Monday, November 17, 2014

Our Lady of Kibeho at Signature Theater

It's been a while since my last post, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy.

The past few months I have been the makeup department head on a new television series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. We have some really fun makeup effects that I am looking forward to sharing with you as soon as the episodes air early next year.

In the meantime, I have also taken on some additional freelance projects. The folks over at The Queen Of The Night reordered hands for their lead performer's costume. The previous post is about my process creating the hands. I was also lucky enough to find a much better image showcasing this amazing costume with my life casts attached.

Signature Theaters new play, Our Lady of Kibeho is filled with special effects. The play is about a Rwandan village school girl who has visions of the Virgin Mary. Her schoolmates don't believe her until impossible things start to happen.

Greg Meeh of Jauchem & Meeh Special Effects was the special effects designer for the shows many practical effects. One effect however required a prosthetic in order for it to work.

The actor Nneka Okafor must put her hand over a burning candle. The candle, both for the story line and practically cannot burn her. The candle of course is a real candle, lit on stage with real fire. The audience sees a lot of smoke, and at the end of the effect, Nneka is fine.

Greg and I worked together to achieve this effect.  It needed two things, one to protect the actors hand from the heat and secondly, place to attach the smoking element. The glove was to be fingerless so it could come on and off easily during quick changes.

It was decided that I would make a silicone glove to look like the actors hand and imbed a small magnet into the palm side so that smoking element could be attached.

I went to Signature Theater to do a life cast of Nneka's hand. I cast the life cast in urethane and cut the fingers off at the middle knuckle. Because the glove is fingerless, I didn't need the fingers of the life cast getting in the way of my mold. It left me enough to help with registration, but not enough to make the mold more complicated. (It also made the sculpting much easier too!)

The sculpture had to look like her hand. I kept the top side of the sculpture fairly thin, and added some extra clay palm side to thicken the sculpture for added protection from the heat of the candle. I used Chavant clay in medium for the sculpt.

Once the sculpt was finished, I laid a clay wall around the hand. I used Chavant Le Beau Touché, a much softer clay to do this. Then, I started to brush on epoxy resin for the first half of the mold.  I used Smooth-Ons Shell Shock fast set. After two layers of resin I added chopped fiberglass to my Shell Shock and brushed a few layers on, finishing with a last layer of just resin for a smooth finish.

After the first side set, I cleaned my clay wall off and touched up my sculpt where needed. In order to make sure each side separated, I used Smooth-Ons Sonite Wax as a mold release for the resin.  I did the same layers of resin and fiberglass to the other side. The only difference is that I tinted this resin with Tints-All pigment.  This helps to see each mold half when separating each side.

When both sides were completely cured, I trimmed the edges of the mold off on the band saw. The mold was then opened up and the clay cleaned out.

I cast the hand in two parts, for two reasons. One, Nneka's skin tone is very light palm side and much darker on the top side. I also needed to place the magnet in the correct spot. Smooth-On Dragon Skin 10 was tinted and mixed to the lighter skin tone. A few layers were added and the magnet was placed in the right spot. Before this silicone was totally cured, the darker skin tone was mixed and poured into the palm side on top of the light colored silicone and into the top side of the mold.  The life cast of the hand was then pushed into the palm side of the mold, then, quickly and carefully the silicone filled top side of the mold was flipped onto the life cast as well.

Once the sides were snapped together, mold straps were added and the silicone was left to cure.

An hour and a half later the mold was opened up. The flashing was trimmed and the silicone cleaned with alcohol.

Keeping the prosthetic on the life cast, the hand was seamed and painted.  Now it was ready for Nneka to try on.

I met Greg at the theater where we were able to try the prosthetic on and test the smoking effect. Everything worked perfectly. We took some video of the test, which you can see below.

Our Lady of Kibeho runs until December 7th. You can read more about the show at

Monday, March 17, 2014

Queen Of The Night

I recently had the pleasure of working with Daniel Roseberry, a designer for Thom Browne. Daniel was asked to design a dress for the Marchesa, the ring leader if you will, for the new vaudeville show, "Queen of the Night" at the Paramount Hotel in New York City.


