Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Fork in the Road

I recently received the news that SVA is not going to offer the Advanced Special Effects Make-Up class that I was hoping to enroll in. Unfortunately, they didn't get enough students interested to warrant offering the class. My one option is to enroll in the Basic class again and work off to the side with a few of the other folks that expressed interest.

That being said, I don't think I can quite afford the whole bundle and time commitment again. I think with some discipline I can take what I've learned and continue to experiment with what I've previously taught myself by using the money and time I would've invested in SVA into new tools and materials for my own projects. I've taken a few short tutorials at Compleat Sculptor before and I am considering it again. Pictured are the workshops I'm considering.

The tricky thing is that for all the artistry and methodical techniques I've encountered and continue to learn, it's all a bit of fun and games to me. I look at action figures and overpriced sculpted busts in toy stores and comic shops and can't help think, "I can make that." I've found myself pausing the carnage and sci-fi elements of all my DVDs lately to critique the craftsmanship. Basically, I'm saying, I'm just having fun with this, and I'm not entirely sure which way to take it. I'm note sure if I will ever be paid to do what I'm crafting, but I'm not sure if it's art either. I like to draw and paint and craft things from bits of trash I find. I like to cut things up and put them together again. This is just a classic case of good intentions coupled with manic energy meeting a lack of direction. I just hope it doesn't develop into regret and further frustration. I am realizing I need a new project to take me to the next plateau.

I recently unearthed a few story boards I did for a friend. He was crafting a short film about mobsters, hit men, and a zombie's revenge. Looking over them I realised I should revisit some of these. If not for the story that died on the vine, but maybe to help someone else with their vision; to offer what talent others think I have to birth their visions. Perhaps that is where I'll figure out what comes next.

I used pen, sharpie, and water color to craft the storyboards on heavy stock paper that's roughly 5" by 7". It's style was very fueled by Brian Azzarello's 100 Bullets drawn by Eduardo Risso. I'll post one storyboard now and use it as motivation to draw for other projects. I will continue to post more storyboards until you all have the entire series I did for the short.

Here he is; BOSS MAN.

He's definitely got a Paul Sorvino as a Teamster vibe. Maybe you think it's crap, but I have to hope it can only get better from here.

More to come.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reaching Out and Helping Out

I've recently been accepted as an artist's assistant for the new Gropius Master Artist series at the Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington, West Virginia. It's a tad different from my recent endeavors, but I feel it will help bolster my work as an artist. I hope to gain a wider perspective and appreciation of my artwork by helping and instructing others with theirs.

The Walter Gropius Master Artists Series brings nationally and internationally recognized artists to the Huntington Museum of Art to inspire artists, educators and students through lectures, exhibitions, and workshops.

Upcoming Gropius Master Artists:

Matt Madden and Jessica Abel

Three-day workshop: Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.- noon scheduled February 26-28, 2010.

Public Presentation is a gallery walk on Sunday, February 28 at 2:00 p.m.

The exhibition will be up from February 20 – May 23, 2010

Workshop description:

Drawing Words & Writing Pictures: A Comics Workshop

In this intensive workshop, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden teach the principles of comics language-a mixture of drawing, writing, and design all marshaled in the service of storytelling. Making comics requires creators to think fluidly of words and images, to smudge the boundaries, and artfully blend the two usually distinct forms of communication to create a synchronized whole. We truly draw words and write pictures: Drawing words means to think of the letterforms as a part of the visual language of the comic. Writing pictures means to think of the images as carrying meaning much like language does. Comics has been compared to calligraphy in the blending of word and image, and to music notation in the visual notation of time passing and emotion written in ink. Participants will learn how to make comics through a series of short activities and exercises, reading, and finally writing and drawing a one-page comic.

To register for this workshop or for fee information, call (304) 529-2701, Ext. 21. or e-mail or

For more information on Walter Gropius Master Artists Series workshops and Matt Madden and Jessica Abel, please visit the website:

If anyone is in the area and/or interested in the workshop, I'll be there to lend a helping hand.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Zombie Girlfriend and Finals

It's been quite a journey to get to this point.

