Indiana Repertory Theatre's Artists-in-the-Classroom (AIC) outreach programming allows the public a little taste of the professional skills of their performers and backstage craftsmen. One of those artists, Jenifer Ring, who also does professional Special FX makeup under the moniker The Putrid Parlor, will be teaching a seminar on how to recreate pro-level Special FX looks with costume shop and drugstore makeup at the Irvington Library on Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. The program is one of many events, both family-friendly and adults-only, going on during the Irvington Halloween fest from Oct. 19 to Oct. 26. Jenifer's ideas come from a variety of inspirations, from demented dolls like the one she showed us, to the full masque recreation of her dog she did on herself, which appears as the profile image on The Putrid Parlor's Facebook page.
Even though Ring's skills are LA-quality, her tools and supplies are not: the rag doll and the face she will demonstrate at the library event can easily be done with drugstore accessories and costume shop grease paint, and a few insider secrets.
Ring started by using a plastic palette knife and pressed Ben Nye Scar Wax onto the face of model Bronwyn Doebbeling, on of the IRT's talented youth actors. She smoothed the edge along the jawline and forehead, to create the texture of a ragged doll's "seam."
Over that, she dabs on a few layers of liquid latex to keep the wax from sliding as it warms to body temperature. Ring has had some disasters on that front, "I skipped this step once, and this huge wax mask melted and just slid right off [the face]." Latex is key.
After 3-4 laters of liquid latex had dried completely, Ring dabbed spirit gum on the back of the buttons and on the spot on the wax she planned to stick them. The key with spirit gum is letting it dry a little and get really tacky, and only then, joining the two surfaces together with a firm press.
Next she used a regular makeup sponge and greasepaint wheel to pain the face three different shades, to differentiate between the different "fabrics" covering the doll's face. She filled in the smaller details using dollar store paint brushes. For hygienic purposes, as Ring works long hours at area haunted houses doing makeup on hundreds of actors, everything she uses is cheap and disposable, like big packs of dollar-store paintbrushes and Q-tips. "You can get this stuff anywhere," she says about her supplies.
Once the base colors were applied, Ring used a small brush to outline the eye sockets with a contrasting color of dollar-store eye shadow, then filled it in by dabbing on small amounts of powder for more even coverage. She also made soft contour lines with the same shade under the cheekbones and above the nostrils, "buffing" over the outer edges of the eyes in light circles to soften the lines.
She lightly applied red cream around the eyelids to get a good contrast against the whites of the eyes, ("You want her to really look kind of sick.") and then drew on stark black doll eyebrows with a thin, flat brush. With the same black color, she drew the "buttonholes" on with a thin brush on either side of the buttons. Last, she drew messy lines around the edges of the wax "fabric" with dark red cream, then dabbed shiny red blood all over the same edges, to achieve maximum depth of color and gore.
"You always want to finish with plenty of really red blood at the end." Ring prefers to mix her own fake blood, but says that the store-bought version works great. What does she prefer? "KY jelly. Yes, like that KY. I mix it with some blood powder and it stays really shiny."
Doebbeling, an Eastwood Middle School student in the seventh grade, managed to avoid looking in the mirror to preserve the surprise. And boy, was she surprised.
"Oh my - " was all that came out as she looked in the mirror, almost touching her face in a reflex of surprise before IRT Outreach Programs Manager Millicent Wright grabbed her hand. But even before she could fully absorb her new look, Doebbling and Wright were dressed for their rehearsal and hustling out the door, a pretty normal occurrence for Ring as a haunted house makeup artist.
"You don't have time to sit and get it perfect, so you learn to do it fast. They'll be in the dark anyway." In that way, Ring and area parents have the same goals in common: create convincing special effects makeup on a budget, with actors that are hard to keep sitting still in a chair for very long.
Ring will be teaching her makeup class as part of the Irvington Halloween Festival at the Irvington Public Library, Wednesday Oct. 23