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The Whiteface - To Be or Not to Be....

Discussion in 'Newbies to clowning' started by sillydaddyatl, Jun 2, 2015.

  1. sillydaddyatl

    sillydaddyatl Member

    I couldn't really find an answer to some more questions I have so here goes.

    I'm leaning towards being a whiteface. It fits me best if I go by traditional character types, but maybe more importantly I just feel like the whiteface makeup I've been developing looks and feels more like...well, me. It's the way I see myself as a clown.

    My initial goals as a new clown will be primarily to volunteer so I'm thinking parades, walk-arounds, nursing homes, maybe some caring clowning, etc.

    Here's the thing, though, I don't see nearly as many whitefaces these days as I did when I was a kid. AND I have also seen a lot of clowns who were once whitefaces are now doing auguste or lite auguste styles.

    So here are my questions. In today's American culture and given the type of clowning I'm looking to do, is it a good idea to be a whiteface? What am I getting myself into? Is my look potentially going to prevent me from clowning in some situations and what would those situations be? Would I be better off developing another style?

    Right now I'm really just getting started, and I just want to be realistic. I'm going to be the clown I'm going to be regardless of makeup style, and I'm sure I could develop a non-whiteface design that I like. Right now I like the whiteface, but I don't want to go too far down a path if it's going to make it more difficult to becoming a clown.

    So what do you guys think? I'd especially love to hear from current and former whiteface clowns.

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  2. Indecisive

    Indecisive Active Member

    I think the kind of whiteface style is the grotesque classic American circus style from the early 20th century is the kind that is vanishing.

    Think of clown faces like fashion. You see a lot more ladies in skinny jeans than you do in baggy jeans or even a hoop skirt.

    There are a few whiteface clowns here and I want to be a whiteface too.
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  3. Sir Toony Van Dukes

    Sir Toony Van Dukes Well-Known Member

    I think there is no real reason to avoid being a whiteface clown. When done properly, they really look like a clown. A whiteface clown can be good for working up close to the kids or from a distance. The more modern light auguste is mainly for close up work as from a distance, you might not see the makeup.

    But, being a whiteface isn't always easy. I prefer to cover all skin with either makeup or clothes when going out as a whiteface clown. On a hot summer day, going out as an auguste clown, it is possible to wear short sleeve shirts and shorts which is a cooler option than long sleeves and pants that cover the arms and legs.

    Since the average age of clowns is going up each year, the people who choose to be clowns have more wrinkles than when they started. Some find it hard to get the whiteface to look smooth and even and switch to auguste which doesn't need as much makeup (although even the auguste clown should use a foundation to even the colors on their face). I know some whiteface clowns in their 70s, so it is possible to do.
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  4. LarryTheClown

    LarryTheClown Well-Known Member

    I sorta agree with the assessment that there aren't as many whitefaces these days. I looked at some archival photos of our club, and 100% of the clowns in the 50's-70's were whiteface. (I think it's because the biggest clown in town, JP Patches, was a whiteface.) Nowadays, there's about a half-and-half mix.

    I think it still works these days, though. I compiled a bunch of pictures of Russian clowns I saw on Instagram recently, and most of them were whiteface. They also looked quite fabulous.


    I personally have been alternating my look recently. If I know an event is generally going to be kids, I'm going to go auguste. If it's going to be mostly adults (like a Senior Fair I recently did), I go whiteface. No reason other than my auguste look is generally softer and my whiteface look is generally more mischievous.
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  5. sillydaddyatl

    sillydaddyatl Member

    Thanks for all the replies, everyone. Anyone else have any insights?
  6. Sir Toony Van Dukes

    Sir Toony Van Dukes Well-Known Member

    Be the clown you want to be. The average person doesn't know the difference between a whiteface and auguste clown. The one remaining clown in popular culture is Ronald McDonald, and he is a whiteface.

    As long as you look good, are comfortable with the makeup and costume, you can focus on being entertaining as a clown.
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    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. sillydaddyatl

    sillydaddyatl Member

    Great advice and thoughts, Sir Toony. Thanks!
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  8. The NORMAL One

    The NORMAL One Active Member

    Sir Toony is right, the hardest thing to do is be a clown you want to be. You will get advice how to do it listen to it think about it but go with your heart.For example my shoes are not true clown shoes. I was told that I would not be able to compete in competition. Well that find for what I do my decorated tennis shoes works for my clown character and I fill good in them. Filling good the way you look will help you perform better.
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  9. StuartPid

    StuartPid Administrator/Pickles' Lady in Waiting

    The fact that there are so few white face clowns could be for any number of reasons. I have talked to many people who have gotten away from white face and each has a little different answer as to why. " its too hot" "it takes too long" "im too old" yadda yadda yadda... The fact there are so few of them, should push you to be one even more... Instant recognition that will make you stand out from the crowd. I can put on a white face MUCH faster than auguste. It is, however, not totally fun to take off. As far as it being hotter, I think that is silly. If you are wearing a base with your auguste... you are covering all of your skin just like you would as a white face. The only real difference is the color of makeup you are doing it with.
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  10. LarryTheClown

    LarryTheClown Well-Known Member

    Actually, I will vouch for the whiteface being a bit of a problem in warm weather. I just did two straight days of outdoor clowning, one in whiteface and one in auguste. While I cover my entire face with auguste using flesh color as a base, I use the water soluble powder version for both (Mehron brand). This lets me spread the make-up much thinner.

