Israeli airbrush artist Avi Ram loves creating what he calls the “wow effect” with each new body-art project. Using people as his canvas, Ram masterfully hides them in plain sight by camouflaging them against a location background.
In April, the 31-year-old from Kiryat Gat, who has lived in Florida since 2008, returned for a 24-day visit to Israel to create a new project he hopes will go global. The 13-location calendar shoot around the country shows off Israeli landmarks and picturesque sites.
“I do a lot of camouflage bodypainting in the US. For me, Israel is strong and powerful in my heart and it was very powerful to do my bodypainting here,” Ram tells ISRAEL21c. “It was very important for me to inspire a lot of people with my art from the most beautiful places in Israel.”
Ram’s three-week stint in Israel took him around the country, shooting models camouflaged into the backdrop of Israeli landmarks including the Dead Sea, Arches Beach in Caesarea, Western Wall, the Tower of David Museum, Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park and the Jaffa clock tower, among other sites.
“Israel is very dry and there are a lot of browns and dark greens. I tried to find locations that won’t look the same,” he says. “I tried to make each picture different.”
His goal is to create a calendar for 2018 comprising the photos he took around Israel. Ram says he’ll also exhibit and sell his works at his studio in Ft. Lauderdale – and hopes an Israeli gallery will display them as well. He’s also planning to publish a coffee-table book with his shots.
Ram was extra excited about the Beit Guvrin-Maresha UNESCO World Heritage Site shoot because his mother, Zipi Gdalyau, was his model.
“It was amazing for her to be part of my art. It was an amazing experience. She sat for two hours and didn’t complain, and she’s over 60,” Ram says. His mother is a jewelry artist and his uncle, Meir Amar, is well-known internationally for his large-scale murals and paintings.
Ram says the camouflage works usually take him between 90 minutes and two hours if everything goes according to plan. “But if I start with a sunny day and then clouds roll in, it will take longer because I will have to change the colors.”
Ram, born Aviram Gdalyau, started drawing at 18. He taught himself how to paint with an airbrush and his first art gig was airbrushing T-shirts.
He says that he creates a composition in his mind as to how he wants to bring an image to life and then airbrushes it onto a variety of media — canvas, clothes, motorcycles, walls or the human body.
In 2010, Ram tried his hand at airbrush body painting. First, he painted club-goers. The feedback was fantastic and he was soon in high demand at fashion photo shoots and other bar events.
He also competed in national US competitions, placing first at the Face and Body Art International Convention in 2015 and ninth in 2015 Body Fine Art contest.
American reality television shows dedicated to body-painting art turned Ram into a bona fide star in the United States.
He was a finalist on the body-painting reality show, “Skin Wars” (Season 2, 2015); a finalist on the reality show “Global Beauty Masters” (Season 2, 2016); and a mentor on the reality show “Skin Wars: Fresh Paint” (Season 1, 2016).
“’Skin Wars’ changed my life,” he says, noting that since his participation as a contestant in 2015, invitations to take part in conventions, art shows, fashion shows, corporate gigs and television have been a constant.
Nobody commissioned Ram to paint Israel. The calendar idea was his way of showing his love for his native country.
But seeing the positive feedback on social media, gave Ram a new idea to kickstart a global body-painting camouflage calendar project in different countries.
“This project in Israel was to inspire people and share with the world the art of body painting. But it was also a project for me, that I really wanted to do,” Ram says. “I wanted to bring this art style to Israel. It’s a passion and I hope I will inspire others to do it.”