Tonawanda News — Skyler Sullivan, 4, quietly asked Canal Fest facepainter, Sheila Reigh, for a kitty Monday.
“Do you want to be a kitty or do you want to have a kitty on your cheek?” Reigh asked the girl.
A few minutes later the timid girl had transformed into a black kitty with claws and pink nose, stalking off to check out the midway with a hiss. Skyler wanted to be like Catwoman and, minus a tail, she was.
“It is so rewarding to see the smile on every kid’s face when they look in the mirror,” said Reigh, a City of Tonawanda resident who has been painting faces at Canal Fest for 15 years.
And while about two-thirds of her professional painting career consists of making little kids into kitties and Batmans, Reigh is a serious artist who has taught watercolor, drawing and calligraphy classes throughout Western New York.
Reigh has taught at the Ensminger Senior Citizen Center in the town and at Michael’s craft stores, and for the first time will be teaching at Partners in Art in North Tonawanda in the fall.
“I love teaching, especially adults,” Reigh said. “The people who join my classes, they want to be there. Art is such a fun and surprising medium to work in.”
Reigh has always had an interest in the arts, but chose to study to become an elementary school teacher.
“As an elementary teacher, I was always doing artsy-craftsy, cartoony things,” she said. “I started face painting just when it became popular at the school I was teaching in and people kept saying I was pretty good and I should look into making” it a career.
About 10 years ago, Reigh quit her teaching job and started working full time as an art teacher and face painter. She paints faces at private family and company parties, in addition to numerous festivals throughout Western New York.