Whether you like resolutions or loathe ’em, whether you’re a beginning prosthetic artist, hobbyist, or professional, the start of a new year AND a new decade is the chance to assess your aims and whether your actions align with heading in their general direction. With that in mind, we’ve come up with some resolutions that we think would be useful for anyone involved in this industry. Feel free to add your own!
Do your own work. Don’t copy from others, no matter how good their work is – from the beginning challenge your creativity muscle as well as your skills level. In the end you will be known – and employed – for both.
Make your own work. If you are between jobs, continue your own development by working on your own projects. This is often the sign of a good artist – check out Joel Harlow’s body of work based around H. P. Lovecraft’s creepy Innsmouth residents in Issue 17 of Prosthetics Magazine – this is a body of work he’s built up over 20 years in between jobs!
Critique your own work. We don’t mean be overly critical and hard on yourself, but to be curious and specific about your work. If you are unsure about a piece, ask yourself exactly what it is about it that doesn’t seem to be working – is it proportion, colour, placement, execution of the processes, materials?
Make a portfolio and keep it up to date. There is really only one way to show that you are good at what you do. Detailed, clean, crisp pictures of your work, taken with a proper camera (not necessarily an expensive one – but not with a phone). And not just of finished pieces; include photographs of a process – moulds and sculptures and designs – all presented cleanly and in a manner that a potential employer can see and evaluate. Keep it up to date – if you’ve shown someone your portfolio before they’ll want to see that you’ve been working on something since the last time they saw you (see ‘Make your own work’ above).
Invest in yourself. There are many, many different resources out there and some require your time over any other resource. Here are some we’re involved in and that we recommend:
Neill Gorton’s Makeup FX 911 group on Facebook. An invaluable source of advice for technical queries with many professional prosthetics artists on hand to share tips, it’s a closed group to prevent spammers so please ask to join and you will be accepted
Gorton Studio’s Online School: the new portal to online learning
Neill’s Materials’ ‘how to’ videos: great demonstrations on how to use useful products
MFX Warehouse DVDs: step-by-step tutorials from Neill with online streaming options
Prosthetics Magazine: quarterly magazine full of invaluable tutorials and industry features – print and online subscriptions available
The Prosthetics Event: annual educational event in Birmingham, UK every November – featuring back-to-back classes on two stages, demonstrations, specialist retail, career advice, exhibits and prize draws
There are also loads of helpful books out there – here are some examples:
Making a Monster – The Creation of Screen Characters
Al Taylor and Sue Roy, published by Crown 1980
Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen: Making and Applying Prosthetics
Todd Debreceni, published by Focal Press, 3rd edition 2018
The Monstrous Make-up Manual
Mike Spatola, 2 books available 2019
Practice people skills. Prosthetic makeup artists need to know how to work with people, make them feel comfortable and confident. A part time job in a hairdressing salon is a good place to develop some fundamental skills. Even if it’s just washing the hair of someone you’ve only just met, there are a lot of parallels to the way a prosthetic makeup artist might deal with an actor who is being life cast or is having prosthetics applied.
Stay informed, get involved. Keep abreast of who is doing what. Although many projects in development are cloaked in secrecy, once a movie or show is released there are often behind-the-scenes snippets that show what the processes were. Read interviews with prosthetics artists. Meet and make connections with other people who are interested in the same things that you are – or who have complementary skills. And find avenues for practising your skills. Volunteer for local theatre groups; help out on student films. There may not be any money in it but you’ll be working to a brief and a deadline and you’ll also be applying makeup to people other than yourself, which is a skill in itself.
Whether you’re making resolutions or not, we hope you have a wonderful 2020 and beyond!