Art of 'The Mortal Instruments': Banes concept art
Banes concept art
Art of 'The Mortal Instruments': Banes concept art
Banes concept art

Editor’s note: Make-Up Artist magazine originally ran a preview of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones in Issue 103, but with the film’s release, we are now able to share a number of exclusive images, courtesy of Paul Jones and Martin Mercer.

One of the most eagerly anticipated fantasy films of the summer was The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Based on Cassandra Clare’s best-selling young-adult novel, it features a teenager named Clary Fray (played by Lily Collins) who finds herself dragged into a supernatural world of demons, vampires and other monsters.

The film’s physical creatures were built by make-up effects veteran Paul Jones (Silent Hill, Defiance), with designs contributed by concept artist Martin Mercer. Unlike other genre projects, where the monsters have a much more obvious presence, the challenge on this film was to create a range of supernatural characters that may not be as obvious at first. “There’s a great scene where Clary goes to Magnus Bane’s house [where there’s] a party,” explains Jones, “and I would say about 70 percent of the guests are human and the other 30 percent are human-ish, so they all have something slightly off about them.

“One guy has a golden face with African tribal scars on his face, but his face is a luminescent gold, while another girl has cat eyes that you don’t really notice at first until she opens her eyes wide at the camera, so in terms of our prosthetics, everything was scaled right down to be very subtle. We found people that were interesting already and basically enhanced their natural features, rather than taking somebody average or attractive and turning them into a monster.”

Jones worked directly with Mercer to create the creatures. “Martin is very fast,” Jones notes, “so I was able to run the shop but not have to sit down at my laptop and design for a day. Martin would come to me and I would act like an art director and say, ‘OK, that wrinkle is great—make it a bit longer and bring the cheekbones out more, darken down this part of the rune, make the teeth a little longer.’

“Four or five hours later the design would be done and get sent off to production designer François Séguin, and from a practical point of view, I wouldn’t have any problem building anything in the design. When you are given a design by somebody else, it can be tricky sometimes, because they don’t understand what we do or the limitations we have from a prosthetic point of view. Because I understood the characters in this world and where they lived, we were able to simply carry on with what we were doing.” (continued below)

Art of 'The Mortal Instruments': demon cop concept art
Demon cop concept art

Demon-cop concept art 

Art of 'The Mortal Instruments': demon cop practical make-up
Demon cop practical make-up

Demo-cop practical make-up

Art of 'The Mortal Instruments': practical make-up
Practical make-up

Creature make-up

Art of 'The Mortal Instruments': practical make-up
Practical make-up

Creature make-up

Art of 'The Mortal Instruments': demon concept art
Demon concept art

While moviegoers won’t necessarily see a cavalcade of creatures in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Jones insists there are plenty to be found if you just know where to look. “You won’t watch this movie and say, ‘Oh wow, look at all the make-up effects!’” he agrees, “But if you watch it a second time, you’ll say, ‘That was make-up, but you don’t really see it!’ The Silent Brothers are like Darth Maul: They’re in your face, full-frame, cool-looking prosthetic make-ups, but the other make-ups are a lot more subtle. The audience is seeing into this world, but it’s like a peripheral world, out of the corner of your eye, so this is not the Cantina in Star Wars. You haven’t got aliens walking in front of the camera; this is just a nightclub full of odd things that you won’t see unless they are pointed out to you. I probably did a portfolio full of make-ups that are all in this movie, but they’re all in the background, all in the corner of your eye!”

For more on The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, pick up Issue 103—in print or digital editions—here.

Art of 'The Mortal Instruments': Silent Brothers practical make-up
Silent Brothers practical make-up
Art of 'The Mortal Instruments': Silent Brothers concept art
Silent Brothers concept design