Ebony Anderson's first set of acrylic paints came from her dad when she was 11 years old.
That gift launched a love affair with art that led to a bachelor's degree in fine arts and studio painting, a brief career as an art teacher and now the owner of Ebony Child, a face painting business that she's built over the past few years.
"I'm just thankful I get to do this," says the mom of two from Raleigh.
I first saw Anderson at work about a year ago when she painted a butterfly on my daughter's face at a N.C. Symphony event. Her face had been painted plenty of times, but this was one of those jaw dropping designs that even I hated to see washed away that evening. Her face was completely transformed with bright, vivid colors.
Anderson joined the face painting world after trying it out at her older daughter's third birthday party. She was a stay at home mom at the time, having quit her teaching job after her daughter was born.
Anderson was already painting murals as a side business. As she prepared for her daughter's third birthday, she began searching for face painters. Her husband suggested she do it. So she bought some paints from Walmart and gave it a shot. She was hooked.
Just seeing kids' reactions once they see their completed faces makes it all worth it, she said.
"My eldest introduces me as 'this is my mom, the face painter,'" she said. "She thinks it's cool. She wants to do it."
These days, Anderson has done it long enough to know what design will look best on what child based on the shape and contours of his face. She's known for her butterflies, tiger and Spider-Man designs, but she'll do whatever a child wants.
"Kids are very imaginative and I think they are more face painting pros than we are," she said.
The job also has allowed her to spend days with her girls. Most of the events that she works, including birthday parties, festivals and other special events, are on the weekends.
Anderson continues to do the murals, but she's also branched out into other avenues, including body painting, balloon twisting and more. Her party packages can include costumed characters.
And she and her husband also have begun storytelling at local libraries and other events. Both Anderson and her husband, Justin, were involved in theater in college.
Anderson now has four other face painters on staff and wants to expand the business. She's looking for more face painters, balloon twisters and costumed actors for birthday parties.
"It was a life saver for me to provide money for my family, but still be with my kids," she tells me.
She hopes to offer the same opportunity to others.
I had a great time meeting up with Anderson for our interview. She is full of energy and clearly loves what she does. Hear more from Anderson in the video and check out all that she offers on her website.
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