sue upton makeup designer

Lately, I've been doing several creative shoots with Laura Hollick, and I thought it might be fun to post an assortment of photos that we've done over the past couple of years ( all shot by Kevin Thom)
It's not a full collection by any means, but it does at least showcase examples of hair/wigs, makeup and the occasional bit of bodypainting & background painting...
Double Vision 2012CAPIC‘s  unique exhibition where illustrators and photographers are paired up by a draw, to create portraits of each other – was recently held and the results were outstanding.
I recently collaborated with photographer Michael Cooper and Illustrator Barbara Spurll to turn Barbara into "Edith Prickly" for the ultimate Canadiana magazine cover/tribute to SCTV.  We had a fabulous time at the shoot - and Barbara left with a few reference photos of Michael to create the illustrated version of him as Bob McKenzie.  She did an amazing portrait (which of course, I can't take any credit at all for that half of the equation!)...but ultimately our efforts paid off, and once again, I was lucky enough to be involved with the winning entry!  Congratulations to both Michael Cooper and Barbara Spurll on the well deserved win!
So, I'm now back from Calgary after a fabulously fun shoot filled with laughs and monster hours....after all those camera tests, and all the planning, here's a look at the characters as they'll appear on the show:
I'm here in Calgary, and it's the day before we go to camera to start shooting the pilot.  We're in pretty good shape, as we've managed to camera test 5 of our 6 lead characters - and it's all looking pretty encouraging.  I have to say I'm really looking forward to this one:  Gavin is so fun to work with, and this kind of feels like a 10 year reunion of the old Gavin Crawford show - and what's not to like about that?!
The interesting thing leading up to getting our characters together for this shoot has come out of the camera tests.  After our very first camera test of Jess Jones' character months earlier, we thought it might be interesting to have some prosthetic cheeks made for Gavin to help sell Jess as being heavier and a little softer in the face.  The pieces were beautifully designed and made by Louise and Ray Macintosh of Caligari studios...and we subsequently tested with the prosthetic pieces.  What became a bit alarming was the fact that our RedCam picked up color discrepancies that weren't even visible to the naked I suddenly was finding myself second guessing color choices and having to color the pieces to a disturbingly pink shade for it to look "right" on the monitor (though it looked quite wrong to the naked eye).  Though Gavin and I loved the overall effect, we opted to do yet another camera test with the pieces...because some of the other issues we knew we'd be dealing with was going to involve shooting in both hard daylight, and interior I wanted to try to create the most seamless application possible...but of course, that takes a bit of time.
We compared Jess' look with and without prosthetic - and though Gavin and I desperately wanted to make the prosthetics work for the shoot - we had to resign ourselves to the fact that our shoot schedule was so tight and didn't allow for time or the ability to control lighting, etc...that it didn't make sense in this instance to throw prosthetics into the mix given our "guerilla" shoot schedule.
Here's the comparison of with and without prosthetics:
Ultimately, we couldn't justify the extra number of hours required for the it's looking like we'll go with my "painted" rendition of Jess' face.  FYI - our Jess character sports a lovely muffin top (out of camera range), that mixes the look up a bit too.
I was always a huge fan of SCTV - in fact, it was the work of Bev Schectman and Judi Cooper Sealy that inspired me to pursue a career in makeup.   So, needless to say, it was a huge honor to be asked to work on Martin Short's upcoming comedy special to create both "classic" and "new" characters.  Martin Short is an amazing talent and a huge treat to work with - an incredible pro with energy beyond anything I've ever seen.  It amazes me how he morphs into these characters and brings a comedic reality to each of them - I don't know when the show will air or exactly when - but I'll post that info at a later time when I find out.
some of the fun characters in Martin's upcoming tv special

My very "low rent" version of a scalping effect for Florentine Films' forthcoming documentary: The War of 1812

We've just wrapped up shooting part 3 of Florentine Films' 1812 documentary.  The previous two shoots I've done for them have been somewhat guerilla style shoots due mostly to the fact that our locations were pretty challenging and there really was no place to set up for makeup - let alone any of the practical stuff like access to water, electricity or the ability to do decent clean ups.

However, this time, I had to create some kind of scalping effect (the plan was to recreate a particular painting) and figure out some way to do it as quickly, cheaply as possible - and most importantly - something that didn't involve massive clean up on actors.

I think I was given about 45 minutes to get 3 guys into scalp gear, and about 15 minutes to get them out of the look and onto our next scene - that's what the shooting schedule had provided.

There's no way around it:  it has to be some kind of prosthetic appliance.  I remembered having seen an article in the LA Times about the spfx scalping scene in "Inglourious Basterds" - they essentially made generic scalp appliances for the extras, and the actors were taught to "sell" the effect by faking a struggle in lifting off the scalp.  Great in theory, but I hardly have time or budget on my side.  However, I do have a good stock of wigs, and that seemed a good starting point. I figured if I sculpted and cast a scalp, I could just insert it into one of my cheesier wigs, so the scalp could pretty much be popped on and off with no big deal.  The only one that would require a little more effort would be the "hero scalp" which unlike the others, didn't lift off at the crown, but was supposed to peel back from the front of the hairline.  That one would have to have the seams blended onto the actor - however, all scalps were prepainted with acrylic paint and high gloss glaze.  On the day, I topped off the scalps with some ultra-slime and a few dollops of fake blood for good measure.  The "hero scalp" was fitted onto the actor, slimed & bloodied, then covered back up with the wig piece that had been originally removed and replaced with the latex scalp.  A velcro tab at the back of the scalp kept the hair piece in tact so that it stayed in position for the top of each take.
It took about 3 days total to plan, source, sculpt, cast & complete the scalp wigs - and in the end, they didn't look nearly as cheap as they really were.

