Refraction

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Before my good friend and photographer Chelsea Marrin moved back to Chicago this past February she asked me if I wanted to do one more photo-shoot. During Chelsea’s short time living in Louisville we became very close. We worked on a lot of fun and some very emotionally charged projects together. It was always interesting seeing the crazy setups she would do. She helped me create art to help me through a tough time and I hope I was able to do the same for her. That all said I couldn’t pass up a final opportunity to work with someone I had become so close to. The only time she had available was a Saturday evening. Turns out that Saturday I already had 2 other makeups to do. The first of which was a beauty shoot. Then from there I had a 30-40 minute drive to my next makeup which was the Hindu Goddess, Kali which was character body paint. Knowing that both of my other photo shoots were all so far out and even sprawling from each other I knew I couldn’t pass up working with my friend one last time. I did makeup on her first photo-shoot in Louisville and I wanted to book end it by working on her last.

Wheels were set in motion so we got to planning. The first model we cast was Abbie Purdie who I had worked with a lot recently and she always does a killer job. Chelsea and I knew we wanted to do something wild. The inspiration photos that Chelsea sent me had these crazy shadows and bugs incorporated into the makeup. She thought it would work best with two models. With Abbie being a Tall blonde I though Leah Goforth who is the same height and brunette would be great and the two would complement each other well.

For the bug element we decided to go with bees. We were short on time so I looked around a few place locally to find realistic looking fake bees. Nothing I could find really matched what we were going for. As it turns out finding dead bees intact in the middle of winter was not easy either. I called around to a few places that had hives to see if they had any that had died of natural causes. They did but they were not in good condition. With legs or wings missing they wouldn’t work for the looks we wanted. We needed them to be pristine. I am sure the models were happy I couldn’t find any dead bugs to work into the makeups but that meant we had to rethink our concept.

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Up until we showed up at the studio we didn’t really know what we were doing. I knew we had a great team with great models and Caleb Yeske doing hair. I like going in with a plan but I knew somehow we would be ok. Chelsea had an idea to use this crazy lens for her camera that can warp images and distort light called a Lens-Baby. Chelsea was also shooting through a separate piece of glass to catch the lights reflecting. It’s a really cool effect but I knew with that on top of the gels she was going to be using the makeup would get lost if I didn’t do something drastic.

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I decided to do the makeups almost as if the models were already in gelled lighting. In regular lighting the makeups looked pretty out there, almost like something you would have seen on Star Trek in the 60’s. I gave Leah a purple tone and Abbie a blue tone. I used all cream based makeups because airbrush would have been a little bit to clean of a transition. I thought they were very pretty but also other worldly. It’s important as a makeup artist to take the lights on a photo shoot into consideration. The makeups were extremely pale and blended down the neck to the chest. I used a really heavy copper to contour and then covered them both to finish the makeups off I used a frosted gold shimmer powder. With all of the lights I knew the shimmer would catch the lights and create a really nice effect. Luckily I have worked with Chelsea enough that she trusted that I had an idea of what I was doing.

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We were all looking at the images as they were being taken and they were looking phenomenal.  With the hair, the lighting setup, the crazy lens, makeup and the amazing models we got some really amazing images. I actually like how in the images you can see where the makeup stops and the skin starts. I think it shows how the lights really effected the overall look of the makeups. After the shoot a few of us went out for drinks. We went to a bar that has some dancing and a lot of neon lights. Abbie didn’t take off her makeup and when we got there I think she was afraid people would think she was nuts. The funny thing is with all of the neon lights in the bar she pretty much looked like how the final images turned out.

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Ghouble Gum

In this industry making good connections is so important and more often than not leads to other opportunities. I did makeup on a fashion photo shoot with an amazing team a while back in Louisville, ky. Like me, our model Melanie Smith is a makeup artist in a haunted attraction. Her makeup manager at her haunt is none other than Aryn Fox from Skin Wars. I was happy to just be doing beauty makeup on Melanie because I don’t feel my body paint is anywhere near as good as Aryn’s work. Granted her style of body paint is just a different style than mine. She is definitely an artist I look up to though.

Towards the end of the shoot Melanie told me about this Gallery Hop that was happening in Lexington, Ky. Three O Studio was doing a nude photography exhibit and wanted to do something a little different to bring people in. They thought a live body painting would go well with the photos they were displaying. Melanie asked if I would be interested in doing the body paint. I don’t know if she waited until meeting me and working with me to ask and see if we got along first or it had just slipped her mind up to that point. I wouldn’t blame her for either. Her having worked with an amazing talent like Aryn Fox was definitely intimidating. With that said painting for a live audience was intriguing.

“I’ve been a body paint model numerous times, and most of them have been live paints. So walking into the studio, knowing that people would be stairing at me during the entire process, was just like another day at work for me. I had also worked with Matt before so I knew we would have a blast.” -Melanie Smith

Photo By Jim Calabrese

Photo By Jim Calabrese

After talking to Bill Cole the organizer I accepted the job. Other than doing the body paint live there was a huge catch. We wanted photographers in attendance to be able to have some time to shoot the final piece. In doing so I would only have about two and a half hours to complete the body paint live all the while people talking to me and asking me questions. I like a good challenge but I felt I had bit off a bit more than I could chew. I have felt that way before though and I have yet to not have it turn out well.

