CALGARY—Kay Pike stands in front of a giant lit mirror, dabs her brush into a glob of paint, and touches it to her skin.
She’ll repeat the motion thousands of times over the next 12 hours as she transforms herself from a willowy blond artist to the dark-haired “Man of Steel” for a throng of viewers following along on the Internet.
“We don’t talk about gender roles on my channel. In fact, when people say you should paint yourself as Superwoman, I’m like, ‘No. I want to paint myself as Superman,’” said Pike, who, when she’s done, looks like she could have been ripped from a comic book panel.
“It doesn’t matter,” she added. “When you’re painting a canvas, you’re not thinking this is a girl canvas or this is a boy canvas.”
Pike is a fan of cosplay in which participants wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character from anime, comic books and cartoons, video games, or movies.
Twice a week, the 28-year-old spends up to 15 hours turning her body into a different character for an Internet audience.
“I’ve been painting my whole life,” Pike said in a interview with The Canadian Press at her studio in northwest Calgary.
“It kind of comes easily to me, but it’s a lot of practice and hard work, too.
“Art is art,” she reasoned. “I’m one of those art class nerds that would go and eat lunch in the art room and hang out with the art supplies.”
After sitting as a body paint model for a friend, Pike realized she still could dress up without having to make a costume.
She posted a video of her first solo effort on Reddit and it caught the attention of Twitch.tv, a live-streaming company in San Francisco.
“One week later, I was live streaming body paint on Twitch,” she said.
Her sessions are a mix of reality TV and info-tainment.
There are contests for signed prints or balloon animals she makes on screen.
She receives a little advertising money, but relies more on donations from viewers to offset her costs and from Patreon.com, a crowdfunding site for artists.
In between singing along to pop music and answering questions from her followers, Pike gives step-by-step details on how she goes about creating the character.
The audience is an equal split of male and female fans between 18 and 38.
Pike said it would be boring and lonely to do the painting without an audience.
“While you’re painting it, it’s a lot more satisfying . . . because you have the joy of creation,” she remarked.
“At the end, it’s a little sad to wash it off.”