Featured Makeup Artist – Stuart Bray

Featured Makeup Artist - Stuart Bray

Stuart recounts as a successful prosthetic makeup artist his early influences. His popular work and the actors he has enjoyed working with in his varied career, and how embracing computer generated technolgy goes hand-in-hand with the latest prosthetic techniques.

 

 

 

 

 Walking with Cavemen application

Like most prosthetic makeup artists, I grew up enjoying effects-filled movies like Legend, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Fright Night and American Werewolf in London.  Looking back it was a bit of a golden age for movie creatures with amazing prosthetics, no wonder most of my peers are roughly the same age. We grew up separately but watched the same things and read magazines like Cinefex, Fangoria and Gorezone, which used to feature workshop articles and step-by-step features.

I got my lucky break whilst still at college, working for a company in Shepperton Studios called Animated Extras on a movie called Mary Reilly.  I haven’t really stopped working since so I’m very grateful to the Animated team for that chance.

After college, I spent a bit of time working for model making companies mainly sculpting, moulding and casting bits for car shows. Then my next lucky break was working for Neill Gorton on a low-budget sci-fi horror which was a lot of fun and led onto other jobs.  I’ve actually been pretty lucky, and have worked a lot for Neill over the years on jobs likeSaving Private RyanAlice in WonderlandHex, and of course the new Dr Who, supervising the ‘Auton’ stuff for the debut episode Rose.

Stuart Bray on set with Dr Who (Millennium FX)

I’ve also worked for Nick Dudman on The Mummy 1 & 2 and early Harry Potter films, mainly making moulds. I really developed my mould-making skills during that time-it’s an essential aspect of making good prosthetics. We made so many moulds for both small appliances as well as body suits-we were a busy department. I like to be on set applying makeups, but I find the workshop is the best place.

Prosthetic makeup is a strange department in the UK, as it sits somewhere between the special effects and makeup departments, and you get involved in both sides. One day you could be wearing overalls in a freezing workshop covered in clay and fibreglass mess, and the next morning you could be applying a delicate appliance makeup in a makeup trailer.

Other notable jobs were Blade 2 working for Steve Johnson, making up background reaper vampires, and helping Karl Derrick with a witch makeup for Terry Gilliam’s Brothers Grimm, both movies shot in Prague. Shaun of the Dead was a lot of fun, supervised by veteran FX artist Stuart Conran for Animated Extras.

Guest House Paradiso Simon Pegg chest appliance (Neil Courbold SFX)

There were a lot of simple paint job makeups for the hordes of zombies as well as some choice gags and rigs. I made the rig for Dylan Moran for when he gets torn to bits and his guts yanked out.

I had actually worked on Simon Pegg for a movie in 1999 called Guest House Paradiso directed by Adrian Edmondson, he has this hilarious chest appliance and rig where he get picked up by a fishing line through a nipple ring.

 

One of the highlights of my career was Stardust, again working for Animated Extras. Fellow makeup artist Barrie Gower sculpted Michelle Pfeiffers appliances for the aged ‘Lamia’ character, and Nik Williams and I helped apply it. It took about four hours to apply, and as we applied that makeup so many times we really got into a routine. There were a lot of makeups on that job, with three principle witches, each with a double and a stunt double! It was quite a big team. Also, there were the ghost makeups of the murdered heirs to the throne and I created and applied the burn makeup for David Walliams’ character ‘Sextus’.

Burn makeup on David Walliams for Stardust (for Animated Extras)

In the last few years I have also done more teaching at various schools, as well as running my own short courses every few months. I don’t want to teach all the time as I still like to be involved with the job, it is important as a tutor to remain active within the field to keep fresh. At the moment I’m also writing a lot, mainly articles about aspects of prosthetic makeup. I found when I am teaching, so much comes up that I like to make notes of interests and questions, writing these down has helped me to answer them more thoroughly. I have finally my own website, and will be posting some of the content on there.

Technology

There has been a lot of talk about how computers are going to change the industry. There is no doubt there have been significant developments in computer generated (CG) effects, and that they are being used extensively in both TV and film.

For my dissertation in my final year of college, I chose to write about how computers were changing the process of film making having experienced a motion control rig on the set of Mary Reilly for the first time. Now CG is being used to create actual (or should that be ‘virtual’) characters, it is natural for people to be suspicious of it.

Funnily enough, most of the jobs I’ve worked on that had lots of CG also have lots of live action elements and effects. The best effects seem to combine real and digital elements, and often what CG does best is that which is harder to do in-camera. In Terminator 3 and AI: Artificial Intelligence there were some very inventive makeups involving prosthetics with sections painted chroma-key green and digitally removed. It looks fantastic, and creates an effect which uses the best aspects of both methods. I’m excited about the future.

Mutant Chronicles silicone makeup (for Paul Hyett)

What’s happening is that makeup effects and prosthetics are evolving. The use of silicone as a prosthetic appliance material has really improved the realism of character makeups. Some of Neill Gorton’s stuff is jaw-dropping even in person, let alone on screen. This means prosthetics can be used in much more daring ways, creating very subtle, realistic effects even for a live audience, as is the case on reality and hidden camera shows. This just wasn’t feasible with older materials like foam latex. It has raised the bar for everyone.

© Stuart Bray 2009
Stuart’s website can be found at www.learnprostheticmakeup.com. Find out about the courses on offer, and sign up to the mailing list to get new articles and upcoming workshop notices.

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