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Art & Life with Alex Pahl Skinner

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Pahl Skinner.

Alex, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was a toddler. I know that sounds way too young to know what you’re passionate about, but I have vivid memories of making little sculptures and messy paintings at age 4 and creating has just always resonated with me. Even though both of my parents are academics, they have completely supported me in my artistic endeavors throughout my life. I know not a lot of artists are that lucky, so I’ve always felt incredibly privileged to have my family’s support. When I was eight my family and I started traveling to different countries every summer, always visiting lots of art and history museums. We ended up living in Edinburgh for about two years when I was 13. In all, I’ve been to nine different countries and several cities within those countries. I’ve always felt the travel I was able to do throughout my life really formed me into the person and artist I am today.

I went to San Francisco State University in 2011 for sculpture and drawing. In my Sophomore year I, like all wayward art students, wondered what I was going to do with my art degree. I’ve always loved movies and television shows and a friend of mine told me I should look into special effects makeup. And that was it. I lived abroad in Montreal my Junior year and ended up being the makeup artist for several plays at McGill University and one film. I came back to the United States and knew I had to pursue this dream. I looked up the best makeup schools and decided on Cinema Makeup School. Then I worked and saved up for a year before coming to Los Angeles.

Cinema Makeup School was a year-long program and I learned everything from basic beauty to making severed body parts. My time there was invaluable and I’m thankful I was able to learn from professionals in the industry as well as my classmates. I graduated from CMS in 2017 and have been working on the special effects and beauty Industry ever since. The first year was rough in terms of getting work that actually paid and I lived primarily off my savings. This year has been better though, and now I’m working very hard towards becoming a member of the makeup artists’ union which will take a minimum of three years. And, that’s my story so far.

Please tell us about your art.
I am freelance special effects and beauty makeup artist. I get hired predominantly to do character makeup, so things like aging people, creating wounds from various weapons/animals, putting tattoos on people, etc. I’ve also been asked to do things like design and create monsters or creatures as well as do beauty makeup for weddings and events.

I help create the characters by working with the different clientele on what they need. It’s my job to ask a lot of questions. If they need an alien, what kind? Scary or beautiful? Animalistic or humanoid? What colour palettes, what kind of planet is it from, does it breathe air? Explaining how I physically make some of my artwork is a long and intensive topic that involves a lot of different kinds of materials and techniques. The process is complex and involves everything from sculpting, moulding, latex, silicone, airbrushing and blood effects. Designing a character or a creature can require me to have to think on my feet, but it’s a fun part of my job. In terms of the character makeup I do for films, I hope it makes the actor feel like their character whether it be a beat down cop, a werewolf or a superhero. Whatever helps make the film the best it can be with the help of my department is my goal.

Beauty makeups come down to how the client wants to look. It’s a fun process of talking about trying new things while also making them feel comfortable and happy with the outcome. I hope for the beauty makeups I do on people that it makes them feel confident and beautiful in their own skin, whether they’re heading onto the set or going to a fun party.

I want the films I work on to be meaningful but I also think there is a lot to be said for films that are just pure escapism. I love science fiction and fantasy and I think films that help people escape hardships they’re dealing with and just enjoy a few hours of pure fun entertainment are really important. That being said, I love working on socially conscious and political films as well, since they have the power to spread awareness and understanding about different topics that may not have been mainstream news or are more taboo to talk about openly in some communities. I just want people to enjoy the characters I get to help create and get lost in the stories of the films that they’re in.

Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
My advice to other artists regardless of their field is to embrace the fact that you’re going to learn so much more being an artist in the real world than you did in school. I’m not saying that school isn’t important. Without my studio arts degree from San Francisco State combined with my technical training from Cinema Makeup School, I would be completely lost in the professional makeup industry. But I have learned so much from just trusting my instincts, trial and error and learning from people I’ve met out in the film world too. Allowing yourself to be in a constant state of learning and change is the best way to become the artist you want to be.

Also, allow yourself to make mistakes and not be perfect. Don’t be afraid to post a picture of your work that you’re not totally sure about and accepting feedback from other artists. Asking for help and opinions from fellow artists is integral to your growth as an artist. No one has it all figured out 100% of the time.

I wish I’d learned earlier that my work didn’t need to be flawless. I can judge my work very harshly sometimes and it held me back from certain opportunities because I was afraid to take risks. But this year especially, I’ve embraced being more confident in myself and my work and it has been for the better every time.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
At the moment, my work has been mostly on short films, music videos, and personal clients. People can see my finalized work and behind the scenes work on my Instagram, alexps_mua, and my website, www.beastandbeautymakeup.com.

The films I have worked on most recently have been submitted to various film festivals, and some can be viewed online and on YouTube. Eventually, of course, I hope to work on film and television shows that make it to the big screen or widely viewed streaming services such as HBO and Netflix.

People can support me by following my work, but also by hiring me for their films and projects or recommending me to people looking for a makeup artist. One of the best parts of being a makeup artist is being able to work on interesting and unique projects with other creative people.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Dave Quan , Alex De Nicolo, Cinema Makeup School, Zen Studios LA

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