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Making up to monsters

Published October 20. 2012 09:01AM

I learned about doing makeup using two things, a makeup kit I bought when I was on vacation to my aunt and uncle's house one summer and a book on monster makeups I purchased that described how to do professional level makeups with mostly household effects.

The makeup set I bought used items that were new to me, latex flesh and spirit gum which I learned was like a safe glue used to fasten makeup effects to your skin. There was also a remover that takes the makeup effects off of your skin. The effects called appliances were made with this fake flesh and molds of scars and bruises and such.

To create the effects also called appliances, I had this powdery fake flesh that was mixed with water to make a substance that could be poured in the molds to harden. The molds were put in the refrigerator for a period of time and after several hours the solid appliances could be removed, cut apart and applied to the skin. Since this was before the days of the Internet, the flesh mixture eventually was used up and left me trying to figure out what to use in its place.

For a while this set was shelved as I had no way to replace the flesh material to play with the appliances. It was around this time I bought the book on doing monster makeups and learned how to do many classic makeups using household materials like corn syrup, oatmeal, popcorn, papier mache, paper towels, food coloring and more.

One of the coolest effects was to make a dripping face using corn syrup to apply cotton balls to parts of your face such as above an eyebrow, on your forehead, your cheek and your chin. Then you mix a thick glop from corn syrup, red food coloring and popcorn along with some oatmeal. This gloppy mixture is applied to the cotton balls slowly and gradually to build it up until it looks like your face is melting. It was a pretty cool technique if care is used to make sure of the consistency of the mixture. I used it when we made a haunted house at our church as a youth group fundraiser one year.

A similar makeup was used with oatmeal applied to the face with a red colored base or purple colored base using food coloring to shade the corn syrup. When this is applied to the face it makes it appear diseased and scarred. I never really used this one for myself but I also used it in the haunted house.

One makeup I did use for Halloween that came from the book was the mummy I described last week. There were also several classic make ups that used professional creams. One of those I used quite a bit was the Dracula make up. This was prior to the big box stores and the ease in getting makeup creams at Halloween so I found other ways to provide coloring. The white face cream that I used was a zinc oxide cream. That would create the deathly coloring of a vampire's face so that would be my base coloring. To create the gray that would sink the eyes and the cheek bones, I used lamp black which was made by burning a cork end to char it creating an ashy residue which when mixed into the white makeup would create a gray that creates that deathly pallor around the eyes and sunk the cheeks.

Regular stage blood was easily obtained around Halloween or through the Adams advertisements in comic books so that was not difficult to add. I actually had a tube of stage blood that lasted me for at least 10 years. I used plastic fangs that seemed eternally accessible from any store around the fall. There were other ways to make them including cutting them from a white plastic bottle that was thoroughly cleaned, but the fake fangs were good enough for me.

The one downside to this makeup was the zinc oxide didn't really dry well although I learned later that putting baby powder in a sock and gently tapping it over the moist cream dried it a bit so that it would stay on your face. Unfortunately, my blond hair did not help with the classic Dracula look, but I did not let that deter me. Later I found actual makeup as it became more available in stores and finally when the Magic Touch opened in Tamaqua real makeup was made accessible to me and that made Halloween makeups easier.

The fake flesh substance though still troubled me, but then one day I stumbled upon a feasible solution to the problem. I discovered Knox Clear Gelatin. Usually used to thicken things, I discovered that if I used a ratio of more gelatin to water to make it thicker it made a great substitute for the much more expensive fake flesh. They filled the molds and hardened to make comparable scars and bruises. Instead of spirit gum small amounts of corn syrup did the trick. The finished appliances were then colored with some food coloring or water coloring or women's eye shadow. While they were more vulnerable to water, they worked great. I learned later that a Q-tip and the gelatin mixture could be used to build scars without using a mold by applying it in layers and leaving it dry. This was much slower but just as effective.

Eventually the Magic Touch opened in Tamaqua and the days of improvising makeup for Halloween ended since they carried the makeup that I could not find. Today the Internet is a treasure trove of professional supplies at affordable prices, but I was quite proud of those days when creativity and improvisation were the imagination's best friends.

Til next time …

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