I was given free reign to paint whatever subject matter I pleased. Being given creative freedom was another reason I was interested in this job. I decided I would go with something abstract. It would be simple yet dynamic. With it being abstract no one would be able to see if anything was wrong because there would be no frame of reference.  Not to mention if I screwed up at all I could work it into the finished work. Plus I love doing more abstract type work so I saw it as a win win.

Two days before the event I was sitting on my couch and I just started flipping through a coffee table book I have “Goth-Icky”. It’s a picture book filled with retro pop art Halloween designs by Charles S. Anderson Design Company. If you are a fan of Halloween I highly recommend it. Looking through the art work in the book it struck me. My model Melanie and I both love Halloween and doing something in that theme would be really cool. When I was painting more canvas I did a lot of cell shaded type pop art zombies and monsters so I was excited.

Since it was so late when the pop Halloween idea struck me I slept on it. The next day I starting sketching it out with a yellow high lighter and then refined the sketches with black marker. I would then run the sketches through a copy machine which would not copy the highlighter and leave me with just the black. I just kept doing that process until I got it right. Given the subject matter I knew people would expect more Halloween horror type colors like oranges, reds, purples, blacks and greys. I love all those colors and they were all my first instinct as well so that is exactly why I didn’t want to do it. I chose a kind of bubble gum and cotton candy color scheme using pinks and blues.

Pinks and blues aren’t typically a pallet I work with so I was hoping it would look cool because I had not sketched it out in full color. I talked it over with Melanie when she showed up to the event and she was totally game.

“I loved the concept Matt had come up with. We both work at different haunted houses and have a general love for all things creepy and Halloween. So when he explained we would be doing a vampire-esque paint I was all for it.” –Melanie Smith

Photo By Dusty Dunaway

Photo By Dusty Dunaway

Melanie is so easy going I think I could have told her I was going to paint her like a farm animal and she would have been game. I didn't want to use a stencil so I took my drawing of the head which was the right size for her body and I poked some holes in it. I poked the holes in the eyes, the teeth and the windows of the castle.  I then placed it on her where I wanted it and painted through the holes on to her giving myself guidelines. Starting with the white and working my way to using the black last was strange in front of a live audience. I knew that the black paint at the end is what was going to pull it all together but the on lookers didn’t know that. It did bother me a little bit when people would show up and leave only seeing the white, blue and pink blobbed on before it really looked like anything. I was very happy with the finished piece and wish the people that left early would have stayed to see it.

 

Photo By Jim Calabrese

Photo By Jim Calabrese

“I love modeling paint because I am able to bring life to someone’s work. These artists spend hours on each paint, so I want to be sure to represent that character or theme to the best of my ability. But what was so cool about this paint was that it was already me. This piece had “me” written all over it: from the colors, to the design, to the crazy wild hair. It was so much fun to bring out that side of myself!” –Melanie Smith

Photo By Dusty Dunaway

Photo By Dusty Dunaway

Photo By Dusty Dunaway

Photo By Dusty Dunaway

 I felt it very much fit my personality andMelanie’s as well. She seemed to really like the final look which is what I was going for. I knew if she was happy with it having worked with great artists before me I knew I had done a good job.

Every opportunity no matter how big or small can lead to your next great thing. Weather that opportunity be creative freedom, money, fulfillment or whatever just keep pushing forward. I’m not saying do things you have no interest in but do things out of your comfort zone that challenge and scare you. If you don’t learn or take something away from every gig you do you’re not paying attention.

Photo By Jim Calabrese

Photo By Jim Calabrese

Mandarin Duck Challenge

As a way to help bring our artistic community together fellow makeup artist Bethany Hood decided to have a challenge. There were no winners and no losers.  This was just be a great way for people to show off their talent and creativity.  Bethany had an outside source pick an image that we would all have to use as inspiration and design our looks around.

The image that was picked was of a Mandarin Duck. They look like you gave a coloring book of ducks and a 64 color box of crayons to a kid and said go to town. The colors are so vivid and beautiful and blocked off. I had no idea what I was going to do. All I could see was the duck. I didn’t want to do feathers or anything birdlike, that much I knew. I struggled with it for a few days. I went back to look at the image of the duck and squinted my eyes really hard to try and take the bird out of the equation.

That seemed to do the trick. I decided to do a very abstract piece using as many different brush strokes and colors as were on the duck. Since I have never liked makeup on myself and the only camera I own is my phone I enlisted the help of some friends. I messaged my friend and great photographer Danny Alexander who I knew would capture the makeup the way I wanted. I then messaged my friend and Model Kaylynn Nyree. I felt her face would be beautiful for this look. While doing the makeup I would step back from time to time to make sure the color balance was right. The main thing I took from the duck was the white around the eyes. I thought that would make for a cool aesthetic. Since it was a makeup challenge the only editing I wanted Danny to do was making the sclera of her eyes black.  I was incredibly happy with how it came out.

Seeing all the makeups from all of the other artists was so cool. Everyone did such an amazing job. It was very interesting to see everyone’s interpretation of the same image. I cannot thank Bethany enough for doing something like this. It was such a cool way to bring a community together while fostering creativity.