STRATFORD, Conn. — When Alicia Cobb’s parents divorced, the young girl turned to drawing as a way to work through her emotions.
“It was a kind of therapy for me,” said Cobb, a Stratford mother of two who grew up in Stamford.
And when she went through her own divorce, she turned to drawing — only this time it was a little different.
“I turned back to it and it stuck,” she said. “Someone once told me, ‘You don’t get a gift like that to keep to yourself.’”
And she won’t. In September, Cobb will travel to North Carolina to compete in Living Art America, the North American Bodypainting Championship. The competition is the only one in the U.S. devoted to the art of painting people, a medium Cobb has come to favor over traditional canvas or wood.
“”For a long time, I felt kind of disconnected from people,” said Cobb, who said she has struggled with social anxiety. “There’s a human connection there. There’s a healing aspect of bodypainting.”
Cobb, who keeps studio space at the former American Fabrics building in Bridgeport, first painted on flesh when she took up face painting at family functions. Someone asked if she did birthday parties and she took a chance and said yes. Soon, she had what amounted to a side business to help support her family.
“I wasn’t completely comfortable, but something was telling me, ‘Hey, why not?'" she said.
That was about 10 years ago. Now Cobb has a steady face painting business and she’s branched out to murals, particularly for the Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust, turning a side business into her main source of income since 2009.
Cobb has participated in cultural shows at the University of Connecticut, Quinnipiac University and Southern Connecticut State University, as well as hosting sip-and-paint events.
She was recently the featured artist at the Downtown Farmers Market in Bridgeport, painting stunning dragonflies across the chest of her brother, Brian. Brian Cobb frequently models for his sister.
“He said something very profound about it,” she said. “He said, ‘when I’m painted, people don’t judge me. They just see art.’”
This is the first year Cobb applied to compete in the national championship. She applied in the emerging artist category, but was bumped up to the professional ranks. She will be competing against at least 50 other bodypaint artists from around the world.
“It’s really scary, but it is cool,” she said.
The competition focuses on faces and eyes this year and competitors are encouraged to create custom headpieces and accessories to accent their work.
Cobb said she’s trying to put jitters behind her and just create. She’s focusing on enjoying the gift of being a full-time artist.
“I literally wake up everyday happy because I know I’m going to be able to create today,” she said.
For more information on Cobb, visit ArtSimplicated.com .