Painting the Corpse: Don’t Let Your Halloween Makeup Fail Get You Down (An Interview with Makeup Artist Eavan Derbyshire)

The morning after every Halloween, we awake to horror stories of our favourite holiday’s dark side: poisoned candy scares, creepy old men, and car accidents involving costumed pedestrians litter the news; but for many of us, the first fright comes from the sight of our own bleary, makeup-smeared faces in the mirror and the maddening realization that we suck as FX artists.

For an aspiring metal musician in his or her formative years, this experience alone is often enough to dissuade someone from ever donning corpsepaint or any other theatrical makeup onstage. Factory Worker Media has asked professional MakeUp Artist (MUA) and fervent metalhead Eavan Derbyshire to do a little damage control and reassure readers, especially musicians, that make-up artistry is not an arcane discipline beyond the grasp of mere mortals.

Photo credit: Black Silence, Model: Troclate Art, MUA: Eavan Derbyshire

Photo credit: Black Silence, Model: Troclate Art, MUA: Eavan Derbyshire

FWM: Is there anyone one particular thing that amateurs always get wrong when doing makeup? What is the most important thing to get right?

ED: Well everyone is different and every amateur could have different ‘mistakes’ with regards to actual technique, but the biggest thing I think would be hygiene. If they’re doing the makeup themselves that’s fine, but if you’re applying makeup on another person it’s imperative that you clean your products and materials accordingly.

Women generally have more experience with makeup application than men – what do men specifically need to know to get it right?

For men, less is more. Generally you don’t want it to look like they’re wearing anything. But this all depends on the client, of course, and the job at hand. Whether he just has to look good on camera or whether he has to portray a character or persona. Usually some concealer to cover any spots or tone down redness with some powder on some well-prepped skin is enough for your standard look.

Assuming that the average unsuspecting male most fears he will end up looking like a drag queen when the average woman helps him apply makeup, is there anything women tend to get wrong when helping men for Halloween or other situations (e.g. musicians performing onstage or in a video)?

The one thing I’ve often noticed is how they react when you actually apply the makeup. Many will start to actually edge backwards the minute you move in towards their face with a brush in your hand, especially when it has anything to do with the eye area. They’re not used to it the way women are. I try to explain everything I’m doing step by step and it tends to help them keep still. Also, having a good sense of humour about it always helps, it tends to relax them a bit more!

Can you give a baseline for how long it takes to apply makeup well, and, if it varies depending on styles or types of makeup used, can you roughly break down the numbers? For those who can’t sit still, is there anything someone can do in 10 minutes? 20 minutes?

It varies from look to look and also how much time you have and/or are given. If I have no particular time constraints then I like to take my time. For your basic ‘natural, everyday’ makeup for a woman no more than an hour should do in my opinion. This also depends on how the clients sits and how they react to the makeup/application. For example, when applying false lashes to sensitive eyes they tend to tear up and run, which can turn a 5-minute task into a 30-minute one. It’s happened to me!

Also if you have a client with problem skin (acne, hyperpigmentation etc.) it could take a bit longer.

What makeup products are okay to use and which ones should be avoided?

Any products which haven’t been dermatologically tested should definitely be avoided. It should state this on the packaging. I’d be very surprised to find makeup on the market that hadn’t been tested, but you never know I suppose! Also try to look for products that suit your skin type: if you have dry skin and apply foundation that was created for oily skin it will not look or sit well on the skin nor will it do your skin any favours.

How much time should someone expect to spend for different looks, e.g. full theatrical face paint; corpse paint; new wave; punk; goth?

Again, it all depends on the look. The time it takes and materials required would play a large part in this. Each makeup artist has different rates and there can be a bit of negotiation involved. I generally find face painting not too long to do. I did a 30-minute werewolf look last Halloween which turned out pretty well I thought, given the time constraints. Subcultural makeup such as corpse paint, goth or new wave wouldn’t take too long either and the general idea with those looks, in my opinion, is that it should like not too much time was spent applying it.

Marrow of the Spirit, Photo Credit: Black Silence

Marrow of the Spirit, Photo Credit: Black Silence; MUA: Eavan Derbyshire

How different is the application of those styles from one another?

The application can be very different depending on what the looks are. With full theatrical face paint I’d generally use my Kryolan Aquacolor palette and my usual makeup brushes. Maybe a sponge if necessary. I’d use the same technique with the corpse paint. Goth, punk and new wave can easily be achieved using ‘normal’ makeup. The materials you use and how you apply them can be very different. I’ve worked with materials ranging from your standard makeup products to liquid latex, gelatine, flour and even clay!

What has been your best/favourite look to apply, or your favourite person or personality type to work on?

One shoot I recently did required me to just cover the model with clay from an arts and crafts shop simply with my hands. Took about forty minutes in total to do the head and upper torso, but turned out to be a very strong look! I’ve always loved the more avant-garde/fantasy side of makeup. I also love makeup from different era’s (20’s, 50’s, 60’s in particular). I have a couple of photographer friends and models who share the same taste as me and we always enjoy working on projects together. Some of my favorite looks have been from those projects.

As far as personalities go? I worked on a singer called Phlo Finister who was playing at the Melt! Festival outside Berlin. I was only supposed to do her makeup in the hotel but she ended up taking me to the festival with her, so I ended up sitting sidestage on the mainstage, watching her mate Azealea Banks perform whilst looking out over the massive crowd. Didn’t recognise any of the music played, but the day was pretty unforgettable and Phlo was a fascinating personality to get to know.

Eavan Derbyshire is an MUA currently based in Berlin. She studied makeup for Fashion, Film and Theatre at Dublin’s Portobello Institute and has worked on photo shoots for clients “from fashion to fantasy and everything in between”, including Neil Jordan’s film Byzantine, Berlin Fashion Week, Levi’s, Julian Zigerli, and music videos for German rapper MC Fitti and electro swing DJ Parov Stear, both of which circulated on MTV Germany. Her shoots have been featured in Dark Beauty, Papercut, Gothic Beauty Magazine, Elléments, deFUZE and Freque. The fashion video for Happarel Clothing (above) screened at the London, Miami and La Jolla Fashion Film Festivals. Occasionally she also takes pity on her metal brethren and sews or repairs the patches on their battlejackets.

 

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