September 20th, 2021
Stuart Bray is one of the key prosthetic makeup artists in Europe. A freelance make-up effects artist since 1994, his career has seen him work on some of the biggest film and TV franchises, including Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, The Mummy 1 & 2, Shaun of the Dead, Stardust, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones as well Mark Gatiss’ Dracula and C4’s The Windsors.
Since 2010 Stuart has been teaching the artistry of prosthetics to aspiring make-up artists at Greasepaint and more recently has run courses in conjunction with Titanic FX and also joined the Pinewood Studios based Iver Academy as a tutor. In 2016 he began hosting an ad-hoc podcast with Todd Debreceni called Battles with Bits of Rubber.
Despite the lockdown, Stuart has been busy working on shows, but at the moment can’t disclose to us exactly what they are. However he has new shows coming out next year such as SAS Rogue Heroes and The Power for Amazon Prime. He is working currently on an undisclosed franchise movie. He is still teaching and podcasting when he can and really looking forward to getting stuck into a trade show when they come back!
We really wanted to get Stuart involved in our Kit Saviours series as much of what he does involves blending rubber into the skin, and often making something fake look like real skin so his methods and materials are not what most makeup artists would have on their station.
Replicating the natural defects and variations of real skin are what most makeup artists are paid to cover, said Stuart, whereas my job involves putting them in. Things are always evolving and working alongside other artists constantly affects my way of working but these products have been a constant in my kit and I would feel at a disadvantage without them in my Zuca!
We take a deep dive into his kit.
Round Duo Fibre stipple brushes in a few sizes – my favourites are 107 and 109. Painting appliances in a way that doesn’t leave identifiable signatures of colour requires different techniques, and a stipple brush like this allows you to apply colour in a natural way. Building up washes gradually and blending by accumulating layers allows for very natural looking finish with the textures that real skin coloration has, and this range of brushes do that well. The solvent proof handles are a great touch too.
There are a number of alcohol palettes available, and both the consistency and colour choices make the difference to me. This palette is my absolute favourite. The colours are perfect for so many things – those unquantifiable muted tones which are not obvious/standout colours which make a fake skin look real.
Crème makeup is still widely used despite the rising supremacy of alcohol palettes. I like the fact crème colours can be used over dried alcohol colours without disturbing them. Dry brushing with it is particularly useful. It was the first ever palette I bought when I was getting into makeup and I have always kept one in my kit ever since. Like a good luck charm which always has my back. I miss the thumb rings they used to have on the bottom of the palette though.
With crème makeup, a good crème makeup solvent is essential if you need thin washes in creasy areas such as around eyes, or where thinner skin will drag under a brush. I like using Makeup Blend as a safe solvent with crème (one can use surgical spirit or Isopropyl as with alcohol colours for most uses) but on more than one occasion, I have had people whose skin could not tolerate alcohol. This was a literal saviour in those circumstances and I have kept a few on standby in my kit in case this issue crops up in the crowd room.
When we chatted to Michael Westmore on the podcast, he talked about this product his son had developed. It’s always nice to hear new things coming on the market, but I honestly thought it was just another adhesive. However, it is incredibly strong and holds pieces in place well. I tend to use it as my repair glue, fixing edges or for pieces which need a particularly secure bond. It is precious and not a glue I want to use up.
Stray eyebrow hairs, back of necks during bald cap application and missed hairs from shaving on necks are all perilous obstacles to a feather thin appliance and blending edge. Early calls can mean sloppy or even no shaving has taken place and so a tool which allows an easy close trim is fantastic. This little shaver is small, effective and well worth having in the kit.
Depending on where you are, there are different suppliers. In the UK, I used Medisave who sell them as ‘Eurodyne 25ml Medicine Cups’ and in the US there are other suppliers such as Ovilcare. What I like about these cups is they are flexible so do not crack when squeezed, are not affected by solvents such as acetone and they are not so wide as to let solvent evaporate out of glues too quickly. The lids snap on and off easily and are air tight which saves a lot of glue from being wasted.
A mixing board/tear off palette which is commonly used in car body repair shops. There are many artist tear off palettes which will work, but the stability of this particular brand is handy. I use it for mixing up quick batches of silicone paste such as Sculpt Gel as well as mixing PAX paint, alcohol colours or crème makeup. Tearing off the used sheet is quick and hygienic, and the solid cardboard backing keeps it flat and sturdy when mixing.
See Stuart talking and working here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p066kp62