Keith Newsome has been an artist since the birth of his fifth grade nickname, Monty the Monster Maker. He has been immersed in the haunt scene since he was a teenager when he first observed creative and insane haunt makeup and effects on screen, learned those techniques (mostly through trial and error by experimenting on himself), and went on to become Operations Manager and Lead Makeup Artist for The ScareAtorium. Needless to say, he knows a few things about designing memorable characters, as well as creating unique experiences for haunt fans. He shared some valuable tips with me about what beginners can do to get started with a makeup brush, as well as how seasoned artists can optimize their design process. Let the haunting begin!
1. Don’t recreate the wheel.“Have two designs for a zombie, insane clown etc.. Then, simply switch them up a bit.” Adding variation to an existing makeup design by swapping colors and tweaking styles (taking a mouth from one design and eyes from another) is one of Keith’s go-to strategies. He advises that there is no need to come up with something new and that having a staple character design will help your haunt and characters to be recognized and well-known. And, as is the truth of anything, practice makes perfect. “The more you do a design or specific character, the faster you will get.”
2. Position everything within arms reach.Keith suggests planning ahead to save you and your actor time in the long run. “Know exactly what you’ll need as far as makeup, sponges, brushes, paint, mirror, table, chair, etc..”
3. Use high quality makeup.It is wise not to be cheap, as you get what you pay for when it comes to costume makeup. Keith says to look for quality makeup at your local costume store or shop around online. His two favorites – Silly Farm Supplies and WolfeFX. Silly Farm often has great clearance buys, and WolfeFX has smart tips and tricks to use when applying their makeup.
4. Utilize reference materials.“Post pictures of various characters and makeup designs that you can look at while you’re painting.” Position your actor’s chair so that you can look over his or her shoulder at the image while painting. It’s important to remember that the goal is not to replicate the image exactly, but to use it as a guideline and reference. This is especially relevant since some characters, in a haunted house for example, might only be seen for a few seconds.
5. Give your character LIFE.
“You can spend an hour on someone and they will just go BOO! Or, you can spend five minutes on someone who will make that makeup come alive. Makeup might look great, but can be killed quickly by a bad actor.” To understand and enhance a character, Keith interviews his actors and actresses as he paints them. “Find out who the character is. This will give you ideas for the makeup, and help you to develop the character at the same time.” Working with your actors and actresses to develop a clear character will result in an experience that the customer won’t forget. Why? “Because we gave it life.” Keith explains, “No longer do you just have a clown. You’ve got Joingo the clown! A name gives him a personality. He is no longer a shadow that fades into the night, but someone that the customer will remember for a long time.”
6. Don’t underestimate subtle changes.Keith’s final touches involve slight adjustments that will make a big difference for your character’s eyes and mouth. Keith’s key ingredients: contacts, teeth, and food coloring. “Contacts give the makeup that extra punch, fake teeth add tone and character, and food coloring adds to that pink mouth and turns it black.”