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Idaho Art Lab class teaches students to create their own movie makeup magic

Arts & Entertainment

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ST. ANTHONY — Recently the Idaho Art Lab in St. Anthony hosted its second annual special effects makeup and prosthetics class.

The class was taught by special effects makeup artist Rob Burman, whose credits include “The Thing,” “Ghostbusters” and several “Star Trek” episodes. Students learned the process of creating prosthetic makeup appliances from start to finish, gaining experience mixing chemicals, applying plaster and painting their work.

“I had a good enough time last time to return,” Burman told “I think last year, it was just getting started so it didn’t have much momentum. But this year, it’s growing and more people are finding out about it and interest is being shown.”

The class takes students through a process involving making a plaster cast of a person’s face, using that cast as a foundation to produce the silicon appliances that are then applied to the face, then painting those appliances to look natural and realistic.

It’s a process that isn’t easy.

“Anybody can do it but it does take a lot of work,” Burman said. “It does take a lot of commitment to be good at it. I tell my students that it takes them ten years to get proficient enough at it to feel like you know what you’re doing. I also tell my students to do it every day for a year and at the end of a year, you’re either really good at it or it might not be something that you should do.”

While making SFX makeup isn’t physically taxing, it does require a lot of time and patience. The artist must carefully mix the chemicals they use, take adequate time to make good pieces and be patient and careful when applying and painting them.

“It takes FOREVER for everything to set,” student Lia Anderson said.

“You need to learn being careful and thinking it through before you put the stuff on,” student Mandy Eastwood said. “And being aware of facial structures and how is this going to work on this particular person’s face and their nose versus somebody else’s nose.”

While learning special effects makeup techniques is obviously valuable to cosplayers and people who want to make their own movies, the skills and experience one can accrue through learning these processes are applicable far outside the realm of Comic-Con or monster movies.

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“The knobs on your car, the steering wheel, the faucets in your home, somebody had to sculpt and mold and cast and create those things,” Burman said. “I’ve had plenty of people who have taken my class who had no intention of doing prosthetic makeup. But the techniques they learn in molding, casting and engineering molds really helped them in the other things they wanted to do. As you do this, you start to look at the world from a different point of view. It kind of changes their world.”

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