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My Mythological Medusa by Jessica Ayliffe

Jessica Ayliffe is studying on our current Peter King Television and Film Makeup Course.  Here, she tells us about this fantastic look she created at Swindon College – the scary Medusa!


Planning, planning and more planning. That’s what it took to create this look. I was attending Swindon college at the time, studying Media Makeup Artistry. I learnt a variety of skills and techniques whilst I was there and this lead me into the idea of going into the TV/ Film industry. I later made the decision to attend the Bath Academy of Media Makeup.

We were set a task to create a full body painting utilising a bald cap, prosthetics and with 25% costume permissible. All had to be based on a mythological creature of our choosing. Medusa, it was!

I’ve always thought she was a very fascinating mythological creature-she had snakes rooting from her head which would turn any human being into stone! Her persona was diverse: one minute a bewitching beauty and the next a repugnant reptile. I tried to take each of these well known features of her character into consideration when designing my look.

I knew that I wanted to create a natural looking bald cap, yet keep a mythic feel to the design. So, I chose to make a head piece out of fabric, which I painted bronze. I decorated the gaps using green sequins to represent scales. My parents went to a London Zoo shop to find me  some realistic looking fake snakes. I fastened these onto my head piece so that it was ready to apply once my bald cap was glued onto my model.

I was interested in portraying the screaming faces of Medusa’s victims onto the body using aqua paints. I also wanted to incorporate snake scales on the body. I looked into a variety of snake scales- there were a lot of green and brown colours in the scales. Therefore, I planned to use greens, browns and golds to paint scales onto my model’s body.

Here are a few pictures of my planning process. I find mood boards the best form of planning for me. Different textures, pictures and annotations can be added to create a very well thought out mood board to help realise your final creation.


After the planning process- the creation

Once all of the planning was complete, I moved on to practices and trials. These allowed me  see what techniques and colours worked best. I chose golds instead of browns as it gave a slightly more feminine feel with the sparkle that was created against the light from the camera.

I then created the costume. I collected plenty of Primark brown belts, which I painted gold and turned into a gladiator skirt. For the shoulder armour I used thick meshed wire, which I then covered in paper and painted in the same gold. I then fashioned this into a piece of armour that was suitable for my model to wear. At this stage I made my bald cap and long fake nails too.

Final outcome

medusa-headWhen then day finally came, to create what had taken nearly 2 months to plan, I was very nervous (especially about painting onto my model). I started by applying the bald cap and then adding colour so that it matched my model’s natural skin colour. Soon after, I began painting her legs to give them the appearance of stone pillars.

I made the decision to start on the lower legs so that my model could sit down. People who are being body painted can become light headed due to standing up for a long time whilst looking down to inspect the work being created on them, so I tried to keep my model sitting for as long as possible (and gave her a few lollipops too!).

There, in the seated position, I also painted the screaming faces onto my model’s torso. This became a little difficult as my model was wearing nipple covers which were made from fabric so it was hard to paint evenly over them. I found that I had to add slightly more water to the brush in order for it to cover properly.


The scales were positioned over the arms and neck using shading and highlighting effects in order to create a realistic ‘snake like’ appearance over my model’s upper limbs.

Finally, I applied the face makeup: Ben Nye cream foundation and MAC powder in ‘Old Gold’. I contoured my model using foundation and used an iridescent powder for a matte look- a non shiny appearance I knew would be better when it came to the photoshoot and subsequent pictures.

The final thing I applied to my model were snake contact lenses, which I obtained from www.eyez.com.

Overall, I was extremely happy and proud that I created this final look. However, the one thing I would have changed was to use fully green contact lenses, which would have created the same effect as the snake contact lenses (the snake contact lenses kept moving on the eye and so weren’t as notably visible as I would have liked them to have been in the pictures).


You can see more of Jessica’s work at her Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Ayliffejessicamua-145743192263046/

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