Why we LOVE hands and feet! ...or... Where should I get my henna design?

Simple bridal mehndi shows off how dark the color of henna can get on your palms. (Photo by Jim Sanders, Henna by Deborah Brommer)

Simple bridal mehndi shows off how dark the color of henna can get on your palms.
(Photo by Jim Sanders, Henna by Deborah Brommer)

As a henna artist I spend a lot of time discussing where on the body my clients should consider having their artwork applied.  Sometimes they come to me with very specific ideas of what they want and where, and sometimes they just want to get the best looking henna in the most pleasing location.  Depending on why you're getting your henna you may want to consider where on your body your henna will be shown off to it's best advantage!

Typical milk chocolate color for a henna design on a shoulder or upper arm. Henna by Deborah Brommer

Typical milk chocolate color for a henna design on a shoulder or upper arm.
Henna by Deborah Brommer

Not all body parts are created equal when it comes to henna!  Some parts of the body will get darker stains than others... and here's why.  While the henna paste is sitting on your skin the natural occurring dye molecules (lawsone) are sinking into the upper layers of your skin, the stratum corneum (these are the layers of skin that exfoliate off, that's why henna is temporary).  In some parts of your body these layers of skin are very thick, like the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands, and other places are very thin, like your face, throat, and torso.  

This simple but striking design shows off a beautiful dark burgundy henna on these finger tips. Henna by Deborah Brommer.

This simple but striking design shows off a beautiful dark burgundy henna on these finger tips.
Henna by Deborah Brommer.

Henna is a translucent stain, I like to think of it as layers of colored cellophane.  If you take two sheets of red cellophane and hold them up to the light, you'll see a nice red color, but if you take 10 sheets the color that you get will be darker, and richer.  Henna works in a similar way, if you have only 6 layers of skin that the henna can dye it will be a much lighter stain than on an area that has upwards of 50 layers!  On the palms and soles there is so much skin to soak up so much lawsone that even natural henna can look almost black, and on your torso where the skin is thinner it will be a lighter, more delicate brown.

Beautiful henna stain on an upper arm. Henna by Deborah Brommer

Beautiful henna stain on an upper arm.
Henna by Deborah Brommer

As you move away from the hands and feet the skin tends to get thinner and the henna therefore tends to get lighter.  You can often see a very clean demarkation of where the palm ends and the forearm begins in the color change of your mehndi designs

In this bridal mehndi her palms took the henna stain so well the color is a super dark espresso, and you can clearly see how the back of her hand and wrists get much lighter stains. Henna by Deborah Brommer

In this bridal mehndi her palms took the henna stain so well the color is a super dark espresso, and you can clearly see how the back of her hand and wrists get much lighter stains.
Henna by Deborah Brommer

All of this is not to say that henna is only beautiful if it is dark in color, I find the subtle delicateness of a light henna stain to often be just as beautiful!

The delicate skin of the breasts doesn't lend itself to a dark color in henna, but the subtleness of the lighter henna stain adds to the soft beauty here. Henna by Deborah Brommer

The delicate skin of the breasts doesn't lend itself to a dark color in henna, but the subtleness of the lighter henna stain adds to the soft beauty here.
Henna by Deborah Brommer

Many clients come to me wanting very specific body parts adorned: to cover scarring from a particularly upsetting injury or surgery, to get a Henna Crown to endow a head that's gone bald from chemo treatments with a bit of empowering beauty, or to receive Maternity Henna to celebrate the coming of a new member of the family.  All of these reasons to get henna are very specific to the placement on the body and it's the art and the meaning imbued into it that has so much importance and the darkness of the stain is secondary.  Both scalps and bellies tend to have thinner skin and the resulting stains are not as dark as on the hands, feet, arms, or legs, but as long as your expectations are appropriate you will get just as much joy from these placements.

Me applying prenatal henna to an expectant mother.

Me applying prenatal henna to an expectant mother.

