If you checked out artist Kala Kannisto’s V mask from the movie, V for Vendetta, you might marvel at the way light reflects off the porcelain finish of the mask. You’d then have your mind blown when you realized that it’s not a light reflection, but an intentional makeup effect.
“That’s a hard effect to get right,” Kannisto said. Kannisto finished the makeup at home and was about to post her work on Instagram, only to have her power go out. She sat in her car, charging her phone, as the power company arrived to restore service — “slumped down in my car, hoping that strangers didn’t see a scary V for Vendetta!”
The concern is valid, because Kannisto’s makeup designs are immaculately done. Her instagram page (@kmk.creations) is full of her incredibly detailed makeup effects. She’s done dozens of character faces and effects makeup, from Disney villains like Ursula and Maleficent to original creations like mermaids. Kannisto recently did a run of 31 different looks on Instagram to celebrate October and Halloween.
“I honestly started out of boredom, during quarantine,” Kannisto said. “It was something that I always wanted to try and I always had an interest in. I’ve been inspired by people over the years and never really had the time to sit and teach myself how to do it. So I really utilized that time at the start of COVID and did everything to stay busy and learn something new and have an artistic outlet.”
A big Disney fan, Kannisto started her makeup journey with an Ursula look, from the Disney classic, The Little Mermaid. Originally posted in March 2020, her initial take on the character is big and bold, with cartoon lines and big features. Revisiting the character a few months later, Kannisto gave her a more natural look but added octopus arms to the shoulders to embody the character. A side-by-side of the two versions show the growth Kannisto made in just those first few initial months.
“I posted it in this Disney World Facebook group that I’m part of, and people loved it,” Kannisto recalled. “I had thousands of likes on it, and I was just completely blown away. I guess people might like this so maybe I should put it out there more formally.”
Kannisto, who also paints in watercolors and teaches salsa dancing, pivoted her arts-focused Instagram page over primarily to the makeup effects. Most of her knowledge comes from trial and error. She takes inspiration from other artists, seeing things that she wants to achieve and challenging herself to recreate them.
Her hardest challenge turned out to be her personal favorite: an eye-popping rendition of the comic book character Venom. Painted on a friend, the creation covers the model from face to chest, showing the titular Marvel antihero with a snarling, tooth-filled mouth and the model’s face barely visible. The application took between three and four hours to complete — a video of the application can be viewed on Kannisto’s page.
Her process depends on the look she’s doing. For pretty makeup, Kannisto typically works on the eyes first. For more intricate looks, she goes with a rough outline and focuses on lighter colors before darker ones.
Kannisto looks at this makeup chapter of her life as an endearing hobby. “It doesn’t feel like work to me. It feels like a relief — kind of like my down time.” However, she has been brought on to do makeup effects for others. She has been commissioned to do other work, including a great Beetlejuice and Lydia couple’s costume.
Doing elaborate makeup effects on other people poses unique challenges.
“With other people, the work that you’re doing is so intricate and detailed, you’ve gotta pay attention to every inhale, every movement,” Kannisto said. “If you’re working on their eyes, their eyelids will flutter. There’s a lot of other factors at play.”
She’s not bothered by it, though: “More fun for me, I think,” she said
Kannisto has seen an influx of people asking for her assistance, especially as Halloween approached. She also gets requests from friends for makeup for weddings and events. She’s hoping to be able to shift her talents into working in theater and film.
Now that Halloween is over, she’s looking forward to new challenges. Building prosthetics is something she’d like to focus on, and she’s got several new character looks in mind. She hopes her successes inspire others to take a creative leap.
“Having an artistic outlet is extremely important. You should always take the time to pursue something you want to. I hope this encourages someone to try something new.”