Christien Tinsley is an Academy Award winning makeup artist and character designer, who received a technical achievement Academy Award in 2008 for “the creation of the transfer techniques for creating and applying 2D and 3D makeup”. He is also the owner of Tinsley Studio, which has worked on hundreds of movies and TV shows.
Recently, Christien was nominated for an Emmy for his work on American Horror Story, and we had a chance to talk to him about working on the first season. He also gave us some hints as to what we can expect from American Horror Story: Asylum.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. Can you tell our readers how you first got involved in professional makeup effects?
Christien Tinsley: I started out as a young kid making Halloween masks and creating sculptures in my bedroom in Seattle WA. I then moved to Los Angeles and began working in various shops, working my way up and learning as I went.
What films and makeup artists inspired you do this for a living?
Christien Tinsley: Dick Smith, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Steve Johnson.
Congratulations on your Emmy Nomination for American Horror Story. This is your third nomination for a project you’ve worked on with Ryan Murphy. What is the creative process like working with him on American Horror Story? Does he know exactly what he’s looking for or are you given quite a bit of freedom to experiment?
Christien Tinsley: American Horror Story is such a fun project. I really enjoy reading each script and seeing all of the characters that we get to create. I always work very closely with Ryan to achieve his vision. Fortunately, I am given a great deal of latitude and am able to play with the ideas we get based on the script and Ryan’s notes. There are always several design passes for each character until we lock in a look that resonates with Ryan’s vision.
What are some of the makeup effects you were directly responsible for on American Horror Story? What work on the show are you most proud of?
Christien Tinsley: Technically Tinsley Studio is responsible for all of the makeup effects. I rely on my talented team for collaboration and to follow through with implementing the designs and bringing them to life. Infantata and Burn Man were my favorites from last season.
Are you back again for American Horror Story: Asylum? Can you give us any hints about what we can expect from your work this season?
Christien Tinsley: Yes we are currently working on Season 2. This year has fantastical elements, definitely more gore and generally has us creating much more then last year. That’s about all I can say.
As an artist, is it more enjoyable to work on a series like American Horror Story, when the theme and makeup requirements change every year?
Christien Tinsley: I love working on American Horror Story. The team that Ryan Murphy has in place is great and the thematic changes definitely keep things interesting. The schedule for Television is a bit more hectic than most films so while we are thrilled to be on this crazy ride we will definitely enjoy the much needed rest at the end of filming.
Some of our readers may not be aware that you won an Academy Award for the creation of the transfer techniques for creating and applying 2D and 3D makeup. Can you tell us a bit more about this process and how it is used today?
Christien Tinsley: I created the 2D (tattoo) and 3D (prosthetic) transfers as a time saving way to apply makeup on set. Essentially, my 3D transfer products are applied the same way as the temporary tattoos that you applied as a kid. Today my transfers are used in TV and Film around the world and most recently I have developed a similar line for the Halloween/Retail outlets called the 3d FX Transfer. Watch a tutorial video here at the Tinsley Transfer YouTube channel… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3fX5nQ71Wc
You also operate Tinsley Studio, which has dozens of TV and movie credits under its belt. What are some of the upcoming projects your studio will be working on?
Christien Tinsley: Killing them Softly, Andrew Domink’s latest film with Brad Pitt, will be coming soon, as well as Ruben Fleisher’s Gangster Squad that we just finished re-shoots on. We are currently working on American Horror Story: Asylum and we are creating some tattoos for Mad Max: Fury Road.