Local makeup artist Sara Ann Callaway had just finished making a monster when we spoke.
"It was originally meant to be a body paint, but I decided to make it a full custom character," she says. "She [the character, modeled by Allison Hawkins] is meant to be a desert spirit, overlooking the land." Callaway does special makeup effects as an intern at Denver-based Monster Makeup FX. The desert spirit is part of an application for reality/game show Face Off, which pits budding makeup artists against one another in skill challenges. Think Project Runway, but with latex and fake blood instead of chiffon and couture.
Callaway, who does beauty makeup by day, hasn't been in the creature crafting business for very long. In 2013, she was angling for a job in animal advocacy with PETA's Los Angeles branch. But when her mother died that June, Callaway developed anxiety and PTSD. She coped through art, starting with beauty makeup tutorials on YouTube. Eventually, she expanded into body painting, then full-on character makeup.
"If I was feeling bad, I would sit down and try and create something on myself ..." she says. "I like being able to work off of something, so that's where faces come in handy."
By October, she had returned to the Springs to help take care of her father, and to escape the bad memories of Los Angeles. Callaway's mother's birthday was Halloween, so the day has always been special for her family. To cope with their first Halloween without her, Callaway did makeup for herself and her father, ultimately winning a costume contest. That's when she realized special makeup effects could be her new calling.
"I just hope to make a name for myself in this industry," she says. "As much as Face Off isn't the best-of-the-best artists, it's great exposure." Indeed, former Face Off winner Laura Dandridge recently worked as a makeup artist on Captain America: Civil War and the now-filming Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. If Callaway can keep getting better and work on movie sets more often than not, she says she'll be happy.
As for the desert spirit, Callaway says that somewhat unconsciously, she built the character on things she's overcome in her life.
"She's seen battle and hardship, but she's come out stronger because of it and is still hauntingly beautiful."