Imagine The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones without any special effects makeup… Not quite the visually captivating story anymore right? Characters can come to life with a little glamorization and animation. From out-of-kit effects to advanced character creation, it’s up to the artist to paint (or airbrush) makeup that looks and feels real without coming across as a tacky special effect. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the beholder has to have a special creative juice for special effects makeup artistry.
For 20-year-old Maple Ridge-born turned Vancouver city girl Samantha St John, aka St Johnnnn on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, the combination of being a hair, makeup and effects artist is the ultimate creative outlet. So what goes into the creation of special effects makeup?
When she’s not looking in the mirror at her latest creation on her own body, Samantha sees herself as more of an out-of-the-box artist. If it sticks to her body, she’ll call it art. She also takes great pride in dubbing herself as a “professional weirdo” – which takes ownership of all her intrinsic quirks and artistic freedoms. That self-acquired license to create goes a long way to break boundaries and find new ways of expressionism.
For something so fine detailed as makeup, there is a precise balance between being book smart and street smart. Samantha attended John Casablancas Institute in Vancouver to learn the fundamentals of makeup and hair. With a strong foundation of anatomy, theory, technique and practical use she is in constant pursuit of advancing her career. Staying relevant with special effects trends and techniques has been a key to success for working in film/TV/media, doing freelance work and being a beauty influencer.
“Makeup has just always been what’s kept me calm and level in life and being able to do that for my career is beyond amazing. I love how I can either be doing someone’s eyeliner and making them feel beautiful and powerful or I can be covering someone in blood, makeup has this surprise element that I need because I get bored way too fast.”
Like a signature cocktail, a well-versed special effects makeup artist has got to have something they can call their own. For Samantha, it’s out-of-kit effects using silicone and alcohol activated paints. Prosthetic making, which she doesn’t do regularly, also has her heart because it keeps things fresh and offers a challenge to her own skill set.
Real life incidents like freak accidents and nasty wounds provide raw inspiration for realistic looks. “If I could give anyone a single tip when it comes to SFX it’s to never take reference from another SFX look, you lose realism by recreating a recreation- always use an original for reference! …I use my mood more often than not to create my more Avant-garde FX looks.”
To be the best at something you have to influence your environment as much as it influences you. In pursuit of mastering her craft, Samantha draws on her peers and industry experts for knowledge. She also shares her own work and growing knowledge on social media which allows her to brand herself and connect with everyone that loves beauty. As a beauty influencer, she posts tutorials on YouTube and snaps on Instagram.
Makeup is a bit of an obsession for Samantha as she spends all day everyday working with makeup or at least thinking about it. If she wasn’t so into hair and makeup effects she would ‘dive’ into marine life. Her favourite things include people watching, sunflowers and… blood.
Also, check out some more creative Vancouver folk in our other Artist Spotlights:
- Lip Artist Meagan Baldini
- Painter Sherwin Santos
- Visual Creator Erik Caudillo
- Embroidery Artist Sean Alistair
By Amar Mirchandani @amarmirch
Amar likes his beer chilled and ranch sauce with pizza.