Several years ago, some of our newer hospital clowns had a different mentor when they started than we did and as a result received lots of partnering and performance training, but no make-up workshops. One of the trainees asked me why not just cover the entire face in make-up since we’re playing a character.
To outline the reason hospital clowns should not be made up like they might be for a big circus show, here’s an excerpt from my previous post, The Hospital Face:
There are many artistic, elaborate clown faces out there. Indeed some clowns are walking works of art-their make-up is flawless and amazing. The hospital clown, however, must proceed with caution. During hospital clown training we were taught to avoid full-face makeup. They showed us how to use our natural facial structure to apply our clown face.
We were to make various facial expressions in front of a mirror, taking note of our musculature as we did so. We would then apply make-up sparingly, using only two or three colors. Full white face was especially discouraged. Our noses were chosen according to preference and practicality. The make-up style would also change with time, experience and character development. Hospital clowning is close up and I’ve found that even adults without long-standing clown phobias become startled at the site of a fully made up clown face. (For reasons related to hygiene and cross-contamination, we do not use wigs in the hospital, but we do use hats.)
Clown faces vary and are personal, depending on your natural expressions and your different clown characters. Take the time to find your own, but remember that it should be kept simple for hospital clowning, since our goal as clown doctors and nurses is to empower the patients and not simply to demonstrate what we can do.
Here are examples of how my make-up changed in the first year of my clowning experience.
My first face was a result of a mixture of suggestions from one of the trainers, using my natural facial expressions.
I began to remove some of the white make-up, and I noticed that children reacted with less apprehension.
I noticed the make-up that clowns from other states used after glancing through a company photo album and decided to simplify things further, as well as make things neater. This is the face I still use.