Daniels original sketch for the dress.

The gown is quite ornate with a headdress and masks to complete the costume. The dress was to include a few life size hands sprouting from around the body hugging the curves of its wearer.

I enlisted a willing model, and Daniel as well, to life cast. With Daniels direction, we made sure the hand was always in the correct position for where it was to be placed on the dress.

Getting ready for the life casts. Smooth-on Body Double and plaster bandages ready to go.

Yon, our model keeping his hand very still.

Since the hand had to have enough detail, and be light in weight I used a combination of urethane and foam to cast the hands. Smooth-ons Task urethane seemed like the best option for the hands. It's durable, slightly flexible and easily tintable. I used a powdered gold pigment to tint the urethane then poured it directly into the life cast. Then, i made sure to coat the entire inside of the mold by rotating the life cast, then letting the material settle into the fingers. I did this a few times to build up a skin of urethane before pouring in the foam.  I used smooth-ons Flex foam V to fill the rest of the mold up.  This gave me a durable and light hand that could be attached to the dress.

The life casts ready for casting.

After a few coats of urethane, the life casts were filled with two part expanding foam.

Casting all the hands at once!

One of the first test hands, cast entirely in urethane.

More test hands. A urethane hand and a soft foam hand.

The folks over at Eric Winterling, one of New Yorks largest costume houses, built the gown and attached the hands. Prior to attaching the hands, they were gold leafed.

The finished cast hands.

I have yet to see the performance at the Diamond Horseshoe at the Paramount Hotel, but I hear it is an incredible show. You can get tickets, and more information at

The final dress.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Makeup Artist Magazine Article

The new issue of Makeup Artist Magazine, no. 107 comes out next week. The article Tube Time features many television shows including The Blacklist. Check it out!

I will also be part of a panel at this years IMATS in New York. The panel will be held Sunday, April 13, and will be discussion with television makeup department heads.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Paper Mache Mask

I have always been interested in paper mache. For Halloween last year I decided to make a mask that would be cast in paper mache.

The Internet is a wonderful place for information and recipes, a little mind boggling at times. Since I was going to be pressing the mache into a mold, I wanted a fine pulpy mixture, rather then the newspaper strips we all covered balloons with as kids.

The recipe I found (among many more) was tiny ripped up bits of toilet paper, PVC glue and water. I used sobo glue, but Elmer's glue would be just as good. Working in small batches, I mixed the three ingredients into a peanut butter-y consistency.

With this mixture I was able to easily press the mache into the nooks and crannies of my mold.

I also did a bit of research about what sort of mold would be best to cast the mache into. Many sites were about fabricating ventriloquist dummies and they recommend latex molds. I however, did not have the time to make a thick latex mold and opted for one of my all time favorites, Smooth-Ons Rebound 25.

The mache needs to evaporate to harden. Between layers (3 in total), I used a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. I then left it to dry further (in the mold) for a few more days. Once de molded, I let it dry for another few days.

One thing I did not take into consideration was the shrinking that would happen when a water based material dries out. My original sculpture was plenty big to fit on my head a day after it was de molded, a week later it was a very tight fit.

Trimming the edges was easily done with sharp scissors. Once fully dried, the mache can be dremeled and sanded. Had I more time, I would have finished the mask properly with a little sanding.

My inspiration for the mask was a Japanese kabuki performer. I used nail polish to mimic the lacquer often found on antiques.

Unfortunately I had to work the entirety of Halloween and I did not have a chance to wear my costume. There is always next year...... and hopefully more paper mache projects!

The mask sculpture in progress. Sculpted in Chavant clay.

The first layer of molding silicone.

I made the mother mold in UltraCal plaster.

The mold and the mask cast in paper mache.

The almost finished mask painted with nail polish. 
I later added ribbon to each side to tie around the head.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Blacklist - Part II

Moving along... Here are more effects makeup from the BLACKLIST.

