When we first stumbled upon Shannon Romano’s Instagram page, @_p_i_g_m_e_n_t_, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing—unbelievable works of art—literally, works of art—hand-painted on hair and captured in the coolest angles.
We contacted Romano almost instantly—we needed to know: who was this woman and how does she create this incredible beauty?!
Romano, a colorist out of Syracuse, New York, couldn’t believe we were calling her. “I wasn’t sure how people would feel about my art,” she told us. “I wasn’t sure if people would think it was dumb or weird.”
“Weird” is the opposite of how we’d describe it, for the record. Words like innovative, creative, genius and beautiful are more in line with our thinking—and, frankly, the industry’s opinion too. When we shared Romano’s reimagined Banksy, the iconic graffiti artist, thousands liked it and the comments were gushing—in fact, “incredible” was the primary descriptor.
Her career history is peppered with experiences that have all played a part in her present-day artistry and how she captures that content. Although she has years of salon experience—on and off for 17 years—she had a stint as a spotlight operator at the Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas that likely helped teach her how to capture her art with specialized lighting.
Nearing two decades in the industry, Romano says she was feeling burnt out and unfulfilled. “I knew something needed to change,” she says. “Sometimes in life you have to take a step back in order to take a few steps forward.”
So she decided to take a year to focus on her own creative growth to create a portfolio of work to be proud of. The first one she created was the birch trees (image three in our gallery).
“Some of the pieces take hours—it can really hurt my back!” she laughs.
Romano begins by coloring the hair wefts with direct dyes. Then she processes them, washes and dries them. Next, she sews them into a wig cap, usually only creating a partial wig with four wefts.
“Don’t think I’m some kind of wig-maker—it’s the opposite,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of money or time, so I try to do it the best way possible to execute what I’m trying to do and not waste hair.”
After the hair is sewn into the cap, she then cuts it into the style she prefers. She uses Mehron body paint to create the art. “I reuse a lot of the wefts for different pieces, so I need something that washes out easily.”
Romano says she always paints freehand with the wefts sewn on because that way the hair is laying exactly where it will once it’s on the head.
“If I painted the hair while it was lying flat on a table, it wouldn’t lay right and the paint would start to harden while the hair wasn’t in the right position,” she says.
She doesn’t use stencils, either. For the Banksy piece, she looked at his artwork for reference, then did freehand painting.
Once the art is dry, she photographs herself in the wig cap—YES, that’s really her in the photos.
“I still don’t feel worthy of the attention, especially for the Banksy piece. I was just the messenger and used his iconic image as the reference," she says. "I’m so inspired by the content that makeup artists are creating on Instagram, and I’m ready to bring that to the hair world.”
We see you, Shannon Romano!