Lucy Darkness

Published: 09 September, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 184, April, 2010

Dripping blood. Oozing wounds. Severed heads and blistering burns. Prosthetic makeup artist Lucy Darkness has always harboured a particular fondness for guts and gore, showcased quite terrifyingly in her portfolio of creations for B movie horrors, black metal bands and fantasy films.

Her fascination with the macabre doesn’t stop their. Having recently completed a top-secret job working on the forthcoming Harry Potter sequels, Lucy took the time to talk to Skin Deep about her horror-themed tattoos, Satanism, vegan conflicts and wounding Slayer.

How did you get into prosthetics makeup artistry?

I started off acting, actually. I was doing a BTEC at college, and my tutors took me aside and said “Look, acting isn’t your best point…” At the time it was like a dagger to the heart. But I’d been making loads of props and stuff for a production of ‘Pippin’ we were doing. So there are these battlefields, and I was making severed heads on ten foot poles for the scenes. I initially thought I’d do something like that, but when I was at London College Of Fashion on an open day, I saw their demo for the prosthetics course. I’ve always loved horror movies, I’ve always loved Sci-Fi, I’d love to actually do something where I interact with people and actually put something on them. So I signed up and out of eight hundred applicants, I was one of the 20 that got in.

What is it about macabre art that you enjoy so much? What fascinates you about the blood, gore and body parts?

I think you’re either born into it or you’re not really. I used to love watching scary movies when I was a kid, and my Dad always said “It’s ok, the camera man’s there!” Immediately, if I thought anything was scary, I could go “Hang on a second, that’s not scary because the camera man’s there shooting it, so it’s not real!” I was wondering how they pulled off these tricks, and I watched George Romero movies, and saw artists like Tom Savini; the chief makeup artist on the Romero films. I just thought, this is what I want to do. It’s such a different art form. There are so many people who get into makeup because they want to make people look beautiful. I got into makeup thinking I want to make people look shit, I want to make people look ugly! It’s so much more of a challenge. You can easily slap on a bit of makeup and make someone look presentable. But sculpting all the fine details of a prosthetic piece is an incredible thing.

What do you make you make your blood out of?

Usually golden syrup and food dye, though you can use lots of different additives to make it different consistencies. You can put washing up liquid in it to make it more gloopy. Vaseline’s another, if you mix that up you can make a really good wound filler. There are loads of different things that you can use. The best thing is not to restrict yourself to the way everyone else is doing it.

You recently worked on a rather spectacular Metal Hammer magazine cover featuring Slayer. What was that like?

That was the weirdest shoot I’ve ever done. It was me and photographer Steve Brown. He had Slayer coming in, and he wanted to do this shoot where they look like they’ve had their flesh ripped away. I couldn’t make the studio date he said because of my commitments working on the new Harry Potter films, so we had to find a way around it. So he took portraits of each of Slayer. Then he got a couple of human skulls, and he took a picture of them in the same light. Then he gave me the two skulls, and I sculpted the wounds onto them. So, for example, Kerry King had his forehead and part of his eye wrenched open. It was quite interesting for me because I had to build out all of the tissue underneath, so I had to learn the anatomy of the face. I gave those skulls back to Steve, and he took a photo of them. Then he merged the images in Photoshop and the portrait photos together. It’s a weird thing, I wrote a dissertation on something quite similar. Who gets the BAFTA? If the make up artist does the make up, and then the FX guy comes in and does the touching up on the computer, who gets the recognition? His touching up could be the thing that makes it good.

Your obsession with horror seems to have translated in a more permanent way also...

Well, on my upper sleeve is a portrait of The Munsters, mainly because I recognise myself in some of the characters in the show, and because it harks back to my childhood. It’s all different horror characters and their just so recognisable. All these characters as so synonymous with horror, but the Munsters were jokers. It’s so comical. It turns horror on its head. Maybe one day I’ll get proper characters, not just comedy ones.

Why greyscale? You work with so much colour in your day job…

I just fancied being a bit, well, dark. I found one person in the world that has a Munsters tattoo and it’s in colour. I think for portrait, black and grey really lends itself. I’ve always like Kat Von D’s portraits, because they’re so moody. We do have an idea of putting a little bit of pink inside their eyelids to really pull out of the piece. It’s still a work in progress. I think I’m always going to be doing things to make my work stand out, make them different, make them more interesting.

You almost decided to train as a tattooist. How did that happen?

I’ve always loved the art of tattooing. People like Paul Booth are really inspirational to me. They bring the horror into tattooing, demonic images and things like that. And I’ve always been interested in the Occult, so that really struck a chord with me. You think how long it has been around (tattooing) and it’s still a bit taboo. I started working at Eve’s Tattoos in Buckinghamshire a couple of years ago and I just enjoyed the environment so much I wanted to part of that on a long term basis. But I don’t think people would like my style either. My artwork is far more Impressionistic.

Quite unusually, you’ve got your hands tattooed before the rest of you. What made you make that decision?

