Story by: Claire Floody
One of the first movies Ariana Del Bianco ever watched was A Nightmare on Elm Street — she was just six-years-old. Her mother plopped her down in front of the television set armed with the entire collection and one instruction: watch them all. It was the beginning of what she calls an obsession.
“As I got older I’d Google everything about horror movies. I learned all the facts. I looked at behind the scenes. I literally went nuts with it,” she says.
Freddy Krueger’s disfigured face now has a permanent home on her arm, one of many horror tattoos that decorate her body. But the genre is more than just a passion, it’s her career. Del Bianco is a professionally trained makeup artist with a knack for recreating blood, bruising and any other injury you could imagine, as well as applying prosthetics.
Del Bianco, now 21, first got into makeup when she started a six-month course at Seneca College while still in high school. She later graduated from the renowned CMU College of Makeup Art & Design in Toronto, as well as studying online with the Stan Winston School, known for doing the special effects and makeup for blockbuster movies, such as Jurassic Park, Terminator and Aliens. She’s worked on various movie and television sets across Toronto, both bigger projects and smaller indie ones. One of the most memorable sets she’s been on was for a short indie film called Angel.
“I got to do a lot of blood. I got to slit throats, gashes on the face,” she says.
“I just basically killed people the entire day.”
There’s a special art to making people look gory and it involves more than one type of fake blood. There are blood jams, various types of drying blood and even mouth blood that’s safe to eat (although Del Bianco doesn’t recommend it). Blood jams are used for deeper wounds or for blood with thicker consistency. It’s available in a bright or dark red, depending on how fresh the wound is and where it’s located on the body. Drying blood is designed to create older wounds and is also available in various shades of red.
Shelby Zimmerman, also a graduate of CMU College of Makeup Art & Design, says she gravitates towards the horror world too.
For Zimmerman who is 25, it was because working in fashion wasn’t fulfilling enough for her.
“It’s weird being a makeup artist in fashion, because you’re sort of an artist for rent. They want you to do your art without showcasing your creativity.”
Out of all the monster projects Zimmerman’s been a part of, one of the most memorable was when one of the actors didn’t show up to set.
“So, I’m actually in the movie,” she says, laughing.
“It was very interesting as an artist who went to school and was trained to do work on other people. To then do makeup on myself was probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced in my life.”
Zimmerman had to slash her face — almost unrecognizably. To create the effect, she dipped her long, fake nails into a shot glass of dark drying blood and raked them across her face.
Afterwards she painted over it adding edges and roughness as if it was inflicted by a real monster.
Bella Muerta is a sideshow performer and vocalist who also uses blood in her artwork, but there’s nothing fake about it.
Muerta is a part of a seven-piece band called Mineta and one of their music videos titled Master is a horror comedy involving blood. It stars Muerta in a Beetlejuice-esque leotard with jewels stuck to her face and bright blue painted lips.
At one point, a clown-like nurse (who’s actually trained by a registered nurse) draws blood from Muerta’s arm and then squirts it onto a canvas. But in the video, it’s played in reverse as if the bloody artwork is being sucked off the canvas and back into Muerta.
She also performs one live show a year incorporating blood. Muerta has struggled with her mental health for a long time; she’s been self-harming since she was 12 (she’s now 26). But on stage is the first place she’s been able to turn it into something therapeutic. She no longer hurts herself outside of performance.
“You feel so isolated when you’re pushed to that point of depression or anxiety that it makes you want to hurt yourself. It’s a very lonely experience. So, to do it on stage in front of strangers, it’s made me feel a lot more open to talking about it with people.”
But she’s extremely mindful about how her performance affects people and that the message she’s sending could be misconstrued as something harmful.
“In no way am I endorsing or condoning that people do this. I just found that I took a self-destructive force within me that I could not shut up and I turned it into something creative.”
For both Zimmerman and Del Bianco, mental health plays a role in their work too. Zimmerman suffered from severe acne growing up and struggled to feel accepted amongst her peers. Now, she enjoys creating monsters and creatures that aren’t conventionally beautiful.
“You want to hide your acne, nobody ever tells you you’re beautiful with it, right? It was almost fun for me to sort of make ugliness the beauty, the outcome is to make someone look horrible instead of great.”
From the beginning of Del Bianco’s journey with makeup it was a release for her; a place for her to put her energy, a way to shut the world out and everything bad with it.
“Makeup has always been something that I could turn to and it turns the entire world off. I made people bloody and gory, because I was feeling mad and sad and depressed and alone and suicidal. So, I took all those demons that I have inside of myself and make demons of my own,” she says.
“You know some people like to paint and others like sculpting pottery and I rip jugulars out of people’s throats. Whatever helps you get through life.”