The essential skill for anyone wanting to pursue a career in SFX makeup

Posted: 25 January 2018

The essential skill for anyone wanting to pursue a career in SFX makeup

One of the smartest investments you can make to improve your career prospects as a prosthetics artist is learning professional sculpture techniques. 

Sculpture is a core skill for making both prosthetic makeups and monsters. Whether you’re creating facial appliances for a character makeup, a whole fantasy creature suit, a maquette, dummy or a display bust, if you can’t sculpt the initial form to look believable, it won’t be as successful as it could be. 

If you want to use digital modelling to design your characters, that too relies on strong sculpture skills, so all roads in prosthetics lead back to this fundamental skill.

Sculpture is often talked about in general terms, but there are different sets of skills that you need to be aware of and make choices about to best advance your work. Here are three of the essential areas we’re teaching this year and why they are of crucial importance to SFX artists. 

1. The Human Head

The non-negotiable skill                               Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 16.15.22

If you’re making prosthetics or monsters why is being able to sculpt an anatomically accurate human head essential?

Because the foundation stone that ALL professional sculptors build their work on is an understanding of the anatomy that lies beneath our skin. Knowing how a face is constructed, how the bone and muscle create the foundation that the external appearance is built upon, can be applied to character makeup and fantastic beasts alike. This fundamental skill is vital for anyone wanting to pursue a career in SFX makeup.

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 16.15.08Learn this at Gorton Studio Aylesbury with hyper-realism expert Richard Martin: 3-day course in March 2018                                  

This course will teach you the fundamentals of the human head’s anatomy from skull to skin including muscle formation, eyeball and ear placement. You will leave with your own human head sculpture, which you’ll create by sculpting layers of muscle, fat and skin on a synthetic skull.    

2. Likeness Sculpture

The skill that can sustain a career8

Whether it’s creating hyper-realistic display figures or character prosthetic makeups, the ability to capture a likeness is another essential and very marketable skill. 

Many people have built a career based on their ability to capture a great likeness in clay, and these same techniques can be applied to working on life size figures, prosthetic makeup likenesses and miniatures as well as for digital modelling. 

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 16.15.08Learn this at Gorton Studio Aylesbury with hyper-realism expert Richard Martin: 5-day course in September 2018

This course will take you through the process of sculpting a likeness from photographs, scaling to 1:1 scale, correctly using reference material, understanding angles and anatomy to ‘fill in’ blanks from poor reference, profile, blocking out, landmarks and refining. You will leave with your sculpture.

3. Creature and Character Creation12

The skill of producing believable fantasy forms 

The screen industry relies on the skills of its sculptors to interpret the fantasy creatures and characters in scripts. Particularly in the science fiction genre, these can be outlandish, grotesque, exotic and unconventional.

This may sound like a free rein to let your imagination run wild, which to some extent it can be, but the ability to sculpt life and character into those designs, making them feel like real, living and breathing beings is at the root of the success of the most unworldly creatures.


Learn this at Gorton Studio Aylesbury with revered Hollywood creature designer Don Lanning: 
5-day course in November 2018

This course will show you how to take fundamental, anatomical techniques and apply them to imaginary creatures and characters to make the most outrageous monsters believable, and play a key role in sustaining the viewer’s engagement with the unreal. You will leave with your sculpture.

Work shown is by the tutor teaching the course it illustrates


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