I don’t really see it as a big deal, which angers my fiancé Dan quite a lot, as he says I look weird without getting my sleeves finished first. But I like hand tattoos and I haven’t got my hands completely done, I just like picking up little details about stuff. And I just had to get a spider on my finger. The three stars on my thumb actually have two meanings. The first is Orion’s belt, which is a nod towards my interest in alternative histories. It was also supposed to be the Three Kings; me, my brother and my sister.

Have you ever had to cover up other people’s tattoos during a shoot or on set?

No, I haven’t, but I know a lot of people that have. A lot of people who do make up for weddings and occasions have to cover up tattoos, and marks on the skin and scars and things like that. It’s quite an art form in itself, actually. It’s a good skill to learn. I’ve done it on myself, but never on someone professionally.

You’re also a vegan. How does that conflict not just with your makeup artistry but also your tattoos?

I’ve never been squeamish, but I have a problem with using gelatine on shoots. I hate the smell of it, I hate using it, and I never buy it myself. I mean, most of the blood and stuff we make ourselves. As for tattoo ink, I try and ignore it. I know that sounds awful, but you have to pick and choose your battles. I kind of take the view that I’m not ingesting it, to save myself heart ache because I wanted the tattoos so badly. I wish there was more out there. It’s a necessary evil unfortunately.

I am thinking about going into production to produce more realistic and vegan skin for tattooists to practice on. The stuff they’re practising on now is so rigid and unlike human skin that when you actually come to tattoo properly it’s a relief.

What materials would you use instead?

Silicon is the most realistic thing, and Plat-gel, which is like two bits of thin plastic with a gel middle of it. So it moves like skin, and it’s squidgy like skin. And that’s the ideal thing that you tattoo on, with some sort of more rigid background to act as the bone. Money is the issue because Silicon is so expensive. Me and the tattooist that does my portraits, Lee Smith, are looking into it…

You can take makeup off, but you can’t wash away your tattoos. What advice would you give an 18 year old first timer?

Don’t get it done if you’re at least certain. I got my first tattoo when I was 18 and it was a little heart, and I don’t regret that in the slightest. But your tastes might change. A young person usually goes for something less intricate like a tribal piece, whereas an older person might go for something more intricate. If you really are certain on what you want, then get it done, but you can get some dodgy stuff. And do your research. Don’t just expect that every tattooist has a certain level of skill, because they don’t.

What are your tattoo plans for 2010?

I’ve got two more portraits left, then some fillers and stuff to go in on my sleeve. Then I’m booked in with Uncle Alan in Denmark to get a wolf jumping across my ribs. I really want to do a memorial piece to my Grandma as well, with a big owl in it.

Dripping blood. Oozing wounds. Severed heads and blistering burns. Prosthetic makeup artist Lucy Darkness has always harboured a particular fondness for guts and gore, showcased quite terrifyingly in her portfolio of creations for B movie horrors, black metal bands and fantasy films.

 
Her fascination with the macabre doesn’t stop their. Having recently completed a top-secret job working on the forthcoming Harry Potter sequels, Lucy took the time to talk to Skin Deep about her horror-themed tattoos, Satanism, vegan conflicts and wounding Slayer.


How did you get into prosthetics makeup artistry?

I started off acting, actually. I was doing a BTEC at college, and my tutors took me aside and said “Look, acting isn’t your best point…” At the time it was like a dagger to the heart. But I’d been making loads of props and stuff for a production of ‘Pippin’ we were doing. So there are these battlefields, and I was making severed heads on ten foot poles for the scenes. I initially thought I’d do something like that, but when I was at London College Of Fashion on an open day, I saw their demo for the prosthetics course. I’ve always loved horror movies, I’ve always loved Sci-Fi, I’d love to actually do something where I interact with people and actually put something on them. So I signed up and out of eight hundred applicants, I was one of the 20 that got in.


What is it about macabre art that you enjoy so much? What fascinates you about the blood, gore and body parts?


I think you’re either born into it or you’re not really. I used to love watching scary movies when I was a kid, and my Dad always said “It’s ok, the camera man’s there!” Immediately, if I thought anything was scary, I could go “Hang on a second, that’s not scary because the camera man’s there shooting it, so it’s not real!” I was wondering how they pulled off these tricks, and I watched George Romero movies, and saw artists like Tom Savini; the chief makeup artist on the Romero films. I just thought, this is what I want to do. It’s such a different art form. There are so many people who get into makeup because they want to make people look beautiful. I got into makeup thinking I want to make people look shit, I want to make people look ugly! It’s so much more of a challenge. You can easily slap on a bit of makeup and make someone look presentable. But sculpting all the fine details of a prosthetic piece is an incredible thing.


What do you make you make your blood out of?

Usually golden syrup and food dye, though you can use lots of different additives to make it different consistencies. You can put washing up liquid in it to make it more gloopy. Vaseline’s another, if you mix that up you can make a really good wound filler. There are loads of different things that you can use. The best thing is not to restrict yourself to the way everyone else is doing it.


You recently worked on a rather spectacular Metal Hammer magazine cover featuring Slayer. What was that like?