This maternity henna of a frilly koi fish is a realistic example of the color you can expect on a pregnant belly.  So beautifully delicate! Henna by Deborah Brommer

This maternity henna of a frilly koi fish is a realistic example of the color you can expect on a pregnant belly.  So beautifully delicate!
Henna by Deborah Brommer

My Trip to a Moroccan Hamam.

A henna design on the palm of a hand that was inspired by the traditional Moroccan Fezi style of henna.

A henna design on the palm of a hand that was inspired by the traditional Moroccan Fezi style of henna.

On a visit to see my sister, who was living in Taza, Morocco (pronounced Teh-za), my mother and I got a special treat of a trip to the local bath, or Hamam (ha-mem).  My sister Sarah and her Moroccan friend “Layla” were our guides.  We stopped at the local market where we bought our necessities: some scrubby mitts, a chunk of raw, black, pumice rock, and mineral mud as a beauty splurge.

Snaking through the narrow alleys of the Medina, I was surprised when we came upon the door to the Hamam, because, as far as I could tell it was not labeled or marked in any way.  Two older, smiling women greeted us, ushered us in, and directed us to strip and hand over our belongings for safekeeping.  They stood with us, grinning, while we hung our clothes on pegs on the wall, saying that they were excited to see our white skin; my sister is very fair with almost blue/white skin and freckles, I’m very fair, and my mother is blonde, so we really stood out as being foreigners.  They seemed to be very happy to have us Westerners there, to show us a small part of their way of life.  

The Hamam had three rooms; the first was warm, followed by hot, and then very hot.  The lighting was very dim, the walls were cement block, or something similar, and it was very moist and steamy, giving the whole place a very cave-like feeling.  Everyone in the hamem was completely naked except for some who wore their panties (including the two women who were running the place), which they kept on while washing too, they would just reach underneath to clean their private parts.  We went into the warm room where Sarah and Layla set down little plastic mats that they had brought for each of us to sit on, and gave us each a scoop of some sort, either a measuring cup or a short handled ladle or a large plastic mug.  Lined up cross-legged in front of one of the walls, we waited while the two ladies brought out black plastic buckets of hot water that they set on the floor in front of us, about seven in all, then, adding from a bucket of cold water, they tempered the hot buckets to a bearable temperature.  Using our scoops, we ladled the water over ourselves.  Then we got out the mud.  It was a silky black glob that we smeared all over ourselves, even through our hair.  We had a lot of fun with this part, laughing at each other all mucked-up. Our giggles attracted attention from the other patrons, who seemed to be happy that we were enjoying ourselves, as well as a few young boys who were there with their mothers.  We washed, shampooed, and pumiced, as our ladies continued to keep our buckets filled with hot water.  As we were washing the two ladies came over and sat us down on the floor in front of them.  Taking our scrubby mitts, they scoured us from head to toe, each of us in turn, scrubbing the skin on our arms, backs, bellies, and legs; everywhere.

We moved from the warm room, through the hot room, where the majority of the women were sitting around on the tile floor, and into the very hot room.  Here I could see where the women filled their buckets; on the far wall there were two openings where water was falling from somewhere above into a catch basin way below.  As it fell the women would reach in with the buckets to fill them up with water.  One opening had very hot water falling down and one had cold.  Here the ladies had us lie down one at a time, to give us a massage.  While waiting for my turn, I was so hot in the room, that I stood next to the opening where the cold water was rushing down in order to get some relief from the steaminess all around me.  Standing with me was a lovely woman with beautiful henna all over her hands and feet, my sister and I agreed that she must have just been married.  When it was my turn for massage, my lady motioned for me to lay face down on the tile floor.  It was hard for me to find a good position to lie on the floor where I felt that my “soft” spots were protected and my “hard” spots were comfortable.  As she started to press down on me, the floor was bitingly hard on my knees and face.  This was not a gently relaxing massage, but a workout to get your blood flowing throughout your body, and to open you up to let the heat of the hamam soak into your muscles.  So, after letting myself relax, and trying to ignore the small places of discomfort, I appreciated the rough and thorough massage.