Episode 105: The Courier

This was a really fun episode for effects makeup. Our villian, "The Courier" feels no physical pain and sometimes transports objects by hiding them in his body.

We had to cover his body with scars, both old and new and create a prosthetic that we could hide an object in (a small camera SD card). Since our previous episode (The Stewmaker) featured a heavily scarred villain, we added a tattoo across the Couriers back to clearly mark that this was a brand new story.

Some scars were made from collodian and makeup on his face and prosaide transfers on his body and arms. A silicone encapsulated piece was fabricated for the open wound on the chest that the actor had to physically interact with.

Additionally, we created a torso prop for insert shots. This was made from a pre existing life cast (from Jeremys, Monster In My Closet shop), run in silicone and backed with two part expanding foam.  The scars and cuts were replicated and a few hairs punched where needed.

 Prop Torso using Smooth On Dragon Skin and Smooth on Flex Foam 6. 
Before the scars and hair punching.

Original tattoo design. Printed on waterside paper.
A few prosaide transfer scars along the back.

Prosaide transfer scars and the fresh wound is a silicone encapsulated piece.

Full body shot. 

Collodian scars at his left cheek. I also used a little prosaide and 3rd degree to tack his earlobe up. It was a small detail, but really added to the final look, especially when shot from the front. 

Episode 106: Gina Zanetakos

This episode was quite light on special effects makeup. (A welcome break from the last two episodes!) Still, there was plenty of exciting beauty makeup. Our stunning villain had a few disguises throughout the episode; as well as a series of passport photos where she had to look like different people, with no prosthetic makeup. 

Here are two examples of her looks. It always amazes me how much a wig a little lipstick can change a persons look. 

What makes working on the Blacklist so much fun is the variety of makeups we get to do everyday. Since there is no separate special effects department we get to do everything, from beautiful to bloody.

Episode 107: Fredrick Barnes

In this episode, the villain, Fredrick Barnes, is a scientist looking to find a cure for his son's rare disease. Hoping to find someone with a natural immunity, he begins releasing a weaponized, accelerated version of the disease in public spaces.

The disease affects the veins and arteries, causing them to explode. In a normal case it takes about ten years for it to be fatal. The physical signs are large thick veins, which we see on the arms and neck of his son. In the accelerated version, it kills in about two minutes. The bodies of the infected are found covered in veins.

For the effects we sculpted tons of veins, which was about four plate molds worth. The molds were made out of GI 1000 silicone. Before casting the prosaide bondo into the molds, each vein (the negative impression) was painted with blue and purple skin illustrator colors.

Ultimately we used only a few of the transfers and hand painted most of the veins.

Everyday we had our "veiny victims" we had lots of help from a bunch of very talented makeup artists, Jeremy Selenfriend (obviously), Adam Bailey, Vinny Schicchi, and Joe Farulla.

Concept drawing for the infected victims.

Vein sculptures. 

Fredrick's son. Thick prosaide transfer vein and lots of hand painted ones too.

Court room victim.

Court room victim hands. Any part that was visible had to be covered in veins!

We had another minor character with a pretty large facial burn scar. He is one of Reddington's contacts who deals with radio active material. His back story is that this scar was from some sort of accident many years ago while transporting dangerous goods.

Manuel Soto concept drawing.

Burn scar sculpt. The clay is monster clay sculpted on a plaster head (from Jeremy's collection) treated with alcote. The sculpt was floated off, transferred to an acrylic sheet and molded as a plate mold to make a prosaide transfer.

Another post to come.... Stay tuned! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Blacklist- Part I

Its been awhile since I have had a chance to post something. And not for lack of work.. I did two movies earlier this year (and won't be able to talk about until they premier). And currently, since July, I have been the makeup department head on NBCs new show, The Blacklist.

Since we have already aired a bunch of episodes I can finally talk a little bit about some of the effects. Firstly, I want to state that myself and Jeremy Selenfriend (of Monsters In My Closet) fabricate all the effects, barring an odd or end and running the actual silicone encapsulated pieces.

We take care of everything from scars and scratches to burned dummies and fake hands.

