It's ironic not only that the biggest selling issue of Sports Illustrated is their annual swimsuit issue, which has nothing to do with sports, but also that since 1997 one of their most popular features of that issue doesn't involve actual swimsuits but instead body paint designed to look like swimwear (or other garments). Sports Illustrated: In the Paint takes a look both at the process of making these human works of art and the glorious results.

Joanne Gair first achieved notoriety with her Vanity Fair cover of Demi Moore in a suit made of paint, but her work on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue special issues truly brought her fame. She has done all the painting for every issue since 1997, and Sports Illustrated: In the Paint has her, and others involved, discussing the challenges, inspirations, and results of turning some of the most beautiful women in the world into human canvases.

To say creating these works is difficult is an understatement. The models have to remain still for several hours at a time, spending the bulk of the day motionless for one or two photos that will appear in the issue. (The photo at the bottom of this review shows Heidi Klum making the best of an accidental brush with the painting-in-progress.) Gair is a perfectionist, not just tossing colors on models but taking great care with the shading, texture, and style of each work of art. A few props -- such as zippers, bows, or string -- are often used to add a bit of texture, but this enhances the illusion of clothing rather than takes a shortcut to creating the art.

As the body painting feature has continued, themes are used each year to keep the feature fresh (as if seeing these almost-naked women could get boring). Sports Illustrated: In the Paint has collections of the models "wearing" everything from sportswear to rock band t-shirts. There's even a collection where Gair turned the women into living classical statues!

Sports Illustrated: In the Paint is a fun collection. There's not a lot of depth to the process of creating these amazing photos (though the technical details can be quite interesting), but the results are truly spectacular. It's easy to see why Gair has become a staple of this special swimwear issue, and Sports Illustrated: In the Paint is an excellent showcase of her work. Wow!

Overall grade: A-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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