A face painter who gave footballer Theo Walcott a scary edge for Halloween has won an award after an unexpected return to the competition arena.
Artist Zoe Thornbury-Phillips has been transforming people with her paintbrush for 20 years following a career change after the birth of her first son.
She helped striker Theo make his famous face unrecognisable by using paints and theatrical wax to transform him into Heath Ledger’s Joker for the scariest night of the year. The footballer’s wife Melanie was also painted to become fellow Batman super villain Harley Quinn.
“He was delightful and he had really lovely skin,” said Zoe. “He is so sweet and not arrogant or big headed in anyway. They just seemed to be a very sweet, happy, young couple. I feel privileged when people let me into their lives to paint them.”
In 2010, award-winning Zoe, of Berkhamsted, decided to take a break from the competition scene so that she could concentrate fully on making a living from her craft.
“I had had enough of competitions as the time pressure is intense and I always get the shakes,” she said.
But the mum of two recently made an unexpected return to contests and, even more to her surprise, she came first in the competition held during an annual face painting gathering at Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne.
The theme was endangered species and Zoe painted the ocelot, panda and monarch butterfly on 15 year old Cherry Halfyard, from Hemel Hempstead.
Zoe, who won UK face painter of the year and UK body painter of the year in 2010, said: “Suddenly I heard my name being called from the crowd of people 30 feet away, I ran over and someone said ‘you’ve won’.
“I was so happy as there are so many good new painters around now and it feels great to be validated for my skills.”
I still get a buzz from seeing a child’s reaction when they have that mirror moment and show them their transformation.Zoe Thornbury-Phillips
Although Zoe gets booked for a range of professional jobs, such as music videos, festivals, corporate events and commissions, she still regularly does children’s face painting at Berkhamsted’s Brasserie Blanc and takes bookings for birthday parties.
“I still get a buzz from seeing a child’s reaction when they have that mirror moment and show them their transformation,” said Zoe.
“For children it is a bit like you have created some magic in their life. To see their amazement is really satisfying and makes me really happy.”
Zoe said her recent competition success has not inspired her to return to competing.
“I don’t feel the need to do them now,” she said.
“I feel I have proved myself so I enjoy working as a face and body painter and running my business and being at home a bit more because I have got a teenager who needs attention.
“For lots of these competitions you have to go away for face and body conventions, which are usually a whole weekend and you have to do a lot of preparation, designing and prop making.”
Zoe is also part of a team employed by the FA to paint England flags on the faces of supporters on match days.
She will be at BerkoFest in September.
To find out more about Zoe visit www.aboutfaceuk.com