Traditional clown makeup is an iconic and enduring aspect of clowning that has captivated audiences for centuries.
It’s a distinctive and theatrical form of cosmetic artistry that transforms the human face into a canvas for humor, whimsy, and entertainment.
In this essay, we will explore the history, significance, and techniques behind traditional clown makeup, delving into its evolution and cultural impact.
Historical Roots of Clown Makeup
The history of clown makeup can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where performers would use face paint and masks to entertain audiences.
However, the modern concept of clown makeup as we know it today began to take shape in the European theatrical traditions of the 17th century.
Commedia dell’arte, an Italian form of improvisational theater popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, played a significant role in the development of clown makeup.
Characters like Harlequin and Pierrot wore distinct facial designs that laid the foundation for clown makeup styles we recognize today.
Harlequin’s black half-mask, adorned with diamond patterns, was a precursor to the whiteface clown makeup, while Pierrot’s white face with a teardrop below one eye contributed to the development of the sad clown archetype.
Evolution of Clown Makeup Styles
Over the centuries, clown makeup has evolved into several distinct styles, each with its own character and symbolism. Three prominent styles are:
Whiteface: Whiteface clowns are characterized by their entirely white-painted faces. This style represents purity, innocence, and naivety. Prominent whiteface clowns include Emmett Kelly and Coco the Clown. Creating the whiteface look involves applying a thick layer of white greasepaint or water-based makeup evenly over the entire face, often with exaggerated features, such as a bright red nose, rosy cheeks, and a red mouth.
Auguste: Auguste clowns are known for their colorful, exaggerated features and messy, mismatched outfits. Unlike the pristine whiteface clowns, Augustes embody chaos and foolishness. The makeup typically consists of brightly colored, over-the-top designs with red, blue, and black accents. Their noses are often red and bulbous, and they may wear wigs or colorful hats to complete their look.
Tramp or Hobo: The tramp or hobo clown, made famous by performers like Charlie Chaplin, has a distinct and downtrodden appearance. This makeup style involves smudging or diluting the whiteface to create a worn, ragged effect. The eyes are often exaggerated with dark makeup, giving the clown a sad or forlorn expression. The mouth may be drawn as a frown or downturned smile.
Each of these makeup styles serves a specific comedic purpose and helps convey the clown’s character to the audience. The choice of makeup style depends on the performer’s comedic persona and the type of humor they wish to convey.
Techniques and Materials
Creating traditional clown makeup is a precise and artistic process that requires skill and attention to detail. Here are the basic steps involved:
Preparation: Before applying makeup, clowns typically start with a clean and moisturized face. It’s essential to ensure the skin is in good condition to prevent irritation or allergies from the makeup products.
Foundation: For whiteface clowns, a white greasepaint or water-based makeup is applied evenly to the entire face, including the ears and neck. The makeup should be thick enough to cover the natural skin color completely.
Features: Clowns then outline and fill in their features using various colors. For example, red is often used for the nose, cheeks, and mouth. Black may be used for outlining the eyes and exaggerating eyebrows. Lips are often painted in a bright, contrasting color.
Details: The finer details of the makeup, such as wrinkles, lines, or patterns, are added next. Whiteface clowns may use black or red to create exaggerated expressions, while Auguste clowns use bold and colorful designs.
Setting: To prevent smudging and ensure the makeup lasts throughout the performance, clowns apply setting powder over their painted faces. This helps the makeup stay in place and reduces shine.
Final Touches: Finally, clowns may add additional accessories like wigs, hats, and oversized shoes to complete their look. These elements enhance the character and physicality of the clown.
Symbolism and Impact of Traditional Clown Makeup
Traditional clown makeup serves several important functions in the world of clowning:
Characterization: Clown makeup allows performers to establish distinct and easily recognizable characters. The makeup style, colors, and design convey essential information about the clown’s personality and comedic role.
Amplifying Expressions: The exaggerated features and expressions created through makeup help clowns convey emotions and reactions more effectively to a large audience. The bold colors and lines make their facial expressions visible from a distance.
Timeless Appeal: Traditional clown makeup has a timeless and universal quality that transcends language and cultural barriers. It evokes a sense of nostalgia and familiarity, making clowns relatable to audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Iconic Identity: Certain clown personas have become iconic figures in popular culture, thanks in part to their distinctive makeup. For example, the whiteface clown with a red nose is instantly recognizable as a symbol of clowning.
Artistic Expression: The creation of clown makeup is a form of artistic expression. Clowns often design their own makeup to reflect their unique style and comedic sensibilities, making each performance a creative endeavor.
Entertainment Value: Traditional clown makeup adds an element of surprise and spectacle to clown performances. The transformation from an ordinary face to a clown face is a magical and entertaining moment for the audience.
Final Conclusion on How to do Traditional Clown Makeup?
In conclusion, traditional clown makeup is a rich and enduring tradition that has played a pivotal role in the world of clowning.
It has a deep historical and cultural significance, evolving over centuries to become a symbol of humor, entertainment, and artistic expression.
From the ancient roots of theater to the modern circus and comedy acts, clown makeup has remained a fundamental aspect of clown performances, allowing performers to create memorable characters and connect with audiences on a profound and universal level.
Its iconic and timeless appeal ensures that traditional clown makeup will continue to bring joy and laughter to generations of spectators to come.