A quick Google search turns up myriad lists of famous or favorite Hollywood special effects artists; while some names appear multiple times, the real commonality is that almost all of the the artists listed are male. But YouTube has given makeup artists of all types a new, immediate platform to share their talents. The modernity and reach of YouTube has allowed female artists a way to come to the forefront of special effects makeup artistry. Artist Jordan Hanz has almost 20 million views on her special effects makeup videos, while Mykie of Glam & Gore has over 145 million video views on her videos.
Female artists like these are inspiring the next generation of special effects makeup creators, including 12-year-old artist Moo. Moo started experimenting with horror makeup design about 10 months ago, using only a few products she saw YouTube makeup artists rely on. As her skills have increased, Moo has progressed from small effects to total facial transformations, like this full-face look incorporating a working zipper.
Moo’s facial gore and zipper effect used liquid latex, stage blood, paint, cotton balls, and a zipper
Moo’s interest in horror special effects makeup started with an interest in makeup tutorials in general. “I used to watch many, many makeup tutorials on YouTube,” says Moo. “I was especially fascinated with tutorials that were transformation videos.” When one artist posted a Halloween look including a simple stitched mouth, “I began freaking out over how realistic it looked. I wanted to know more. Along the side of the screen, there was a list of similar videos that were all crazy-intense special effects. I watched all of them, and decided it was something I wanted to do myself.”
To create her effects, Moo mixes her few “professional” Ben Nye products (like liquid latex, scar wax, and stage blood) with basic materials like paints, cotton balls and q-tips. And like most artists, finding time to work on her craft is a balancing act. Says Moo, “Usually, I am only able to do special effects makeup on the weekends. Between homework, family life, after-school activities, etc., I don’t have enough time to do special effects.” It’s not as easy as finding a few minutes, either: Moo’s looks can take anywhere from one to two-and-a-half hours from set-up to clean-up.
Evolution: very first special effects look to a more recent look. This dangling eyeball look took approximately 2.5 hours to create.
Finding time to practice and create is only the first hurdle: the real work is in creating the look itself. “For me,” she says, “one of the most challenging parts (of effects makeup) is blending and realism. Getting a good color-match, getting the product to blend into my skin, and making the wound (or) look appear realistic are all more difficult for me.” Each tool comes with its own learning curve, too. “Each product has different challenges as well. Nose and Scar Wax has trouble blending in smoothly without sticking to everything. Liquid Latex has trouble getting a smooth blend without leaving a harsh line where the wound ends and your real skin begins. (And both) can be tricky when using foundation to get an even color.”
Gunshot wound using Ben Nye Nose and Scar Wax
Moo continues to find inspiration from other makeup artists via YouTube. Mykie from Glam and Gore, Ellinor Rosander and Macs Moser from Ellimacs, Klairdelysart, and Madyewlook have all been sources of inspiration and instruction both. Figuring out the puzzle of a new look is part of the inspiration and process. “The thing that draws me to this art form is feeling of wonder when I see a special effects look. As a special effects artist, I look at (special effects) wounds and think “How’d they do that? What products did they use? What techniques? What is the backstory to this wound?” The result is so fascinating to me, but so is the process.”
Challenging work, but rewarding, too. “For me, the most rewarding part is proudly displaying my work to my family. I love seeing their reactions. I also feel a certain sense of satisfaction.” But Moo doesn’t stop once a project is finished: there’s always another goalpost in sight. “In the next year,” she says, “I have one (big) effects project I wish to accomplish: (…) Voldemort. It would require paints, a bald cap, a prosthetic, and more. But, I believe that if I’m able to hone my skills and get a few items, I’ll be able to do it.”
Arm wound: for this look, Moo’s grandmother was a willing victim
Much in the way that Moo has drawn inspiration from other makeup artists, she encourages the next generation of makeup artists to keep trying. “I believe that more women should be a part of the special effects/horror industry,” she says. “It’s really fun, and it’s just a really interesting and creative outlet which is expanding all the time. It’s more than just gory wounds: it’s characters, looks, imagination and so much more.” For people just starting out in horror and effects, makeup, Moo says: “I have several pieces of advice. First: start small. On your first couple tries, don’t do some crazy, over-the-top wound or look. Do a small cut or simple character if you’re feeling gutsy. Second: don’t expect professional results on your first try. Or your second, or fifth, or tenth. It takes a long time to get really good at it. And that brings me to the third: don’t give up. Sometimes you may think that this is impossible. But, if you stick with it, practice, and try your best, you will get better faster. You need to believe in yourself.”
“Start small (…) Do a small cut or simple character.”
The irony of using beauty products to make something ugly isn’t lost on Moo. “Beauty makeup is usually pristine and perfect and flattering (…) But, with special effects, you can make it dirty and imperfect and messy and crazy and different. I love that about special effects. I’m not expected to be on fleek…I’m gonna be on freak!” There’s also a disconnect between horror and humor that special effects makeup can bridge. “What I love about horror makeup is that I can take something dark and scary (like) injuries and be creative and silly and make jokes about them.”
“I’m not expected to be on fleek…I’m gonna be on freak!”
With media’s rising emphasis on women (and men) looking “perfect”, it’s easy to categorize a young woman using makeup to create intentionally ugly looks as a subversive, feminist, or tongue-in-cheek act. But it’s important to see Moo’s creations for exactly what they are, too: convincing special effects by a talented artist. Society may attach meaning to Moo’s work, and Moo herself might wish to categorize it in a sociological context. But at the end of the day, what we have is an artist pushing herself and her work to be as good as it can be. And that is a beautiful thing.
A process: knuckle wound