Rising Star Nicholas Winstead turns his fears into artistic creations.

We all know the make-up industry is a beast and becoming a make-up artist requires an insane amount of persistence, passion and innovation. Any time make-up artists trudge their way through an overgrown forest of obstacles, rise to the canopy and begin to spread their wings so to speak … we here at Make-Up Artist magazine take note. Because, like, that’s totally not an easy thing to do.

We call these artists: Rising Stars.


Growing up there were two things that Nicholas Winstead loved: art and monsters. As soon as he could hold tools he began to draw and sculpt. Superheroes and dinosaurs were among his go-to subjects, but above all, monsters were his favorite.

Winstead in his element photo by Sade Ndya and Cristian Quintanilla

As an anxious, and often scared kid living in Mississippi, Winstead found himself relating to horror movies and the feelings of fear and isolation they conveyed. He recalls, “As I discovered that there was so much art and creativity in making the monsters I watched in movies, I began making masks and doing make-ups out of whatever I could find around the house.” At the age of 8, he covered himself in Elmer’s glue, cotton balls and his mother’s make-up to transform himself into Freddy Krueger. “I feel like I loved doing those make-ups and making those masks because when I put on a costume I became the thing I was afraid of, which let me control those fears of mine. It gave me a sense of confidence that nothing else could give me.”

Stargazer monster, photo by Andrew Little

From a very young age, Winstead says his mother was an advocate of his creativity and taught him the importance of self-expression. In middle school and high school, Winstead experimented on portraiture work and continued sculpting monsters on the side. Eventually, he says he realized the importance of being candid and creating personal artwork. The closest thing to him creatively was monsters.

During the years he strayed from this, Winstead says his work began to feel meaningless and it didn’t illustrate who he was as a person. He wanted to put purpose back into his work, and, for him, that meant creating creatures that personified his fears and insecurities—literally bringing his monsters to life. “These creations are incredibly cathartic for me,” he explains, “because expressing myself through them allows me to release the toxic feelings or ideas I have bottled up inside me. Their existence allows me to cleanse myself.”

Pale Emperor monster, photo by Andrew Little

Instead of being afraid of characters, such as Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers (like when he was a child), he creates those characters and lets the fear run through him. Winstead says, “There is an underrated beauty, elegance and profoundness in monsters and monster make-up I felt like I needed to express. I wanted to be an artist who treats effects work with the respect that it deserves. As a result, I’ve tried to meld special effects practices with the more classical work of fine art.”

Botched Nun monster, photo by Andrew Little

Winstead began making immersive installations in order to share his work, which he stumbled upon through experimentation with different media. “I believe the intimacy of installations is the perfect way to share my creatures,” he says. To create these installations, Winstead sculpted, molded, painted and designed make-ups and constructed a world around them (tiny sets) in which the character could truly come to life. “In displaying my pieces in gallery settings, the experience of an audience member is that they literally step into my creature’s world and are enveloped by it. I find this to be a very dynamic and captivating way to display my work.”

Stargazer monster, photo by Andrew Little

Today, he says he is more scared of broader themes like conformity, racism, the abuse of power, hatred in general and organized religion. This is why religious themes can be seen creeping into his work now. “What I know about myself is that throughout my life,” Winstead reflects, “is the thing I have understood the least and have been afraid of the most has been organized religion. I was born into a community that pushed religion onto me in forceful and negative ways. This led me to step back from religion, and blocked me from having any sort of a personal connection with things religious or spiritual. My response was to take my past experiences and personal outlooks toward organized religion and directly integrate them into my art and my creatures.”

Klansman, photo by Winstead

In doing so, Winstead says his goal is to make amends with the negative feelings and fears he has associated with organized religion and try to make sense of them. “I want to start a dialogue or critique of something that has been treated as seemingly untouchable. To anyone who thinks my artwork is hateful or angry, it is really quite the opposite. It is meant to be provocative and force introspection and a larger examination of norms and beliefs that are prevalent in today’s society.”

The Weeper, photo by Christina Xing

Looking forward, Winstead hopes to get his union card before he turns 25 and to work on sets as a make-up artist. He says, of course, he will always be sculpting, painting and doing his own creative work on the side. For now, Winstead is focusing on branching out as much as possible and becoming a well-rounded artist.

Winstead lifecasting the feet of Japanese musician Miyavi Ishihara for Maleficent 2

Currently, Winstead is working at Oscar nominee Arjen Tuiten’s studio doing shop work for the upcoming Maleficent movie.

We can’t wait to see where Winstead will take things, but wherever he does we are looking forward to seeing his star rise.


For more information and to see more of Winstead’s work visit his website here