Denver Paramedic Alan Anderson Competes in Skin Wars, a New Reality TV Show

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Thomas Traylor
Body painter Alan Anderson creates eerie masterpieces on human canvases.

You can find art all over town -- not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

Get ready for some very special effects: Denver resident Alan Anderson, RAW Natural Born Artist's 2011 Makeup Artist of the Year, stars in GSN's new series Skin Wars, premiering this Wednesday, August 6 at 9 p.m. EST. In anticipation of the show's debut episode, we talked with the professional body painter -- a firefighter and paramedic by day -- about everything from finding an artistic niche to getting gruesome to handling ticklish models.

See also: WORKSHOP8's Temporary Public Art Installation Will Make You Love Summer Even More

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Courtesy of Skin Wars
When he isn't painting people, Anderson fights fires in Broomfield.

Anderson's infatuation with body painting started early on. "I did make-up on myself when I was younger, and continued through my late teens and early twenties," he says. He'd always drawn inspiration from horror movies and science fiction, and especially enjoyed doing horror faces for Halloween. In 2008, the boyhood hobby morphed into a part-time gig in special-effects makeup when a friend asked him for help. "When I was old enough to go to bars, I would do those costume contests," recalls Anderson.

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Sophia Rose
After relocating to Denver from Birmingham, Alabama, to "follow dreams of being a ski bum," Anderson got a job as a firefighter and paramedic for North Metro Fire Rescue in Broomfield. And that work helped inspire another interest: "When I got into the special effects make-up, I'd seen blood and guts in real life," Anderson says.

When he decided to take that hobby to a new level, he signed on for a body-painting class in Vegas with world-renowned face-and- body artist Pashur.

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John Myers
Anderson is pretty sure it was Pashur who recommended him for a new reality-style show based on body-painting, and he was thrilled when he got a call from Hollywood two years ago. He was even more thrilled when he was selected to be part of the first season of Skin Wars.

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Thomas Traylor
When Anderson needs inspiration, he scours the Internet. "I like the darker art," he says. But Skin Wars turned out to be especially challenging, Anderson says. "They wouldn't allow us to use outside information for our work." Fortunately, his imagination was up to the challenge.

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Thomas Traylor
One of the show's goals was to demonstrate that body painting is an art, too, and Anderson says he was impressed with the ability of Skin Wars to elevate the form. "Some people have a bad idea of what body art is, and some people don't consider it art at all," he notes. But using human canvasses does have special challenges. "That's kind of the funny part," says Anderson. "I think sometimes people think we're putting acrylic on people, when in reality we are using skin-safe make-up." The painter uses paintbrushes, sponges and an airbrush to bring his bizarre ideas to fruition.

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Freddie Salas
"You are painting on a living canvas, so you have to take care and treat it with respect," Anderson cautions. He prides himself on always using high-end makeup, and none of his models have ever had allergic reactions. Still, even if they don't get itchy, the job can get ticklish. "That's something you just deal with," Anderson says of the occasional giggles that come with painting people. "Your sides are always very ticklish, and you find ways to get around it."

Continue reading for more on Anderson's upcoming television gig.

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