That was the weirdest shoot I’ve ever done. It was me and photographer Steve Brown. He had Slayer coming in, and he wanted to do this shoot where they look like they’ve had their flesh ripped away. I couldn’t make the studio date he said because of my commitments working on the new Harry Potter films, so we had to find a way around it. So he took portraits of each of Slayer. Then he got a couple of human skulls, and he took a picture of them in the same light. Then he gave me the two skulls, and I sculpted the wounds onto them. So, for example, Kerry King had his forehead and part of his eye wrenched open. It was quite interesting for me because I had to build out all of the tissue underneath, so I had to learn the anatomy of the face. I gave those skulls back to Steve, and he took a photo of them. Then he merged the images in Photoshop and the portrait photos together. It’s a weird thing, I wrote a dissertation on something quite similar. Who gets the BAFTA? If the make up artist does the make up, and then the FX guy comes in and does the touching up on the computer, who gets the recognition? His touching up could be the thing that makes it good.


Your obsession with horror seems to have translated in a more permanent way also...

Well, on my upper sleeve is a portrait of The Munsters, mainly because I recognise myself in some of the characters in the show, and because it harks back to my childhood. It’s all different horror characters and their just so recognisable. All these characters as so synonymous with horror, but the Munsters were jokers. It’s so comical. It turns horror on its head. Maybe one day I’ll get proper characters, not just comedy ones.


Why greyscale? You work with so much colour in your day job…

I just fancied being a bit, well, dark. I found one person in the world that has a Munsters tattoo and it’s in colour. I think for portrait, black and grey really lends itself. I’ve always like Kat Von D’s portraits, because they’re so moody. We do have an idea of putting a little bit of pink inside their eyelids to really pull out of the piece. It’s still a work in progress. I think I’m always going to be doing things to make my work stand out, make them different, make them more interesting.


You almost decided to train as a tattooist. How did that happen?

I’ve always loved the art of tattooing. People like Paul Booth are really inspirational to me. They bring the horror into tattooing, demonic images and things like that. And I’ve always been interested in the Occult, so that really struck a chord with me. You think how long it has been around (tattooing) and it’s still a bit taboo. I started working at Eve’s Tattoos in Buckinghamshire a couple of years ago and I just enjoyed the environment so much I wanted to part of that on a long term basis. But I don’t think people would like my style either. My artwork is far more Impressionistic.


Quite unusually, you’ve got your hands tattooed before the rest of you. What made you make that decision?

I don’t really see it as a big deal, which angers my fiancé Dan quite a lot, as he says I look weird without getting my sleeves finished first. But I like hand tattoos and I haven’t got my hands completely done, I just like picking up little details about stuff. And I just had to get a spider on my finger. The three stars on my thumb actually have two meanings. The first is Orion’s belt, which is a nod towards my interest in alternative histories. It was also supposed to be the Three Kings; me, my brother and my sister.


Have you ever had to cover up other people’s tattoos during a shoot or on set?

No, I haven’t, but I know a lot of people that have. A lot of people who do make up for weddings and occasions have to cover up tattoos, and marks on the skin and scars and things like that. It’s quite an art form in itself, actually. It’s a good skill to learn. I’ve done it on myself, but never on someone professionally.


You’re also a vegan. How does that conflict not just with your makeup artistry but also your tattoos?

I’ve never been squeamish, but I have a problem with using gelatine on shoots. I hate the smell of it, I hate using it, and I never buy it myself. I mean, most of the blood and stuff we make ourselves. As for tattoo ink, I try and ignore it. I know that sounds awful, but you have to pick and choose your battles. I kind of take the view that I’m not ingesting it, to save myself heart ache because I wanted the tattoos so badly. I wish there was more out there. It’s a necessary evil unfortunately.


I am thinking about going into production to produce more realistic and vegan skin for tattooists to practice on. The stuff they’re practising on now is so rigid and unlike human skin that when you actually come to tattoo properly it’s a relief.


What materials would you use instead?

Silicon is the most realistic thing, and Plat-gel, which is like two bits of thin plastic with a gel middle of it. So it moves like skin, and it’s squidgy like skin. And that’s the ideal thing that you tattoo on, with some sort of more rigid background to act as the bone. Money is the issue because Silicon is so expensive. Me and the tattooist that does my portraits, Lee Smith, are looking into it…


You can take makeup off, but you can’t wash away your tattoos. What advice would you give an 18 year old first timer?

Don’t get it done if you’re at least certain. I got my first tattoo when I was 18 and it was a little heart, and I don’t regret that in the slightest. But your tastes might change. A young person usually goes for something less intricate like a tribal piece, whereas an older person might go for something more intricate. If you really are certain on what you want, then get it done, but you can get some dodgy stuff. And do your research. Don’t just expect that every tattooist has a certain level of skill, because they don’t.


What are your tattoo plans for 2010?

I’ve got two more portraits left, then some fillers and stuff to go in on my sleeve. Then I’m booked in with Uncle Alan in Denmark to get a wolf jumping across my ribs. I really want to do a memorial piece to my Grandma as well, with a big owl in it.

Credits

INTERVIEW: Jenn Selby Photography: Al Overdrive

Related

Magazines: 
Articles: