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The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

Creating one final masterpiece, from movie fanatic to Special FX artist

The story behind one student’s journey to turning a childhood dream into reality
Tristan Longwell
Amateur Special FX artist, Carlos Gomez holds his mask named “Elmer.”

Twenty-four year old Carlos Gomez is an amateur special fx artist and soon-to-be graduate student at Cal State LA, who creates gory sculptures, masks, puppets, props and other artwork.

His fascination with horror started at the age of two after watching the 1997 cult-classic film “Scream 2.” Gomez’s mother always brought him to the babysitter with a VHS copy of the movie because if she didn’t, he would cry. 

“As a kid, I loved horror movies and I loved watching them. They didn’t traumatize or scare me. I just thought they were interesting and cool,” Gomez said. 

Around the age of ten, Gomez realized that he would grow up some day and need to find a job.

“Being the productive kid I was, I started messing around…making little movies and looking at horror magazines and thinking, I can draw so I can draw scary stuff, but that didn’t work out,” Gomez said. “So, I was watching a movie one day and looking at the behind the scenes and I was like, ‘Oh, people make monsters out of rubber and foam. I want to do that.'” 

When he first began, Gomez went to the dollar store to pick up white school glue, paper towels, toilet paper, cotton balls and hot glue sticks to create “crude” paper mache masks.

Carlos sitting at a table working on sculpting a mask.
Gomez sculpting his new mask, “Elmer.” (Tristan Longwell)

While attending his “arty” high school, Gomez’s ceramics teacher let him experiment with materials, which he used to make “weird” art. 

He first entered college at 17 years-old and spent a few years at Cal State LA, before dropping out when the pandemic hit. 

While taking a break from school, he began cold-calling studios, offering to work for free and made some friends online. This got him his first special effects job, creating props for a music video for metal band Slipknot. Gomez helped craft spandex cocoons with slime and silicone rubber webbing for the “Nero Forte” music video, which was a quick project according to him. 

Through his social media friends, he was able to get his first job at a studio, where he worked for two years. From there, he went on to briefly work at another studio, Legacy Effects, and carefully observed the techniques of the sculptors because he was not allowed to touch the sculptures or attempt to sculpt, as his job only consisted of running materials.

“I would watch the legitimate sculptors so I could see what tools they were using and see how they were doing stuff. I would go home and practice and do the same thing on my masks,” Gomez said. “And if I [messed] up, I would come back to work and be like ‘How did you do that?'” 

After a break from school, he decided to come back and began “seriously developing” his skills.

For his “big-bang” final piece as an undergraduate, he constructed “Sally,” a lifesize wearable creature, which took him three months to make. 

Artist, Carlos Gomez holding a fake sculpted severed head standing next to another monster-like sculpture.
Gomez standing with his life-size wearable creature named “Sally” who he made for his senior capstone project. (Tristan Longwell)

“If I break it down, it’s a lot of simple tricks. It’s just a wig hot-glued to a mask. The eyes are ping pong balls. The teeth are made separately and super-glued in,” Gomez said. 

Gomez described the creative process behind “Sally”:

“The way it works is, I sculpt it out of clay. From there, I use ‘plaster of Paris’ and I put it over the clay and that turns into a rigid material. After that, I clean it and that leaves me with a negative impression of my sculpture. From there, I fill that with rubber, paint it layer by layer and make a thick casting. Peel that out and then I have my sculpture in a rubber form.”

I first stumbled upon “Sally” in Fine Arts (FA) room 106. At Sally’s feet was a fake severed head, which Gomez later identified as “Sally’s head”– modeled to be a replica of Gomez’s own head. 

A sculpted replica of Carlos' severed head sitting on a table with his sketchbook.
“Sally’s head”- Modeled to be a replica of Gomez’s severed head, and his sketchbook. (Tristan Longwell)

Gomez adds his most recent pieces to the display cases in the FA building, when there is available space. During the spring 2023 semester, he showcased two pieces in one case together: “Winnie the Pooh on crack” and a “Bob-the-Builder” inspired character.

His art professor, Richard Wearn, who teaches all levels of sculpture said he has been Gomez’s professor and mentor for two years. However, Wearn said sometimes Gomez mentors him.

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About the Contributor
Tristan Longwell
Tristan Longwell, News Editor
Tristan Longwell is the News Editor for the University Times (UT). She is a senior majoring in criminal justice, with a minor in journalism. Longwell has an interest in documentary filmmaking, creative and uncreative writing, music, fashion, true crime and all things Los Angeles.

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