After long and careful deliberation with a number of high level officials both within the American government and the foreign governments of the world, it has been decided that I am to proceed with my top-secret plan of unleashing a series of audio blogs onto the Earth. These are me, just talking about whatever comes to mind; various musings, humor and the goings-on at the ole' studio. It's a fun way to get more of my loud mouth into your life! This week I blather endlessly about working for rival companies, old Mad Max flicks and the agony of getting no credit for dumb movies I've worked on. If you have any ideas for some topic you'd like me to cover, feel free to write us at email@example.com. Come on, do it. You'll feel better.
So, I have just returned from my fifth tour of duty at the Metamorphosis Atelier in Strasbourg, one of the only—and one of the best---makeup schools in France. I taught a great group of men and women the finer points of creature design, paintwork and sculpture, ate Coq au Vin and spaetzle (an Alsatian specialty) and visited a castle.
Aside from all of this, one of the specific journeys I always make when visiting is to the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, an ancient cathedral in the heart of the city. 2015 marks the ONE-THOUSANDTH year since the first stone was laid for the building, and there is a diagram to one side revealing the many stages that the structure has gone through in reaching its final and current state.
Photos do not do justice to this unutterable tour de force of craftsmanship and design; it is one of the few sites I have visited in the world that stuns you into silence when it comes into view. Minute filigree, hundreds of figures and gargoyles, sumptuous fluting and scrollwork, richly ornate stained glass… it is beyond beautiful, and transcends the very concept of structure and art, a singular masterwork of Medieval architecture.
Thus, I cannot help but be reminded while I sit entranced by this construction that there is a part of the world still concerned with what some Hollywood starlet wore on the red carpet at the latest meaningless awards show; with how much better-looking some think they are than others; with how important certain folks imagine their meager achievements on this planet to be. No one I have ever met will create anything as lasting or as stunning as this testament to God, and yet so many I meet have egos that far outweigh their importance or their worth. It’s hard to admit, but I am one of them.
Yet, even though the things I create are destined to be lost through the vagaries of time and decay, I find myself inspired by the sight of things I will never achieve; it gives me something to strive for, even if the goal is unattainable. Perhaps the very impossibility of such accomplishments is what makes this inspiration all the sweeter; by never truly reaching a goal, there is always something to reach for.
Most important, however----it humbles me, as if I’ve been chastened by God Himself to remember my place. I can imagine an importance to my life, to my work, and to my minor successes, but ultimately these thoughts feel delusional when I view things of such magnitude. I’m brought back down to earth by witnessing something of such unearthly magnificence.
And somehow….there is a kind of beauty in that as well.
I have long regarded myself as a creature and character designer. I‘ve definitely done my share of appliance and makeup work (especially on “Babylon 5” back in 1993), but I have not considered myself a makeup artist by any stretch for many years. So it is with a mild amazement that I find myself rediscovering my fascination with makeup and the art of transforming an actor. While I love masks and maquettes, there is an undeniable fascination I have with seeing my characters come to life, animated by an actor or actress, someone who can give a sculpted character movement and personality. Naturally, I am more drawn to the idea of monster and creature design makeups than character makeups, but it is interesting to note that my first real love as a kid was character makeup; I made myself into a hobo, Charlie Chaplin, a clown---endless varieties of people---and I was aided by my mother and father’s old wardrobe that was kept in a trunk as my ‘costume box’. It was a grand time.
There is so much one needs to know being a makeup artist (especially nowadays), that I have felt somewhat daunted about re-entering the arena; this is probably why I have shied away from this kind of work for over two decades now. Yet I can’t deny my interest in seeing an elaborate character makeup brought to vivid life by an actor, despite whatever learning curve I may have to grapple with. There are so many new materials to choose from as well these days that it can be difficult to even get started without knowing exactly how everything is going to be constructed from the start. Silicone, urethane, resin, foam latex, gelatin, collodion and slip rubber….yeesh. Lots to learn! I never allowed anything to get in my way of learning anatomy and sculpture, however, so I certainly won’t let anything stand in my way of creating some cool makeups.
Here’s to the future.
I was struck by the preponderance of self-proclaimed YouTube and Instagram makeup “gurus” at the International Makeup Trade Show this weekend. While I certainly have no problem with anyone achieving a following for their work (heck, that’s the point of being an artist), I do think that there should be actual work BEHIND any following. Slapping on makeup by the pound and calling yourself a makeup God is pretty incredible, especially when you’ve never done the work professionally. It’s insulting to the many hundreds of artists that attend these shows and actually know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about. I saw one clown who posed for shots, was followed by a sycophantic entourage (!), and generally behaved like they were the most important person on Earth. About ten feet away, multiple Academy Award-winner Ve Neill sat, ready to sign magazines at the IMATS booth. She was hardly inundated with the same kind of crowd that this “Mac Daffy” (or whatever he calls himself) was---and that’s horrific to me. In the very same room, brilliant makeup artists William Corso (also an Academy Award-winner, and nominated again this year for stunning work on ‘Foxcatcher’) was walking around, taking in all that the show had to offer. For someone that should, by all rights, be mobbed by fans, he appeared to walk unmolested through the show. Craig Reardon, Norman Cabrera, Kevin Haney--all amazing talents who have forgotten more than these internet sensations will ever know---milled around humbly, no entourage to be seen.
I have always felt that art should be about the work, NOT about one’s popularity. It’s perfectly fine if your work has made you into a household name, or garnered you an enormous amount of money. I draw the line rather sharply, however, at those that have gained a level of notoriety through pushing themselves in everyone’s faces via social networking with absolutely no talent or experience to back it up. There are far too many of these types in this industry, and it is disheartening and disrespectful. I doubt any of them care, but if one of you self-titled gurus is reading this---and you know who you are---try on some humility and learn your craft in a more thorough way before bellowing from the rooftops that you should be considered important. This is the only way you'll ever gain respect from the real makeup and special effects community---it has nothing to do with how many airheads follow you on Twitter.
What a week. I am slowly starting to understand how Instagram works, I was attacked by a lunatic on Facebook, and I am preparing to co-direct a film with a genius artist. Yes, life is varied and strange.
Very excited to debut my alien mask “1955”, a massive creation of brains, pointed ears, and yucky, open-mouth visibility. It’s inspired by a mask I saw many years ago my master effects sculptor Mike Trcic, and I never got over how cool it was… so, like many of the things I’ve created, it’s a matter of making stuff I wish was either out there in the world, or re-making stuff I couldn’t afford at the time.
In other news, I am slowly getting together the material for a book of my own. This is a longtime dream of mine, and I am very excited to get it going; the biggest hurdle looks to be culling all of the work that I have done over the last thirty years and putting it into a single tome. Yeesh. This will mean going through every computer I’ve ever owned, every sketchbook I’ve ever drawn in…. an enormous task, to say the least. But I want to do it, and I think it could result in a very dynamic volume.
Also, I am completely obsessed with the following combination, which you should try---but only with a seasoned professional present: A scoop of Vanilla Haagen Dazs, a hearty portion of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, and a dollop or two of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. Place the contents into a bowl, retrieve a spoon from the nearest utensil drawer, and begin transferring, bit by bit, the contents of the bowl into your mouth. You may watch television while you do this, but not Mystery Science Theater; the risks of choking while laughing are far too great.
Welcome to the completely refurbished, rebuilt-from-the-ground-up, brand spanking new Schell Sculpture Studios website!
Thanks to newer, better technology, a stronger, more on-the-ball-than-ever staff and the genius of my new Web designer Lindsay Timko, this site will have far more frequent blog updates, an easier to use store and class enrollment process and, of course, a bevy of fresh monsters, creatures and beings from the stars for you to feast your precious eyes upon.
This has been an extremely busy few years for me, and I have amassed quite an enormous amount of new work, which I am eager to share. Some of it will have to wait until certain films (cough-cough—Superman Vs. Batman-cough) are released and I have full clearance to show what I created, but much of it is ready to reveal now. Of course, a lot of these things---thanks to my hideous lack of computer folder organization---will be uploaded here piecemeal; but rest assured that I will be supplying you with as much bizarre eye candy as I am able.
My passion for the outré and the strange has far from abated---it grows stronger every day, and I am excited to share this passion with you and the world. Thanks for visiting my weird realm of outlandish horror, science-fiction and fantasy, and I hope to see you in your nightmares.