Collecting our things, we moved to the outer room, where we dried ourselves and sat on wooden benches that were along the walls in order to cool off.  We put our clothes back on, and Layla handed out scarves that she’d brought along for us to wear on our heads.  I was confused about the necessity of this, since we were not Muslims and were not going to a holy place.  Layla explained to me that a woman cannot walk around outside with wet hair.  Wet hair means that a woman has just washed which means that she was recently naked, and that she may have been washing from necessity after having had relations with her husband, to keep men’s minds from this train of thought, and therefore, for modesty’s sake, it is necessary to keep one’s hair covered.  

The two ladies had donned their kaftans (Moroccan dresses) again and joined us in the outer room where they helped us with our things, collected their payment of approximately $5 for each of us, and a tip, as we were sure that we received special treatment.  They told us that they hoped we enjoyed our day there with them and they wished that we would return, not just to their hamam, but also to Morocco.

An Everyday Face.... Mermaids and Monies and Mayans

An Everyday Face 13 / 365

Today's inspiration was water, so I made this pen and ink Mermaid.

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An Everyday Face: 14 / 365

"Make something minuscule." I drew on a tiny pill...the drawing wasn't that hard, but keeping my fingers out of the way while I was trying to hold it still was difficult!

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An Everyday Face:  15 / 365

Today's assignment.... use a dollar bill.  I drew these profiles by George's face, and then I released it into the wild.....if you get this $ back with your change at the grocery store please let me know!

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An Everyday Face: 16 / 365

I was advised to make a stencil for today's face, so I went with this Mayan Sun design.

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An Everyday Face: Cactus and Mountains

An Everyday Face 9 / 365

Today I decided to just do a pretty face with flowers.  I call her Flora.

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An Everyday Face 10 / 365

Lunchman looks a little like Robin Williams. My remnants from lunch at Barrio Queen in Scottsdale.

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An Everyday Face 11 / 365

My mom was here visiting me for a few days, so I decided these few faces would be a little different. On our drive I saw this Cactus Man, so I used the dodge and burn tools in picmonkey to accentuate the human aspects. Here you can see the original photo and then after I "monkeyed" around with it

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An Everyday Face 12 / 365

Another "found" face. This is a photo of Superstition mountain turned on its side and edited slightly to reveal the face.

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Henna at Copper Mountain in Colorado

My beautiful friend Leah of DenverHenna.com invited me to come henna with her at Copper Mountain Colorado.  It was absolutely gorgeous there, we were surrounded by incredible mountains, the weather was gorgeous, and the music was fun.

Leah and I enjoying the sunshine!

Leah and I enjoying the sunshine!

I love doing these off center flower and leaf mandalas.

I love doing these off center flower and leaf mandalas.

Fun festival henna design.

Fun festival henna design.

I love how this side stacked flower henna design turned out!

I love how this side stacked flower henna design turned out!

An Everyday Face.... Cherries, and Tarot, and Totems

An Everyday Face 5 / 365

Today's prompt was to use a collection in your art piece.... but I really don't collect anything.  Then I remembered that I do collect Tarot Card decks so I assembled this face using some of them.

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An Everyday Face  6 / 365

My prompt for today was to use the first fruit or vegetable that you see, so I chose these sweet dark cherries to make this pink cheeked face.

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An Everyday Face  7 / 365

I strayed from the prompts today. I decided to draw with my pen only, no sketching ahead with pencil. I also wanted to do a few different styles of face, so I went with this totem design.  I had very little room left for the face on the bottom, and I kept picturing a turtle holding up the world (like the Meso American creation myths) so I decided to draw the bottom guy with turtle shell hair and a beaky nose.  I'm really diggin' the 60's style background I added!

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An Everyday Face 8 / 365

Today I did a pencil drawing of a sculpture of Buddha.

