Blistering flesh and wounds dripping with blood are all in a day’s work for Rachael Divers.
No, she isn’t a doctor - she’s a makeup artist based right here in South Yorkshire.
And while her job means she spends 11-and-a-half months of the year making people look beautiful - for the other two weeks, she focuses on making them look absolutely terrifying.
“Halloween is my favourite time of year!” explains Rachael.
“I work 14 hour days in the run up to Halloween night, getting people ready for parties, events and scarefests and it’s the most fun I have all year round.”
Rachael’s blood-curdling portfolio features zombies, witches and demons with peeling, blistering and bleeding skin. For her art, she has exposed the bloody bones of her hand and had scissors protruding from her own eye socket - all fake of course.
“I like to practice on myself before I do any of my looks on other people,” she said.
“I had to take my dog out for a quick walk around the street mid-way through creating the ‘scissors sticking of out my eye’ look - I dread to think what my neighbours thought!”
Her studio, in Barnsley, is the first indicator of her love of the season; eerily grinning pumpkins, spiders and vials of fake blood cover every inch of her makeup station, while nearby a skeleton, his mouth open in a silent gaping scream, watches from the mirror. And luckily, rather than make her squeamish, Rachael loves creating the stomach-turning looks and spends hours perfecting them with the help of YouTube tutorial videos.
“Sometimes the looks I create even freak me out,” admits the self-taught artist, who grew up watching shows like Buffy and Angel and always fancied having a go at the incredible makeup looks.
“That’s how I know when I’m on to something really good.”
Special effects makeup is a reasonably new venture for the 21-year-old who began training in special occasion makeup three years ago, after first studying journalism at university.
“I’ve always loved experimenting with makeup,” she said.
“I detoured briefly into journalism - trying to find something ‘academic’ to study - which led me to beauty writing which, in turn, led me back to the thing I love, so I went to train at The Beauty Academy in Leeds and fell in love with makeup artistry.”
27-year-old Rachael began her career doing makeup for weddings, proms, birthdays and makeovers, often teaming up with her parents who run a photographic business, Divers Photography, in the town. Her skills meant she was quickly in-demand and her business, Rachael Divers Makeup Artistry, soon took off. It was 18 months ago that her desire to try her hand at something a little more creative led her to seek out YouTube videos on special effects makeup.
“I thought ‘I could do that,’ so I bought some latex and started practicing,” she said.
“I really enjoyed it, letting loose and working on something crazy, so I gradually built my kit up and kept practicing - then began advertising the new service ahead of Halloween last year.”
And Rachael was stunned to find herself fully booked Halloween week 2014, working right up until 10pm on October 31.
“It was a fantastic week, I pretty much worked all hours in the four days beforehand to fit everyone in!” she said.
“I created zombies, skeletons, burns victims, you name it. The Joker from Batman was really popular last year and is a fun look to do because it involves a ‘Chelsea Smile,’ which I do by building up latex around the mouth and then cutting it to create that ruptured skin look. One guy came to my studio to have The Joker look done and then had to get the bus home, which I bet was a little scary for the other passengers!
“The look I do that takes the longest is probably a witch, with a fake chin and nose, as it takes time to dry and apply, but looks amazing when it is done. Durability is obviously an issue as these looks have to withstand people going on rides, screaming and eating lots of Halloween treats!
“I don’t let anybody see themselves in the mirror until I’m finished so most people are really shocked and I’ve had some fantastic reactions.
“Lot of people are enjoying TV shows like The Walking Dead at the moment, so I find zombies are the thing I’m asked for most, but I’m excited to see what requests this Halloween brings.”
Rachael, who worked on a Halloween campaign for Poundstretcher last year, says she would love to go on a course to further her special effects makeup skills, but is really pleased with how much information is available online: “Most of the tutorials I learn from are American, there are some great channels for that kind of stuff and exciting to see how trends start out in the US and then trickle over here to us.”
And as Rachael gets her latex and vials of blood at the ready this week, she’s thrilled by the way in which the people of South Yorkshire have embraced the fun and fear of this ‘spirited’ occasion.
“I love what I do, with the weddings and proms,” she explained.
“There’s honestly nothing better in the world than getting to help make somebody feel their very very best - unless it’s helping them to look their very very worst!”
Visit rachaeldivers.com for more information.
pAinstaking £50 zombie ‘makeover’ so effective with fake blood replacing lipstick:
Rachael gave us a preview, creating a Burns Zombie on her model, 18-year-old Chloe Short.
“The first thing I did was block Chloe’s eyebrows out with Pritt Stick, to protect them, then I began applying third degree silicone modelling gel to her face and neck with a spatula, creating layers and indentations for the base.
“When that dried, I went over the whole thing with transclucent powder before painting foundation over the top. Next I went in to all the little crevices and indents with purple and black cream paint and started building the colour up. I kept adding different colours in to make the skin look bruised, like it had had lots of trauma.
“Next I put black cream paint in the eye socket and added an eye contact, which I get online for about £6 a pair.
“I added a bit of eyeliner to Chloe’s water-line and finished the look off with fake blood oozing out of the skin.
“This is a really effective look and quite quick to create. In place of a lipstick in your purse, I’d take a little vial of fake blood!”
Final cost = £50.