Walton and the world of monsters, music and makeup


Johnnie Walton / Used With Permission

Streaked with blood and dotted with hearts, Johnnie Walton dubs this whimsically gory look “Queen of Hearts Mix.” Walton uses a variety of supplies like liquid latex, stage blood, cream paints and brushes to create her SFX designs.

Blood is her brush. Flesh is her canvas. Metamorphosis is her masterpiece. Since Johnnie Walton (12) delved into the world of special effects (SFX) makeup, the art form no longer entails the accentuation of features; it implies complete transformation.

“[SFX makeup] is the art of transforming yourself or someone else into something completely different,” Walton said. “That can look like turning one person into a different person or turning one person into a piece of art that’s not confined within the ground of traditional makeup.” 

In this sense, “traditional makeup” refers to anything that defines or enhances existing features. SFX makeup, on the other hand, dances into a realm of heightened artistry and creativity – one can morph into something else entirely. Walton’s bare-faced canvas has seen painted landscapes, gruesome monsters, beloved movie characters and more. She consistently posts on her SFX makeup account (@jwsfx on Instagram), a gallery of horror and wonder. With all this experience under her belt, it might surprise one to think that this artistic journey began with an amateur costume contest, at-home supplies and a particular passion for zombies.

“My sister and I really wanted to win the costume contest at my elementary school, and I was really obsessed with the show ‘The Walking Dead’ at the time, so we decided to do some zombie makeup,” Walton said. “We used supplies we had at home like Elmer’s glue, toilet paper, paint and ketchup.” 

The DIY zombie look allowed Walton to snag first place in the competition, but it wasn’t until six years later in her sophomore year when she revisited SFX makeup for a second time. 

“I saw some people talking about Halloween parties and what they were going to dress up as, and I think this was also the year a lot of people were doing Harley Quinn and Joker stuff,” Walton said. “I saw the Joker makeup, and I decided to try it out… From that, I just started coming up with different ideas and playing around with it.” 

As the years have passed, her skills have evolved greatly, and she has begun to showcase her talents beyond casual posting on social media. One of Walton’s current passions is doing promotional art for musicians, painting complex album covers on her face and body. 

“When it initially started, it was entirely just me doing the makeup and doing cold outreach to try to get support,” Walton said. “But then there’s also the side where artists will reach out to me, whether they want actual content to help them advertise music or they just want to see their album.” 

Towards the beginning of her venture into this music-inspired path, she gained recognition from American rock band Cage the Elephant with her recreation of their album “Melophobia” on her own face – a pleasant surprise since it was one of her first album looks to date. 

“I wasn’t really expecting anything out of it, but they ended up liking it and reposting it, and their official photographer started following me,” Walton said. “They have just been supporting all of my posts since that point.” 

Walton has since gained support from multiple established artists, including one of her favorite groups, Highly Suspect. This time, however, it wasn’t simple recognition; Walton directly partnered with the band to promote their upcoming projects. 

“I was doing some of their album covers as makeup, and I got the attention of their lead singer… he recently launched a record label… and there were two other bands involved,” Walton said. “I ended up doing this makeup look that combined aspects of three different single covers from their bands. I posted it on my page, and they reposted it on their record label and on their individual artist page.”

Aside from her promotional content, Walton also does personal commissions and is employed as a makeup artist at Haunted Web of Horrors, one of the biggest haunted attractions in Memphis. With her ever-growing talents and expanding clientele, Walton officially branded her business as JWSFX in August 2020, launching a website (jwsfx.com), blog and official logo. Managing her business comes with plenty of obstacles, of course. Sometimes, it’s difficult to acquire the necessary materials. 

“A lot of makeup supplies are very expensive, and I can’t always purchase the best supplies,” Walton said. “But I’m really impressed with the quality of makeup I do with my line of supplies, so I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a setback.” 

The greatest struggle of all is simply finding the time and motivation. Walton’s work with SFX makeup inevitably conflicts with the demands of school. 

“There are times when I really feel like I don’t have enough energy to pour into my makeup, and I know if I do it, I’m probably not going to be satisfied with the result,” Walton said. “It’s definitely been more difficult since school started.”

Even so, the process is nonetheless a pleasure. For Walton, one of the greatest rewards of all is a sense of accomplishment, a driving force behind her art. 

“A more personal reward from it would just be the satisfaction of looking into the mirror and seeing myself transform into something that I really do think is beautiful,” Walton said. “That’s one of the main things that keeps me coming to makeup and why I enjoy it so much – I have the power to completely transform myself.”