I call myself an SFX artist, although I'm far from actually having that title. I'm good enough for small theater jobs and being a Halloween artist, but I'm nowhere near a professional. Mostly I use it as a fun fact for all those icebreakers in class or at work. Of course, discovering what happens when you explain that is something entirely unexpected.
I first said it at the community college. Other people said they had a cat that did tricks, they were from Jamaica, or other facts that were enough to pass as an icebreaker but not really be remembered. I shuffled through my brain and selected SFX as my fact. Nobody knew what that meant, and blinked glassily.
"It's like doing the makeup for movies." I said, pushing my legal pad around and not meeting any eyes. "Like all the blood and stuff for horror movies. I make people look gross. Or pretty, if it's fantasy. I'm a magician."
A very fancy way of saying I play with corn syrup and latex and usually look like I jumped off a bridge in all reality. Upon explanation, people nodded and moved on and it wasn't really an issue because in spring semester, no one has any wish to do fancy makeup.
"Hey, can I see your work?" I nearly dropped my bag, which may have resulted in a small fire from the lighter and amount of greasy paper it contained. Interest was not something I had ever prepared for, although imaginings were rampant. I pulled some photos up for him, showing off gore, genderswap and character while his jaw dropped. "Could you show me how?"
Cue the first of many minor heart attacks. I managed to get the question from a few other people, which allowed me to open up my portfolio to include something besides my face. Which led to discovery number two, which shouldn't have been that shocking.
Literally everyone loves to get covered in bruises and blood. Something about it is inherently fun and full of laughter, despite the fact that we all look like a walking morgue of murder victims. You taste like menthol and candy, you look like a mashed watercolor palette and I've never seen people more excited to get a group picture in my life. Prom, weddings, and a girl's night mean nothing next to trauma artists.
I also would like to apologize to any security or police officers, figures of authority or any parents who I have scared while doing this. I do not mean to permanently scar anyone's memory, but it does mean my job is done right, so pardon the grin.
While every SFX artists has a specialty, they need to have experience in several areas in order to pitch their talents. In doing so, I acquired more makeup than intended. Lipsticks in almost every shade, more palettes and more things than I actually knew what to do with. The easiest way was to experiment, with swatches, sketches and thrown together looks to try out at the only place you won't really be judged for it- among cosplayers at a comic con.
Cosplay is suddenly the thing everyone wants in on. With makeup, you can become anyone, anything and any version you can imagine. I went around as a zombie version of Wash from the show Firefly at a con, complete with oozing blood through ripped latex and a detachable fingernail. Children were delighted at my "face paint" and wanted pictures with someone who looked like they walked out of the Pet Cemetery.
Attending comic cons has opened up all sorts of possibilities, because there are practically endless characters to pick from. Blood, glitter, and swirling curls of paint are just the beginning of seeing everyone change.
Studying characters also means you have to be familiar with them, which led to possibly the worst- and best- discovery. I now had to watch various cartoons, crime shows, wonderful movies and B-grade projects that were clearly on a dime store budget and full of thousand dollar ambitions. At first it was fun, I could claim anything was for character study. Learning to put together blues, purples and tinges of color corrector provided the look of a corpse, perfect for Halloween; while studying nature documentaries allowed me to adapt the bright colors of the rain forest into a themed design.
Wanting to expand my portfolio, I started to move out of horror. Flower crowns and genderswap provided an interesting take on Puck, from Shakespeare's Dream. Mermania, a convention themed around the styles of mermaids, provided the chance to bring aquatics to life. And the wonderful part of that was discovering how much fun other people had, getting dressed up in a nontraditional way. Netted eyeshadow and winged liner was completely new, and therefore, completely exciting.
In expanding and discovering the world of SFX, there were so many more ways to find creativity and transform faces. Curiosity comes from people who hear about it, and that led to the unbridled joy of a group of ragtag bloody cosplayers. And the wonders of makeup and cosplay has made it easier to make friends at cons.