Carmen Reyes is an artist and makeup professional whose focus over ten years practicing has evolved from beauty and fashion makeup to prosthetics and practical effects.
She holds an art degree in Production Design and has taken a Film and Television Makeup certificate program at Cinema Makeup School in Los Angeles, California. Since then she has worked on several major theatre productions in Manila, television commercials, print ads, and last year worked as Key Makeup and Prosthetics Artist on her first full length feature film entitled HENERAL LUNA.
Currently, she provides the prosthetics and practical effects for the children’s television show, Lola Basyang, which airs weekly in Manila and heads the Character Makeup Course at Makeup Design Academy.
1. What’s your medium of choice and what do you love about it?
Sculpting is something I am constantly learning and loving. The best for that is plastilina, an oil based clay which I have gotten used to creating textures with. The clay was firm enough, but it softens up when heated with your fingers or if need be with a lamp. I also learned also how to thin it out to liquid so it’s become really useful. I love seeing what can be created with it.
I also create different textures or build up with liquid latex, a milk-like liquid that dries rubbery. Combined with cotton, paper or foam products, it reminds me of papier mache, but its flexible, so it will stretch and move with the body when used for a prosthetic appliance.
When coloring, I use alcohol activated paints for detailing: veins, scars, marks, freckles. I love it because it sits on top of any surface, unlike oil or water based paints. It brushes on as soft as watercolour, but can be adjusted. I also absolutely love its staying power on skin especially against sweat. It makes my job a lot easier during long, humid shoot days.
2. What are you working on right now? What’s on your camera/desk/easel or in your studio?
I’m at different stages of shooting three different movies right now: first one is a gritty horror story that revolves around a girl in high school that can communicate with spirits. My job is to recreate the dead spirits, and the brutally killed victims. It is up for Manila’s film festival at the end of the year, which is a pretty big deal for me.
Another is a spoof of the classic horror film, The Exorcist. Research for that project was kind of challenging because when I watched the director’s cut re-release in 2000, I was so creeped out that I couldn’t sleep by myself for months. It became fun to work on though because its a silly comedy and working on set was fun.
And another is about a socially awkward boy who relates most with dogs, especially with an abused pet Doberman, but gets bitten early on in the story. That’s where its my job to create a realistic bite wound, and how it should look as the timeline in the story progresses.
I am also part of a children’s fantasy series that airs on weekends. I love children’s stories and children’s shows in general so I love reading a new script each week and seeing how to translate it into something visual and practical. It’s fun because it tests my creativity but I’m given a lot of freedom with it at the same time.
My studio is a mess of things! There are severed heads and other body parts, face and body forms that I use to sculpt on. I store some raw materials too, just in case I all of a sudden get a project with a tight schedule, I can rummage through it and see what we can work with for the requirement.
3. What practices/activities are most valuable to your creative process?
I love learning from different artists and I take advantage of learning online. I do as much of that as I can, but something I learned to schedule in as well is some purposeful rest and exercise. Since my creative output is also my job, it can be stifling when I’m overworked and unrested.
4. What’s one thing you want to share with others about your art and/or process?
On a production set, everyone’s job takes part in telling a story. There are times when my output is called to shout out or capture the audience, like when the story requires the audience to get spooked by a certain image. There are also times when your work supports and blends in the background. Like a wound that happened a week into the story and how that would look like days and months after that, or how a realistic looking beard or moustache can create a character.
I love how my art can express itself that way: keeping the audience in that present time and place, with that specific emotion. In that way, when the work is unnoticed or didn’t distract the audience then I’ve succeeded.
5. What advice would you give to your young artist self?
I actually got this advice during a time I was overwhelmed with the requirements at work, faced with the responsibilities of adulthood for the first time. I didn’t feel creative or effective at all with the pressures, and I would focus on my mistakes a lot. I brushed myself off and got to work the day after someone simply said, “It gets better.” And it did.
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