Gotta love those LAT articles - the fact they mentioned the use of ultra slime - that was brilliant.  It really added to the effect, and I'm not sure I would have thought to use it - in spite of the fact I've had a container of the stuff in my inventory for years.  So, to the effects guys on "Inglourious Basterds":  thank you for the great idea.  Mine was the "low rent" version....but in the end, it did the trick.
I've recently hooked up with a couple of very talented individuals in Hamilton: Laura Hollick (conceptual artist, model & Kevin Thom (photographer:

Over the past couple of months, we've done a variety of shoots together, and most recently, Laura asked me to create a "red bird" body painting idea she had in mind.

Working with Laura & Kevin is always fun and creative - and I suppose as a result of having worked together over the course of a few shoots, we've established an element of trust and creative freedom that I truly appreciate.  Laura had sent me a few rough sketches and reference ideas that appealed to her - however, she also left it very open ended to my own interpretation...the ultimate image would suggest a canadian flag (with the two red bands on either side to be added later in post), and she, with her painted red bird, would represent a loose version of the maple leaf in the center of the "'flag"

we didn't overplan this one at all. I arrived at Laura's studio with a few different red bird layout ideas, but ultimately,we'd have to start by deciding on a suitable pose that would maintain a level of modesty without
appearing awkward or overly "posed".  Once we'd established our "canvas", it was all about finding an image that would work with our pose.  I started with a roughed in line drawing on Laura, and the spill over design on the canvas behind her.  Once the body painted image was suitably roughed in, I had Laura take a bit of a break, and I opted to paint the image in full behind her on the canvas...though it's not really necessary to paint the entire image - especially if she's going to be concealing major portions of it - it certainly made it easier to line her up with the canvas for our shoot -

The final image has yet to be completed, however, these snapshots give a bit of an idea of the process involved.
Laura's hair was pulled into a sort of "faux hawk" and adorned with a crown of canada goose feathers.

I love how organic the process was - the whole thing (initial brainstorming, establishing the pose, painting both body & canvas & shooting) took about 8 hours.

Check out more of Laura's stuff on her website:
And see more of Kevin's photos at

here's a few behind the scenes shots of the process
click on the images to enlarge


Hair blocking: techniques & innovations

Sometimes production requirements force new and innovative ways of dealing with an old problem.  In the advent of high definition television, some of the old tried and true techniques - like bald pates - don't always work out so well.

Several years ago, I was brought in on a project (a tv series for USA network called "the war next door")  to try to help the hair and makeup department figure out how to transform a stunt man's full head of hair so as to match the horseshoe fringed lead actor.  The stunt man wasn't willing to shave his head, so the effect had to be temporary, water resistant, and fireproof...and something that could be done effectively in a reasonable amount of time (approx 1.5 hours)

Obviously, flammable adhesives like 355 (or medical adhesives) were out of the question, and a bald pate would not be appropriate, since all we needed was a partial hair blocking technique.  I quickly realized that I didn't have the materials on hand, but experimented with a few ideas which lead to my creating a water based hair blocking material that would also act as a separator (essential for easy removal of the effect).  I figured if I had a proper barrier on the hair, it would allow me to apply any latex based material such as pros-aid or pax, right over it.  As it turned out, the effect that was created worked out well for that production and was an ideal way for me to figure out how to refine that initial idea.

About a year ago, I was approached about recreating this effect - this time for the series finale of ReGenesis: shot in HD, all close ups, all court scenes (i.e. no big movements to forgive the flaws).  Lead actor, Peter Outerbridge's character was to be aged to 75 years - so, wig maker Dawn Rivard had made a beautiful ventilated grey wig which matched Peter's length and hairline, but was considerbly more sparse than Peter's own hair.  And that was the problem:  Peter's darker hair was reading through the base of the wig.  The fact that Peter didn't want to wear a bald pate didn't much matter, since it wasn't a viable option for high def.  It seems the producers had approached several effects companies to try to deal with this, and few were willing to attempt a solution.  A full prosthetic had been tested, and ultimately rejected - and time was closing in. 

I was aware that creating the proper effect was becoming somewhat of a sensitive issue for the production, and though I was quite willing to go in and try to help them out, I wanted to be sure that all parties involved were clear on some of the limitations.  Since I hadn't worked with Peter before, I had no guage as to how sweaty he might become.  Also, once the effect was done, we were going to have to glue down a wig all around the perimiter which meant getting in for any repairs after the fact was going to be nearly impossible.  They might have a good 4 hours to get the close ups...but after that, all bets would be off, since I couldn't guarantee what would happen after that.

  As effective as it can be, this application does have its limitations.  Hair length and density can become factors.  It won't work very well on anyone who might perspire a lot (similar in the way that latex starts to discolor and will lift away with sweat),  and once the effect starts to break down, it's pretty tough to salvage and repairs are never going to bring it back to it's original look.  Taking the time to prepare a good base, patience, and good color matching are key to making this work.    

In the end, I couldn't have asked for a better candidate than Peter.  He was in that look for 3 or 4 days - our last day was over 18 hours long.  I've never worked with an actor who perspired less!  There were very few touch ups required on the blocked pate - our biggest issue was keeping the lace edges on the wig glued down flat, as the lace had to be cut back to within an 1/8th of an inch from the edge.  I would never use this example to suggest that this technique could work effectively for that length of time, with High definition, extreme closeups, and static shots -  I suspect I just lucked out with Peter on that one!  However, putting it through this test makes me think it could be a pretty useful tool in other high def applications.

The photo illustrates a quick makeup test that was done for feasibility - it wasn't the final product by any means...but I've posted it so that the elements (lace, blocking, etc) are visible.  I've also used the hair block for many character elements like changing hairlines, blocking out brows...check out the photo samples for other applications of this technique