    Whiteface, though, sorta needs that thick grease paint since you don't want the skin underneath to show. (Again, Mehron brand.) I was dressed much cooler in whiteface (I was wearing short sleeves at that event versus long sleeves at the auguste event), and I was still sweating far more profusely.

    Another thing about whiteface: when the instinct strikes you to wipe that sweat off your forehead, it's far more noticeable when there are streaks running acrosse your white makeup.
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  11. sillydaddyatl

    sillydaddyatl Member

    I've been working on my face on and off for a while now, but I've never felt like the makeup made me feel hotter even with full face, ears, and neck covered. As far as the heat thing goes, I always figured it was more the result of a whiteface traditionally covering all skin so the costume could potentially be warmer from long sleeves, pants, gloves, etc.

    I can see how powder would be lighter than grease and how that might be a plus, although, I don't feel like I need a ton of grease to get the coverage I need. I've been using Mehron's Clown White and while I'm fine with putting it on thick, I use just enough so I can't see my skin. After powdering I can't really tell it's on, and after wearing it 6 hours or more it seems to hold up well, although at this stage I’m not particularly active in it so I haven't had to face the sweat issue, yet.

    What I know personally at this point in my journey into clowning is the only thing about makeup that ever bothered me was the principle of me wearing makeup. Early on I thought about going the auguste route because to this casual observer at the time it appeared to be less makeup. When I found out traditionally all clowns makeup their entire face and often necks, too, I got over this and tried both styles of makeup to figure out which way I should go.

    Personally, I like the way I look more as a whiteface, and I think it fits my personality better, too. I don’t mind how long it takes to put it all on, and I don’t mind wearing it. Plus all the experimentation putting it on has provided just as much experimentation in removing it all, and at this point I can get it off relatively quick. If costume warmth is ever an issue, I’ve got some ideas on how to blend the white back into a flesh base so I can still have my regular face and go with lighter clothing.

    The reason I asked the original question, though, was I just wanted to make sure there’s not something I’m missing on why there aren’t as many whitefaces these days because when I was a kid it seemed like the majority of clowns, for better or worse, were whitefaces.

    So I just wanted to know if there’s some elephant in the room regarding whitefaces that nobody is talking about. Based on the responses so far, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case which is good news for me. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, if I’m in the minority amongst a group of clowns that’s probably better anyway because it’s hard when everyone else is trying to be in charge, too.

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  12. Indecisive

    Indecisive Active Member

    You don't need to wear makeup if you don't want to.

    I agree that whitefaces used to be more prevalent. But for some reason they aren't anymore.
  13. Sir Toony Van Dukes

    Sir Toony Van Dukes Well-Known Member

    I think the whiteface makeup can be softer and gentler. The traditional augueste makeup is very bold, with lines that mark the borders between two colors. The bold lines were required to help people see the facial expressions from a distance. It doesn't always look good from real close up for one-on-one interactions. The more modern, European look for auguste is more minimal and good for closeup clowning. The one problem I see with the lighter look is that from anything more than 10 feet away, the makeup is easily missed. Someone with a lite auguste makeup in a parade might look like they aren't in makeup.

    The more traditional auguste makeup color was more orange. The more modern auguste makeup is closer to actual flesh color. The more natural flesh color makes it easier to blend into the skin along the neck and could allow the performer to skip covering their neck and ears. Even if you do cover all exposed skin like a whiteface clown, it is easier to clean off. With the white makeup, you can clearly see when you miss a spot, but with flesh colored makeup, if you don't clean off your neck and ears, people probably won't notice making it easier to fit in after an event where you can go shopping, eat dinner, or whatever without needing a shower.
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  14. sillydaddyatl

    sillydaddyatl Member

    I suppose, but where's the fun in that?
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  15. KageTomari

    KageTomari prolific poster....

    if you want to be a whiteface clown then be one theres no reason not to and don't worry about what makeup other people do just do what you want to
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  16. Mollie Ballyhoo

    Mollie Ballyhoo New Member

    For me, personally, I don't go white face, but thats because Im naturally very pale. My partner, however, prefers to go white face. I say it's all personal preference.
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  17. Pookie

    Pookie Well-Known Member

    You need to go with the make-up, and by extension costume, that fits your clown. If white face works, go with it, if more of an auguste works better, to for it, and if something in between works, well, you know...

    There many not be as many white faces as previously, perhaps because time and performers have evolved. Or perhaps, as many here on the forum have attested, they just wanted to break out of the mold and try something different.
  18. Simply Knute

    Simply Knute Well-Known Member

    If you're powdering correctly, you shouldn't have to worry about sweat with the greasepaint. I can clown all day long in the summer heat (I sweat like a whore in church all the time) and don't have any trouble with my makeup smearing or melting or anything.

    For that reason alone I'd recommend using greasepaint on your auguste too. If you're in auguste and you start sweating and it all starts running together you're going to look like crap after an hour or so.

    I carry a paper towel or napkin in my pocket, so that when i sweat I can blot it off with that. Don't ever wipe your face, because that can wipe the makeup off if you do it hard enough.
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  19. Mongo The Clown

    Mongo The Clown Active Member

    My clown heroes mostly come from the '60's or '70's so it NEVER entered my mind to be anything else but a white face. When I think of clowns, that's the archetype that comes to mind. I agree with StuartPid 100%. If there were ZERO white face clowns left today, that would be just that much more incentive for me to be one.
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  20. I personally prefer white face.

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