Monster Mash

Since we’ve been online the last year or so, there’s something you might not know about me…I’m a huge Halloween fan. Oh, I respect and even participate in aspects of Samhain and can acknowledge the connection just like I understand the connection between fuzzy rabbits pooping out chocolate eggs that represents…Jesus?  (ahem. just kidding.  Kinda.  it is weird how we do that to some holidays).  But when you put anthropomorphized creatures (the great pumpkin! chucky! bunnicula!) and candy together, my inner child is going to lean that way every time.

For the last three years I’ve participated in some form of Inktober. But since the founder has been a bit of a grouch about using that hashtag, people have been creating their own form; drawlloween, drawtober, witchtober…. there’s all sorts of prompts out there.  Last year I did Mab’s Drawlloween Club prompts.  I’m only doing a few of the prompts on the weekends this year, since grading 125+ students every week, plus videos and all that is…a lot when you’re also chronically ill.  However, I started off with the first prompt last friday: self portrait as a monster.  It was about 11pm on a friday, and I had just gotten done grading and commenting on my last student’s work. I saw the hour and freaked out.  I REALLY wanted to start off October right!  I knew I didn’t have enough time to paint anything, so it was going to be a photograph.  My last place was massively flooded two years ago from the floor above and I lost everything, including my costumes, theater makeup for shoots, and most of my personal camera equipment. I had to McGuyver the heck out of this.

Step one: Find your one small pallet of eye shadow with hot pink and brown, and go to town. Realize you don’t even own foundation and if you’re doing creepy, you’re gunna have to baby powder your face to death and pray you don’t break out later. (you do).

Side lit portrait test
Side lit portrait test, hid too much of the makeup

Step two: Set up a black yoga towel with pins to the wall, then set up a ring light in a few directions, take some pictures of different lighting angles with your phone. Realize that you can’t find your shutter release cable or remote and your husband is already asleep in the next room, so you’ll have to continue to use your phone instead of your camera. Curse very quietly.

Step three: Add finishing touch of black drool (aka black cocoa) to your face.  Take a selfie to send to your husband and family without any context and freak them out later.

duckface zombie
Pucker up, darlin

Step four: Shoot multiple expression and physical gestures. You never know what you’ll like. Then choose 2-3 to edit. I knew it would be on instagram for the challenge, so it be a cropped, close up view; not a lot of distance from camera to model, and a confrontational shot, so part of my set up was dictated by the medium, as was where I was cropping (due to the width of the towel).

multiple expressions
testing multiple expressions. Please note the colors on the blog are TONS warmer than in real life.

Step five:  Here’s where photoshop comes in.  While I was already pale from the baby powder, it didn’t make me look like my monster, a Halloween Queen.  I wanted her to look like she was possibly the undead, or on her way, or maybe just crazy, but reaaaaally unhealthy. So she needed not just pale skin, but greenish skin.

Hue and Saturation Adjustments
You can see where the Hue has been altered, but not the general RGB, specifically the Red channel, and the layer mask shows the painted eye area
  • I created an adjustment layer of Hue/Saturation and went to the red levels (that’s where the skin tones are) and adjusted all reds to a more greenish tinge by adding some cyan.  I then went into the selection mask in the layer, and painted a mask over the eye area so the makeup there stayed a bright pink and my eyeballs stayed white.
  • I also selected my eyes and created a new adjustment layer where I lightened the blue of my eyes, which are a cornflower blue–I wanted them icy, like the life is sucked out of them. Normally I’d do this with Curves, but I was under a time crunch, so I just did it with brightness/contrast.
  • Last, I went into Levels and, surprisingly, I lightened the blacks; I only had one ring light and since I was using my phone, I wasn’t able to control the aperture, and my hair had faded right into the background too much.

screenshot of photoshop edits

  • Step six: post image on instagram at 1:30 in the morning knowing it’s still midnight in Hawaii or the Fuji islands and wonder how long it’s going to take you scrub your face before you’ll be able to get to bed. (forever.)
instagram screenshot
Insta never keeps the colors completely accurate, but since I was going for sickly, it worked out just fine this time

All in all, I really like trying to do as much as possible in person with just using knowledge of positioning models, camera angles, one light source, and minimal props. (my spray painted, plastic spider and skull crown, some powder cocoa and some eyeshadow).

I challenged one of my friends (who was a former ARC photo student of mine and now also a photo teacher~ imagine me singing “circle of life” off key while jacked on caffeine) to trying the Monster self portrait prompt too.  He did his all on photoshop in front of his class!  But he sent me a screenshot which I’m sharing below, cuz, cool, yes?  If you’d like to try your hand at making your own monster self portrait, either via Photoshop or via costume and lighting, or some combo, I’ll give 2 points extra credit to anyone in any of my classes who turns in this tricky treat to me by email (in Canvas) by October 31st! 

Will is certainly a more pronounced zombie, except his ears are very very healthy pink, don’t ya think?

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