It was a beautiful. The artist made great use of colors and there was something in that painting that I was drawn to, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

The next day we went out and adventured into the different surrounding hilltop towns. As none of the roads had names, at each intersection we just followed the signs pointing in the direction of the town we wanted to go to. The towns and landscapes seemed like movie sets. Towns were literally carved out of and into the hilltops.

Our drive took us to a town named Roussillon where we decided to have lunch before heading to a winery where we had an appointment for a tasting. But we couldn’t resist walking through the narrow streets of this village to explore and discover the town’s hidden jewels.

Walking up to an art gallery, Galerie Porte Heureuse, I noticed a painting in the window that resembled the one in our hotel. We decided to go in and found that several of this artist’s works were on display.

After inquiring, I learned the artist, Andre Deymonaz, was a well-respected and very talented painter. His artwork is exhibited in many countries and five of his paintings have been chosen by the French national postal services for stamps featuring “everyday scenes in Polynesia.”

I was drawn to all of his paintings. Most of his works depict people with blank faces, only leaving small dots for eyes and a nose, giving a touch of mystery to each of his characters.

Deymonaz’s use of colors and beautiful settings makes his art captivating. He depicts scenes from cafe terraces to outdoor markets to the hills of Provence to lagoons in Tahiti.

It was a painting on the far wall in the back of the gallery that Tracey and I found breathtaking. I asked a lot of questions about the piece.  I knew that a piece like that would be making a substantial investment.

I am the kind of person that knows what I want when I see it (like my wife), but I also like to take my time and do research when making an investment. All of the works of art by Andre Deymonaz are a treasure.

Because of our appointment at a winery, we were rushed and I didn’t feel comfortable making a quick decision. I knew we would not have enough time to come back to Roussillon, so I took a bunch of literature including the website of the gallery (www.galerie-porteheureuse.com) and figured I would have the rest of our honeymoon to think about it.

For the rest of our trip and after I arrived home, I kept thinking about that painting. It captured the landscape of Provence I never wanted to forget. After a few email exchanges, I bought the painting and had it shipped to my apartment within a couple of weeks.

I look at the painting every day, bringing a smile to my face and the memory of my honeymoon. Perhaps one of Andre Deymonaz’s painting would recreate a memory you have?