Updated: Nov 8, 2019
Paul Jones, is a master of Special FX Makeup and Creature/Prostetic Design. You can see his work all over the world, in commercials, tv series and Feature films. In this interview Paul shares his journey as an artist. Paul is currently the owner of Paul Jones FX Studio and has been in the industry for over 30 years. No matter what your goals are or how long you’ve been creating art, there’s plenty to take away from Paul’s advice & experiences in the Industry.
JENN: Paul, can you tell us a little bit about your history in the Industry/Art world?
PAUL: I have been lucky to work on some well known projects over my 30 plus year career, partly in the UK but mostly here in Toronto. Hellraiser, Silent Hill and the Resident Evil movies are a few of the more well known projects I’ve been involved with.
JENN: Amazing! What Education did you pursue in order to further your career in this industry? And what are your thoughts on the current education system when it comes to artists?
PAUL: I had no formal education in prosthetic makeup. My hobby seriously took hold in 1982 and back in those days in the UK there was nothing like there is today in terms on online course and schools so everything I learnt was through trial and error and from what little information I could find. Tom Savini Grande Illusions and Fangoria were a HUGE help back then. Once I started working in the industry I was able to pick up techniques while working with other artists which was invaluable. I joke that kids have it WAY too easy today. There are literally hundreds of online and school programs that teach makeup effects so literally anyone could give it a go. This is a double edged sword in my opinion. I am all for anyone wanting to play around doing prosthetic's, why not, it’s a fun hobby right? I simply encourage folks to be realistic. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Makeup should be fun and enjoyable but to make it your career takes discipline, commitment and above all talent.
JENN: Regarding your makeup and SPFX career How did you break into that field and how difficult was it for you to get your foot in the door?
PAUL: I lived in Northern England at that time and no one was doing makeup effects so I just practiced on myself and on friends for a few years until I had a fair amount of photos to send people. I acquired a contact address in the film industry and sent some stuff off (via the mail) and two weeks later started my career working for Bob Keen at Image Animation. I was with Image from 1988 till I moved to Toronto in 1994. Since then I have run my own company. This was the norm at the time, to start at the bottom and work your way up.
JENN: What were some of your biggest challenges in your career or pursuit of art? If you could go back would you do anything differently?
PAUL: The biggest challenge is and continues to be, time. Everything is on a deadline and those deadlines keep getting shorter and shorter. Prosthetic artists have had to compete with VFX over the last 20 years and though the materials and techniques are becoming more and more sophisticated, the time we are getting to build stuff gets shorter and shorter every year. I would like to build every project I have ever done again! Each and every piece of work I have built is always on a deadline and could ALWAYS be improved. This is normal for artists. The old saying “You never finish a project, you just abandon it” is very true in makeup effects field. Rarely do I feel I have done the best I could do purely because of time.
JENN: Typically what are your favorite tools/software for creating and what would you recommend to someone who is thinking about becoming an artist?
PAUL: Push some real clay and paint around. Learning how to create an object in 3 dimensions is essential to this field, as is color theory. Digital sculpting and painting are great (I use Photoshop everyday) but start with real clay and paint first. It’s cheaper and is an experience and feel that you can’t get from holding a stylus.
JENN: What is your favorite genre of creature to create? Or what is your favorite genre of art in general?
PAUL: I joke after doing a blood and guts show that I want to do puppets and fur now! No More Blood LOL, then after weeks of fur work I say NO MORE FUR!! Each job brings to it new challenges and experiences to learn and become a better artist.
JENN: Out of everything you’ve worked on, what has been your favorite most memorable project and why?
PAUL: I am most proud of my work in Silent Hill and the Series Man Seeking Woman, mainly because the shows turned out great. For the most part I don’t watch the finished projects I work on because I am either busy building something new or I can't keep my suspension of disbelief because of my involvement with the project. My go to art technique is sculpting. It’s more satisfying to me to push around clay than any other part of my job.
JENN: What would your dream project be? If you could work on anything, or create anything?
PAUL: My dream project is to work on a big feature in a shop with the guys I admired growing up and seeing them work. I would be in heaven watching amazing artists I have been a fan of my entire life sculpt and paint.
JENN: What can we expect to see from you in the near Future? Is there anything you’re working on now?
PAUL: I have been constantly busy for the last couple decades and I am always on one or two projects at a time. My current show is called The Boys, a dark superhero tv series. My next project is a TV series version of the comedy film What We Do In The Shadows. Really looking forward to that one.
JENN: Do you have any advice for Artists who are currently working to become a SPFX Makeup Artist/Designer or even students thinking of pursuing this as a career?
PAUL: The only advice is the advice I read back when I was starting out. It from Dick Smith, the master of all modern makeup techniques. (If you are starting out and don’t know his work then shame on you) Dick was interviewed in Fangoria for his work on Ghost Story and was asked that exact question. His answer was simple, “If you are not working hard at makeup effects RIGHT NOW, you are NOT cut out to be a makeup effects artist.”