written on the body

I’m not sure how I came up with the idea to do this.  But a few weeks back, I decided that I wanted to paint words all over the body of my friend Jenny and have our friend Karen photograph it.  So I asked them.  And to my serious delight they both said yes.


Here’s something I love to do:  put words in places you don’t expect them.

In college, I stamped poems onto signs made out of sheet metal and  put them up around campus.  I stamped words on office supplies, and bedsheets, and the pages of old books.

I loved the idea of words showing up where they didn’t belong.  The surprise of it.


Now I am a grown-up, and writer, and I spend most of my creative life typing.  

But every now and then, I get to step away from my laptop.  And two days ago, I ventured out into my  mother’s back garden with two of my favorite people.  And I could not believe how relaxed we all were.  How game Jenny was to be painted like a tattooed lady, and how calm she was.  And how perfectly Karen captured not just the look of things, but the tenderness of it all.

And then our friend Laura showed up, too, and we hung out at my mom’s kitchen table.  We ate do-nuts and joked around a lot, but there was definitely something magical going on there that day.


And then, using Karen’s photos, I made this video–to try to bring the words off the page a little.  To bring them to life in a new way.  And boy, did they come to life.

ALSO: This happens to be the garden where I got married. 

And ALSO:  Karen took exactly 500 photos that day.

And ALSO: Jenny read to us from the memoir she’s writing when we went back inside, and my face hurt from laughing the rest of the day.


Filed under everyone is beautiful, excerpts, for writers, katherine's books, news!, prose, random, videos, visual art

41 responses to “written on the body

  1. LOVE. THIS.

    Thank you for including me in your project. It was just too much fun.

  2. How fun! I want to try it with my friends too.

  3. This just sounds like a perfect day. The words and the photos are just so beautiful and inspiring! You ladies rock!

  4. Katherine! You are just too creative and just sooo lucky to have such great friends to pull this project off. Beautiful!!!

  5. detes

    Beauty, Talent, Friendship…You ladies rock!

  6. I so adore you. And Karen. And paint. And the video.

    And I am not easy to please. Mostly.

  7. Love this. And can’t wait to read the book.

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  9. Emma H.

    And she is beautiful with no make up.

  10. I so want to do this now (ha).
    As a writer, as a photographer. Now I just need a willing victim. (mwaahahaha)

    Awesome project!
    All the best!

  11. Intensely beautiful, inspiring and touching. Loved this!

  12. Mir

    Words cannot express how much I love this. All of this. The synergy between your words, Karen’s pictures, Jenny as the canvas… perfection. Thank you so much for sharing!

  13. angela

    Great video! Where’s the music from?

  14. Cool!!! I LOVE words on bodies — actually, I was drooling over this tattoo last night (weird URL, sorry):

    One of my best gal pals has her signature (which is lovely and unique) tattooed on her back too – which has always been a fave of mine.

  15. gorgeous project & beautiful concept. I love it, too, that it’s the garden you were married in!

  16. brokeandbeautiful

    Stunning. A truly beautiful message. As a girl who has struggled with weight and body image all her life, I loved this.

    As a woman, I wonder what of the thin girls? What of the girls with 14% body fat, even though they try so hard to stop from being teased? Even though they have no “plump, roundness”?

    I call this “Real Women Have Curves” syndrome. We forget that there are millions of girls and women out there who would give their life to be “normal”… Normal being over 100 lbs, with breasts, with these “real women identifying curves”… What of them?

    I love this because it’s heading body image in the right direction, but lest we not forget that we are not the only women struggling.


    • Thanks for your nice comment! You know, this paragraph comes from a novel about a woman who is feeling frumpy after having 3 babies in 4 years. And here, at the end, she stands up for herself. So it’s very a very specific comment by a specific woman. But it would be wonderful if we could all stand up for ourselves against whatever way we don’t fit the cultural ideal…

  17. brokeandbeautiful


    Thanks so much for responding! That clarifies the entire idea. 🙂


  18. I love words as decorations: On jewelry, hanging on the wall, painted on furniture. I know a picture paints a thousand words, but a word, that paints just the one word you wanted at that moment.

  19. justmeandthevoices

    This is amazing. Thank you for bringing such beauty into the world!

  20. Found you through ze blaughess … aka, Jenny. And dayum. Just … damn.

    Truer words were never spoken, written, read, or felt.

    Just gorgeous. And something that every person needs to see, live, and feel.

    Thank you. Seriously.

  21. bobbygee

    This is indeed cool. Check out my blog. It’s different. Bobby Gee

  22. Fantastic! What an amazing video. Love it! Came by via Karen’s. So glad I did.

  23. Gorgeous video, lovely words… I came by via the Bloggess. Thanks so much for sharing this very important message.

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  25. That’s awesome! Paint me next! But you’ll have to paint my head scarf…and I guess my face.
    Love the idea, and Jenny is tooooo cute!!!

  26. babiesgottahaveit

    This is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing it.

  27. This is SO beautiful. Thank you for creating & sharing with us. It reminds me of that scene in the movie What the Bleep where Marlee Matlin begins to accept herself “as is” at the end of the film & writes words of LOVE & acceptance on her body with eyeliner. AWESOME indeed!

  28. beautiful. Just SO beautiful. And incredibly touching and inspiring. Your book must be awesome, I can’t wait to get it!

  29. Pingback: paint kind words on your body!! « katherine center

  30. This was so lovely. I saw the other video trailer first, and was fully enchanted, but this is even more captivating! Words as art = perfection. I am reading the book this week!

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