Ill start from the first episode and work in chronological order, over a few separate posts. I did NOT work on the pilot. The effects on the pilot episode were handled by Louie Zakarian and the makeup department head was Amy Tagliamonti.

Episode 102: The Freelancer

For this episode we had a few ritualist scars done as prosaide transfers and a fake neck for an emergency tracheotomy on Isabella Rosselinis character.
There was also a ton of out of kit trauma makeups and dirt, and a really juicy compound fracture.

Tom Keen "healing" carried over from the pilot episode.

Prosiade Transfer branding scar.

Prosaide transfer keloid scar.

Since Isabella was unavailable for the life cast we used a neck double. I was able to cast Smooth On Body Double around her entire neck and do the plaster bandage mother mold in two parts. When it came time to remove the life cast we were able to slip the body double mold over our models head, without cutting the mold and leaving a seam.

Mold release was applied to the inside of the life cast and a few thin layers of silicone were painted in. Each layer was tinted in varying colors to intrinsically paint the neck as close as possible to Isabellas color. Next, it was filled with a two part expanding foam.

Here is Isabella's neck next to our prop neck. Jeremy painted a few extrinsic layers of color using skin illustrator inks and an air brush.

This is a screen grab of the neck in position.

Our stand in is miming the action.

Finally, here is the pen going in. Ewwwww.

Additionally we had to make a small prosthetic that would hold the pen to look as if it was in Isabella's neck. 

The pen was cut down to the proper length and an rare earth magnet was epoxied into the hollow barrel of the pen. Then, using the same life cast the prop neck was made in, a few coats of Baldiez was painted onto the throat area. Another rare earth magnet was placed onto the Baldiez and a few more layers were added. Carefully the Baldiez was peeled up with the magnet in the middle. 

Prior to attaching this quick prosthetic, the pen was attached by magnet to the piece. Then a little glue was painted on the back of the Baldiez piece and the edges blended away leaving the pen sticking straight up. 

Episode 103: Wujing

We definitely got a little break with this episode as far as things to fabricate. There were some really great trauma makeups by Jeremy. Our big build this episode was a severed hand. (Which you can see right at the beginning of the episode. You'll have to watch the whole thing to see some good bloody noses.)

Since we fabricate everything mostly on set, here is Jeremy casting his own hand to use as the prop. We used body double and plaster bandages and made the final hand out of Smooth On Dragon Skin.

Episode 104: The Stewmaker

This was our first big character makeup on the show. Our villain liquifies its victims in acid.. hence, the moniker, Stewmaker. He is hairless as to not leave any trace of himself at his crime scenes and is covered with acid burns from his own nasty brews. 

Jeremy and I sculpted about 30 different scars and made molds out of GI 1000. All the pieces were run as prosaide transfers. (We also made 2D tattoos, but ended up not liking them as much as hand painting them on, which we did with PPI Skin Illustrators). Tom Denier Jr. was on hand to help us apply the pieces. In the end we got the makeup down to about an hour.

This is the water color painting for the 2D Tattoos we never used.

This is one of the series of scars we sculpted.

Here are the scar transfers after they have been molded and painted sparingly with Skin Illustrator inks.

This is a screen shot of the finished makeup... scary!

Another screen shot... just as scary!

Here is a close up of an arm.

I should also mention that we had to make a fake arm (to match an actor) that gets boiled in acid. We made a silicone arm that we cut pockets into randomly. In these pockets special effects added some sort of magic powder that boiled and bubbled when it hit the water. Pretty cool.

Here is the arm fresh out of the mold.

Since we had to match the arm to the actor each hair was punched in individually. The hair is crepe wool.

Our leading lady gets pretty beat up too. The dirt is skin illustrator inks from the brow palette and the blood is a combination of fresh scab and fleet street blood and blood paste, my favorites!

Stay tuned.... I will be posting a few more entries over the next few weeks with more fx from The Blacklist. For now, you can follow me on instagram at @elleirat  I try to post makeup-y pictures every day with the odd art project thrown in there for good measure.