Ashley Gable of Pasadena paints her artwork on an unusual canvas: the human body.

"I think body painting is a very challenging medium," said Gable, 21, "because it takes the 2-D work that you would put onto a canvas, and it makes it come to life."

Gable, a lifelong resident of Anne Arundel County and a Chesapeake High School graduate, creates living, breathing works of art — painting pretty much anyone who is willing to sit still for a few hours to make them resemble a character, a creature or some type of abstract design.

Her portfolio includes zombie brides, Batman villain Two-Face and an abstract pink dragon she painted on her sister Kellie.

"Her work is amazing," said Nicki Lechert, a longtime friend who last Halloween wore a cheetah design created by Gable. "I go so many compliments; people were just amazed."

Gable, who considers herself a lifelong artist, was introduced to body painting as an art form about three years ago.

She began with more conventional duties — such as painting faces at children's birthday parties. Later, she expanded to body painting, and has worked toward perfecting her craft with help from other artists and by attending body-painting conventions.

One particular convention, held in Florida, impressed and inspired her. "[It] was the biggest one in the U.S.," said Gable, "and it was just mind-blowing to see just how much it has advanced."

Body painting is not only a growing art form, but has become mainstream, showing up at functions such as corporate events and product launches. Parties and special events remain the key venues for painters, though.

It's still an emerging business, and body painting is not Gable's full-time gig. She's a waitress at Brian Boru Restaurant and Pub in Severna Park, though her schedule allows for paid body-painting jobs that come along.

Painting a person's body can be a complicated process, requiring the artist to create a sketch of the design and prepare the body — including moisturizing and sometimes shaving. Then, of course, there are the hours and hours of painting.

"The first time I got body-painted, it took eight hours and I had to sit in various different positions," said Billy Martin who has modeled for Gable on several occasions. Regarding a recent session when he was painted as "The Amazing Spider-Man's" archnemesis Venom, he said, "This one took three hours, so it wasn't as bad."

Some designs can become even more complicated when advanced cosmetic effects are introduced to the design.

"The most challenging designs I've done include prosthetics," Gable said, referring to horns, flesh and other effects she uses to enhance a design or character. "Incorporating that into a design is a lot more time-consuming, so those designs can take eight to 10 hours."

However, Gable's passion for the art seems to make the time fly — at least for her.

Gable may soon take her show on the road. In September she's scheduled to travel to Australia, where she'll live for about a year.

"I'm open to wherever it takes me," Gable said about body painting. "I love it and I want to keep it part of my life, and I want to continue to learn and grow."

That's good news for clients and friends such as Lechert, though Lechert said this week she's not crazy about losing her friend for a year of travel.

"Now I don't know what I'm going to do for next Halloween," Lechert said.

To view more photos and a video from Capital News Service on Ashley Gable's body painting, go to baltimoresun.com.