Former Disney World artist launches face-painting business

Dee Pridemore wants people to know that face painting can be more than a hobby.

She has made it her business to change the perception and has turned it into a professional career.

By all accounts, it’s been successful as she’s recently landed work with an Oregon amusement park.

“I love making people happy,” she said recently while painting children’s faces at the Gesa Carousel of Dreams in Kennewick. “A kid can be having the worst day. You give them that one moment, and that experience makes their day. You touch their heart. And my office is different every day.”

Pridemore’s business is called Vivid Imaginations Professional Face & Body Artistry.

“I fell into this,” she said. “I’ve always been an artist since I picked up crayons.”

When she was younger, she moved to Orlando to pursue acting and dance.

“But I needed a job. My cousin said, ‘You’re an artist. Come audition for a face-painting job,’ ” she said. “The first day, I did swirls and teardrops for eight hours straight.”

She worked at Animal Kingdom and Toon Town within the Walt Disney World theme parks.

Working at Disney required a brief education on proper cultural etiquette, taught by the Disney University of Guest Services. Pridemore has instilled what she learned in her employees.

The training follows the philosophy that employees are cast members and everything is a stage. She said finger pointing isn’t allowed because in some cultures, it is considered rude and her team should never answer a question with, “I don’t know.”

“It’s about what it means to be on stage and always making sure everyone is having a good time,” said Pridemore, who has been painting faces for 13 years.

Vivid Imaginations was born out of necessity in 2016.

“I suddenly became a single mother in October of 2016,” Pridemore said. “I was a stay-at-home mother, and I genuinely love working with kids. I tried to find full-time work, but it just didn’t happen.”

Pridemore thought about her face-painting experience.

“My daughter is 3,” she said. “My goal is to be with my daughter as much as possible while exemplifying high expectations and an exciting career opportunity. And I’ve done that. I decided to start my own company. This is how I pay the bills.”

Vivid Imaginations specializes in face painting and body art services.

Pridemore, who owns the company and is the creative director, has three employees and calls them her creative team.

“They are my artists,” she said.

She trains each to deliver the same theme park service and designs without the theme park prices.

How fast they are trained “depends on how skilled they are. It depends on how fast they can pick it up.”

Pridemore herself is very fast.

She says she’s done 30 children’s faces in an hour.

The company’s focus is a three-minutes-or-under design, and the average face painting clocks in at 1 minute and 49 seconds.

“Some designs take as little as 90 seconds,” she said.

Prices vary, but the average cost is $10 a design.

Right now, the most popular face painting is Wonder Woman.

“It depends on what movie is coming out,” Pridemore said. “Super heroes are big. Paw Patrol. Freehand face paintings are the most popular form of artistry.”

She has between 300 to 400 designs in her repertoire.

As one would think, she is busy at Halloween.

But anymore, all of October is busy with pumpkin patch gigs. And she’s finding things to keep her busy all year long, with annual events and with community partners like the Carousel of Dreams.

She has worked with the carousel on events such as First Night since 2016.

She’s begun to develop a following.

“I have punch cards,” Pridemore said. “I have families who follow me around. I advertise everywhere I’m going to be.”

And she works with all children.

“(Autism) spectrum, deaf children, Spanish-speaking children and sign language,” Pridemore said. “I want to be able to talk to everybody.”

All kids seem to enjoy having their face painted, she said.

“Face painting has changed,” she said. “It’s now safe for little faces. Face-painting artists used grease paint or actual acrylic paint in the past. Our company uses hypo-allergenic makeup, compatible for every skin type and easily removable with soap and water.”

But it’s not just children who like getting their faces painted.

Even though kids make up about 70 percent to 80 percent of her clientele, Pridemore has seen an uptick in painting adults’ faces.

“I’ve done grand openings, customer appreciations. The police department has used me,” she said.

And she’s painted writers, including this one, who sat with his eyes closed for almost three minutes before realizing he had been transformed into a tiger.

Pridemore is driven, looking for more opportunities.

“Some companies I have pursued,” she said. “I am always pursuing new clients, from State Farm to Silverwood. Face painting is an attraction for any business looking to gain attention.”

She spent Labor Day weekend working at Oaks Amusement Park in Portland, which opened in 1903. She said work on a 2019 contract with Oaks is in motion. She is looking to hire 15 to 20 artists in the Portland area.

“I have current conversations going with Silverwood and Triple Play, and next on the list is Six Flags,” she said. “They have face painters, but not the way I do it. Typically face painting is thought of as a hobby.”

And if things work out, she’ll be looking for more help. But bring a good attitude.

“I look at wrists, not résumés,” she said. “I want to know if they’re kind and patient. Where do they want to be in the future and do they want to come with me somewhere fun?”

The main requirement? They know how to make kids happy.

“Maybe kids didn’t get to experience a theme park,” she said. “That makes me sad. If I can help give them some of the park experience, that makes me happy.”

Vivid Imaginations: 509-579-1220; vividfacepainter.com; Facebook; Instagram; Twitter.

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