For my final project, I wanted to do a full face prosthetic appliance. I've shown the steps of life casting my girlfriend's face, and now is the moment to show what I learned and gained from my first round of schooling in special effects make-up. This would be the ultimate test of how far I could push myself to deliver a quality look, unassisted, in three hours.

I wanted to create a Zombie, but I also wanted to put my own spin on it. Something horrifying, but not yet repulsive. Like scary magic. I decided to draw inspiration from Michael Jackson's THRILLER and the cult film classic EVIL DEAD 2. I wanted to marry the sunken lifelessness of Michael with the over exaggerated horror of a Deadite. Using this as a template I embarked on many sculptings of how to make this happen.

The perfect inspiration.

The perfect model; a clean face with no make-up or acne treatments present. Some acne treatments have been known to cause an adverse burning sensation when working in these special effects make-up scenarios.

I begin applying the latex face piece by first brushing a border of Pros-Aide on the inside edges of the appliance. Working from the middle of the nose and the forehead, I secured the piece. I secured further along the cheeks and temples.

I designed the piece to be two parts; a face piece and a chin cap. This would allow for full range of the mouth for snarls, eating/breathing, etc. This was important in keeping a very humanistic look to my creature design. Ideally I would have loved to have also crafted a set of fangs/jagged teeth, but time was against me with only having two weeks to execute this entire set of materials. You do know I've never done any of this before right?

When pouring my liquid latex to craft the appliance the weather was dipping below freezing. This added quit a bit of time to the cuing process. I initially did a dump pour to build my layers, but in hindsight, if I would have had the extra time I would have brushed on the latex in layers to insure more even flow to the piece, particularly the edges.
In the end the appliance is about 2x too thick, but I countered the stiff edges by using additional liquid latex to adhere torn strips of Kleenex to bridge the appliance to the skin.

I used this tissue method along the mouth and the eyelids as well. This helped blend the look of the upper face piece and the lower chin cap.

I then began the time consuming process of painting the entire latex appliance. Next time I would definitely cast in gelatin to cut down on the weight of the piece and the tedious process of painting. It would add a bit more flexibility as well when gluing it down.

This was a worthwhile lesson as I learned to take my time and work the colors.

I always have a difficult time matching skin tone with grease paints. They recommend a mix of three colors to balance it out, but I always find myself using 4-5. The trick is playing with light and shadow and using those colors to create that. It all comes from blending....


....shading & blending darker....

...and darker.

For the eyes, I went with a three toned purple. It lends a sense of disturbing feminity to it I think.

Here I added a bit of black to the nose cavity, lips and neckline. The neck is key as the eyes wander and takes in objects as a whole to perceive an image. Rewatch the original DAWN OF THE DEAD and almost all the zombie make-up you see stops at the chin line. That'll save time and materials, but you never want to do anything half-assed.

Here are a few make-up designs from some of my fellow classmates.

A whipped lacerated back was created by Erin Ausfeld. She also did the gory nail-gun accident depicted below.

 Jacqueline Olszewski - She crafted these fantastic boils by dropping liquid gelatin on tin foil and letting it cure. Amazing results!

Cindy Sanabria did up a piece of wax work that recalls the glory days of CANNIBAL FEROX.

Kevin English crafted a skinned hand, full of tendons and gore.

Here's a few snapshots of my finished results. To hide the seams along the hairline that I wasn't able to cover with Eva's natural hair, I thought quickly on my feet and pulled off my ski mask for her to wear. Instant fix.

From start to finish I used every second of our 3 hour class to achieve this look. I feel I really pushed myself and was able to significantly capture what I had planned in my mind's eye.

Clean up was a gentle peeling away of the latex, and a few baby wipes to take off the color.

I love the remnant piece left behind. It looks like it came straight from the set of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I can now attach some elastic bands and have a half mask. I would probably deconstruct the jawline for better stability.

BEFORE -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------AFTER

I want to give a big thank you to Eva for being a trooper. I now know what tattoo artists refer to when they say their clients "sat like a champ". A big thank you to all my classmates that made learning fun. It honestly played like group therapy for horror junkies. And a big thank you to Carl Paulino, my instructor. I truly hope that they offer the ADVANCED SPECIAL EFFECTS MAKE-UP class so I can continue this new passion.

Stay tuned as I have several new projects on the horizon.