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An Everyday Face

An Everyday Face 1/365

An Everyday Face: 1 / 365

An Everyday Face: 1 / 365

For my 365 Art Challenge I am using Noah Scalin's Daily Creativity Journal, and following his suggested prompts for my project: An Everyday Face.

Day 1 suggests that you take it easy, do something small, that fits in the palm of your hand, and uses materials that are in your immediate surroundings.  I had done a body painting gig the day before, and had 6 cakes of paint that didn't fit in my kit, so I used those colors and painted my first daily face in the palm of my hand.

An Everyday Face: 1 / 365   My supplies

An Everyday Face: 1 / 365  

My supplies

An Everyday Face: 1 / 365  Drinking water with my face

An Everyday Face: 1 / 365 

Drinking water with my face

An Everyday Face 2/365

Today's suggestion was to think of my favorite animal and let that be my inspiration for my piece.  I love elephants, and octopods, and whales....  I'll give the other two a try some day.

An Everyday Face: 2 / 365 Elephant Woman

An Everyday Face: 2 / 365

Elephant Woman

An Everyday Face 3/365

My challenge today was to use a piece of paper as my material for today's face, but I couldn't use scissors, or glue, or draw on it.  I decided to use a push pin to poke holes in the paper, but it was difficult to see, it just didn't show up very well.  After many attempts of different backgrounds and different types of lighting I discovered the best photo was taken if I stood in the darkened hall, turned the lights on in the bathroom and just cracked the door only as wide as the paper, I could get a photo that showed the light through the pin-pricks, and then I had to really boost the contrast and saturation in an editing program.

An Everyday Face: 3 / 365 Pin through Paper

An Everyday Face: 3 / 365

Pin through Paper

When my son was 8 years old he got in big trouble for taking a push pin and poking holes all over a lampshade.  My husband and I were furious!  We had a trip planned to Disney World for his upcoming birthday and there were threats of not taking him on his trip, of course I really wanted to go, so that was never actually going to happen.  But even today, 15 years later he still remembers how upset he was.  He said he was trying to make art for us, he thought the lamp would shine constellations onto the walls with the holes in the shade, luckily this didn't put too much of a damper on his creative spirit.  

An Everyday Face 4/365

"Take a 5 minute walk and use whatever materials you find there."  It is 100 degrees outside!  I'm not walking anywhere but into the pool!  I brought a couple of handful of rocks from the side of the walkway and while standing in the pool I arranged them into this energetic face.

An Everyday Face:  4 / 365 Stoner 

An Everyday Face:  4 / 365

Stoner 

Be an Artist EVERY day!

I have a huge list of things I “should” do everyday to make myself healthier, to make my life better, to improve my situation, and there are few of them that I do fairly often, a few I do some of the time, a few I do rarely, and others are pipe dreams, but I don’t do any of them EVERY day. So today I am beginning a 365 project. 

I have always considered myself an artist, yet in the last several years I have really settled into a couple of styles and mediums that have left me in a rut.  I find that I am only looking at art that is in my own genre and therefore I’m not really finding my own voice but mimicking the accents of those around me.  I feel like I’m out of touch with my originality and creativity and I know it needs a kick-start! 

I saw something online about Noah Scalin’s “Skull-A-Day” project, which then led me to his book “365: A Daily Creativity Journal”, and now I’m going to try it myself.  

The idea is to have a fairly narrow focus for either subject matter or medium, and since I need to get out of my medium for a bit I decided to choose a subject….. this is really hard.  First of all, if you know me well you know I’m a huge fan of Dia de los Muertos so I was a little pissed that skulls were already taken ;)
I decided to go with "Faces", since it’s something out of my comfort zone, something at which I really need to improve my skill, and will give me lots of latitude for inspiration.

I’m saying it out loud like this so you’ll know and help keep me on track, as I am a victim of extreme inertia.  I plan on posting my piece everyday on Facebook and on my Instagram: @desdeb

I’d love to hear your feedback, encouragement, and suggestions!