Story By Katie Canales | Photography by Timothy Douglass
On weekends, local makeup artist Leanna Hale is busy with makeup assignments for her clients’ special events. Soft hues and natural palettes are primarily used for the engagement photo shoots and weddings. However, once or twice a month, Hale steps a little more out of the box.
The artist, whose esthetician skills landed her a space at Sola Salon in College Station, spends her time outside of massages and waxing coordinating concept photo shoots showcasing her artistic side. “It’s kind of more for me and my portfolio, and things that I can do. But I’m pushing that more and more as I grow as an artist,” says Hale.
Wedding season, March and April, is her busiest time of year, when local brides flock to her for their big day makeup and hair. But Halloween also brings her business when clients who wish to opt for a more dramatic, character-like look come for her expertise. This past All Hallows Eve brought 10 to 15 faces to paint.
While obtaining her esthetician’s license, Hale realized that to stay inspired and updated, taking classes with the artists she admired was the way to go. “I learned while I was doing that, that if you really want to learn how to do something, find someone that does it well, someone that you look up to, and you take a class from them,” says Hale.
Utilizing Facebook and personal connections to coordinate a team for photo shoots, Hale selects models, photographers, and hairstylists that best fit the mold of the concept she’s working on. “As long as you’re giving to them something that they’re going to enjoy, then it keeps them interested,” explains Hale. “You always want someone doing something for you who’s interested.”
Last year, Hale completed a series titled Monster Girl that featured character makeup, hair, and wardrobe resembling famous female monsters throughout history and fiction. The starring characters were the Bride of Frankenstein, a retro-interpretation of the Bride of Frankenstein, “Pin-up Zombie,” and Cleopatra’s Mummy. The Bride of Frankenstein, the first character she created with body paint, took eight hours for Hale to complete.
“It definitely takes a lot more time,” says Hale. “This is a lot of layering. There is applying prosthetics, then a base coat, then go back and airbrush, and then doing the contours and everything.”
Hale uses airbrush makeup for clients and models across the board, from weddings to the concept shoots. The tool operates much like an airbrush paint system would, except foundation is loaded into the brush. The foundation used with airbrush must be water or silicon-based, and the paints can cost $10 to $12 a tube.
“The main quality about Airbrush is the finish; it’s very smooth, you can make it light or heavy. It goes on top of the skin so it doesn’t really clog pores,” says Hale.
Airbrush paints cost around $300 just to get started. With the character photo shoots, one color of airbrush paint isn’t enough to create Hale’s desired look, hence the hefty total price tag.
With regular makeup, Hale looks for consistency and the degree of pigment in the foundation. She frequents Sephora, and favors brands such as Kat Von D, MAC, and Clinique. Some clients prefer makeup that is ultra-pigmented and some prefer makeup that is not so pigmented. “If it has a lot of pigment in it, it might be a little less easy to blend,” says Hale.
Hale will sometimes create a base coat with regular makeup first before applying airbrush makeup, maximizing the makeup’s wear time.
Before the actual day of shooting, Hale practices her looks on the models first. Hale uses Pinterest and other research to collect inspiration, but some ideas of hers have no existing visual guidance. “Sometimes I have something in my head that I want to do, but it’s not out there so I have to practice it to achieve it,” says Hale.
Recreating the same look completely, from practice to photo shoot, can be challenging.
Hale reveals that there is more to the Monster Girl concept that she wants to add on. In the future, she hopes to create a beach setting, with the monster character in the sand, and another at a local snow cone parlor, with the monster’s snow cone overflowing with fake brains. “These little ideas pop in my head,” says Hale. “Sometimes I never get to them, but they’re still there. They’re waiting.”
See Leanna Hale’s Pin-up Zombie Monster Girl Series on YouTube.