After over 40 years as a Hollywood makeup and creature artist, accumulating seven Oscars since 1981, Rick Baker closed his Glendale studio entitled Cinovation and retired from film and television work in 2015. However, one would not consider a typical craftsperson actually retired when one spends half of the day creating works of his own design in his home studio. Amazingly, of his new schedule, Baker said, “I work twelve hours a day, everyday.”
When Baker began designing and creating makeup characters of his own in the 1960s, he was a teenager with dreams of becoming a “Hollywood makeup artist.” Now, with a star on Hollywood Boulevard and a host of magical screen characters to his credits, Baker might be the most celebrated and accomplished cinema artist of all time. In his earliest days, Baker would fully realize a character, from sketching, to sculpting in clay, to making molds, to fabricating all elements of a character using a variety of materials. Oddly, Baker has returned to his roots at present. “I still sculpt stuff — I do all of it, and I love mixing it up,” he described.
When Baker was initially hired to create original motion picture characters, out of necessity, he completed the panoply of tasks himself, whether in his family’s garage in the San Gabriel Valley or in his own makeup shops he founded for his first professional jobs. Eventually, on projects such as Men in Black, The Grinch, and Planet of the Apes (2001), Baker employed dozens of craftspeople to work in all stages of the makeup and creature realization process. Ironically, he has returned to his formative methodologies. “I really feel like when I was a kid,” he recently reflected.
During his current workdays, Baker feels the freedom of working in a variety of media on personal projects which might be visually released to the public via his Instagram account. He noted that he often moves from one medium to the other, based on his daily predilections. “There may be a day that I don’t feel like sculpting; I want makeup or paint,” he said. “Sometimes I get on the computer.”
Given the conglomerated world of contemporary motion picture production, with decisions often made by a committee of executives, Baker felt the time was right to step away from gearing his creative impulses towards movies. “I didn’t like the way the industry was turning,” he explained, “and I didn’t want to be the bitter old fart who was always complaining, and this is something I’ve always done because I love it.”
Even though he is not active in cinema and television, Baker implied that he has rediscovered the joy of simply designing and creating characters of late. “Because of the industry, the way it is now, I was starting not to love it, and I love it again now,” he specified.
When prompted for his likely response if he received a hypothetical call to design a new character for a movie, Baker was contemplative. “Originally I thought I would keep myself open to do designs and stuff like that,” he replied. “I don’t think I would now; I’m just having too much fun. That’s the part where the real headache comes in: the processes with opinions—do another one and another one and another one. It’s not like me under my little workshop doing what I want to do.”
Finally, Baker, now 68, seemed fully satisfied with his existing circumstances, with no regrets or outside desires. “I’m having so much fun, and I know the end is in sight—that’s not that far away,” he revealed. “I just want to have fun now, doing things when I want. It’s a great way to go out.”