Laurie Davis’ sixth-grade art class is ready for Halloween thanks to one student with a unique passion.
For the past two weeks, sixth grade students in Davis’ art class at Nelson Middle School have been learning how to create and apply special-effects makeup, which is what makes actors in movies look beat up, inhuman or scary.
Special effects makeup artists use different cosmetics, materials and appliances to create the looks people see in movies, particularly in horror movies where there can be lots of blood or gore. While it takes a lot to become a special effects makeup artist, 11-year-old Audrey Watts is well on her way and has been using her knowledge and skills to help Davis.
Audrey has been helping teach the class how to create realistic-looking lacerations.
Davis titled the very timely lesson “Gruesome, Grotesque, Garish Galore.”
“I started doing this three years ago,” Audrey said. “I started watching horror movies and wanted to know how they make people look that way because I know it’s not real.”
Using a number of different products including wax, liquid latex, cotton and dyed corn syrup mixtures for blood, Audrey has taught herself how to create very realistic wounds, bruises, cuts and gashes on bodies by watching YouTube tutorials and practicing a lot.
“The most challenging part is using modeling wax. It sticks to everything except your face,” Audrey laughed.
She spent three days giving Davis’ class 15-minute tutorials so they could do the special effects makeup themselves. Last week, the class got to try it.
“I like the creativity and imagination it involves,” Audrey said.
For her, the lessons don’t stop after Halloween is over. Audrey said she plans on doing special-effects makeup professionally.
“I want to do makeup for Broadway,” Audrey said.
On Oct. 22, the students in Davis’ last class of the day walked around with fake bruises and open wounds realistically created on their faces using the techniques Audrey taught and the material in Davis’ class.
“I like the scars and the blood,” Neveyah Howard said as she continued working on a cut on her face in a mirror. “I like how the bruises are done, it’s cool.”
For her, the most challenging part was getting the skin tone just right and creating something that actually could happen.
For 11-year-old Sophia Abshire, this isn’t the first time she has done makeup like this. While Audrey worked on creating a huge tear in her face, Sophia said she’s learned a lot.
“I learned how to make it more realistic looking,” Sophia said.
Part of making the effects look realistic, Audrey explained, was understanding how different wounds would look in real life.
“If you’re cut, the skin wouldn’t be all the same color throughout and around it,” Audrey explained.
Different mixtures create different shades of red blood, which are used for “fresher” wounds or wounds that are a few days old.
Davis said the timing of the lesson is great, with Halloween around the corner, but this course also is teaching the kids about contrast. Davis instructed them to keep one half of their face clean, blood free, and make the other half grotesque.
“We call it ‘Beast of the Beauty,’” Davis said. “We are learning about contrast, black versus white, thin versus thick, and this is like beauty versus beast.”
Davis said it was cool to let Audrey be the star and loved how involved the children got, all while still learning different art techniques applicable to standardized testing.
“I threaded art concepts into it so it could all be one big lesson,” Davis said.
Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.