Julep InstaGrim Part I: Haunted Hollow

Hi everyone! I have some exciting news today – something SO incredible that I can’t believe it’s even real! In short (more details after the cut!), Julep asked me to create Halloween-themed nail art for their ongoing “InstaGrim” contest, and I accepted! WOOHOO!!! I was given free reign over the design I chose to do, so I went wild and made, not one, but THREE designs because I couldn’t choose just one idea! Julep makes some fantastic polishes and products that inspired me in different ways, and that’s how I ended up with three good ideas. So I’m writing about each in a separate blog post!

This post is about my first design in the three-part InstaGrim series: the Haunted Hollow. It’s the hardest design I did out of the three, and the one that Julep used as the featured picture for their page (and my personal favorite!). You know how in some movies, there are those creepy trees whose bark patterns kind of look like faces? Yeah, that’s what I was going for. I wanted to put those trees in a spooky forest with mysterious, glowing eyes coming out of the darkness. In order make this design extra-awesome, I used a black light reflective white polish (Julep Dana) to make the eyes really glow in the dark!

About the contest!!! So, the people over at Julep have been taking an interest in my nail art recently (see: this one and this one), and I have been really thrilled each time they’ve been gracious enough to feature a design of mine on their blog or Instagram. Since I haven’t even been blogging for six months yet, this is absolutely tremendous for me! I feel so honored that they like my work enough to feature it, especially since I have a lot of fun using their polishes and enjoy engaging with the nail polish/art community. Well, two weeks ago, Julep contacted me with quite a tempting offer: to create Halloween-themed nail art to kick off their upcoming contest on Instagram! The “InstaGrim” contest is going to run on Instagram until Halloween, and all you need to do to enter is submit a Halloween-themed nail art design using whatever products you want with the custom hashtag #julepinstagrim, and follow @julepmaven. The contest winner will be decided randomly so everyone (even nail art newcomers) will get a chance! Of course I accepted – how could I not? One of my favorite holidays + nail polish = awesome! They also offered me a box of nail polish in exchange (I thought I should disclose that).

Contest details can be found here (read the terms and conditions!).

Julep Haunted Hollow Instagrim 2

The credit for thinking of the “Haunted Hollow” design goes to my lovely boyfriend, who is very supportive of my nail art hobby (love you sweetie!). He’s actually helped me come up with quite a few manicure designs in the past, so (naturally) I knew he’d come up with something genius. When I excitedly told him about the contest, his first suggestion was “scary trees”, and I really liked that one so I went with it. I embellished the concept by adding in the glowing eyes, and deciding to use a gradient in the background to up the fear factor. Although I initially second-guessed myself, I am so happy with the final result! It’s so dark and mysterious – and definitely Halloween-appropriate. Hopefully these last until October 31st!

The overall design reminds me of that scene in Disney’s Snow White when Snow White is running through the scary forest and everything terrifies her. Disney really animated her fear perfectly: from the trees trying to grab her, to being surrounded by malicious, glowing eyes.

Julep Haunted Hollow Instagrim 3

As for technique, I do have a mini-tutorial at the end to show the process steps, but I’ll describe it in text as well. I’m working on making video tutorials in the future, so you can look forward to that. In total, I used nine total polishes, all by Julep:

  • Julep Bergen (medium blue-gray shimmer) – middle gradient
  • Julep Isla (white chrome) – light gradient
  • Julep Stevie (gunmetal metallic) – dark gradient
  • Julep Rooney (medium-dark brown crelly) – most of trees
  • Julep Jet (black creme) – tree faces and pupils of eyes
  • Julep Faye (medium golden brown shimmer) – tree shading
  • Julep Fiore (dark purple-brown creme) – tree shading
  • Julep Harlow (gold-green duochrome metallic) – leaves
  • Julep Dana (black light reflective white with blue sheen) – eyes

First, I established the background of a smoky gradient with faint trees. I started by putting on a base coat and two coats of Bergen. To create a subtle gradient, I used a makeup sponge to apply a gradient of Isla, Bergen, and Stevie. At this point, I applied a layer of topcoat to prevent damage to the gradient when painting the trees (also, I was hungry so I stopped to eat). To make the hollow look like it had more than a few trees in it, I used a striping brush and Rooney to make the faint trees in the background (you can see them in the tutorial). The best way to do this was to bead up a small drop of Rooney at the tip of the brush, apply it to a point on the free edge, and then sweep the drop upwards with the brush towards the middle of my nails. I made the branches similarly. Rooney was a godsend for making the trees because it has a sheer, but buildable, crelly formula. I could make the trees kind of blend into the background rather than being opaque and prominent. It was also helpful for shading the large trees.

To make the big trees, I used the same method as the smaller trees (drop -> sweep up) but used a big glob of Rooney, and made sure it was opaque. I made the two side branches especially large and thick like arms, and had smaller branches coming off at the ends to make hands. Once I was satisfied with that layer, I put on the eyes and mouth of each tree using Jet and the small brush. I then shaded the tree with the different browns (Faye, Fiore, and Rooney) to give them dimension and make them stand out. The leaves I painted with Harlow to add just a touch of sparkles. Finally, I used a small dotting tool to put on the eyes in Dana and Jet. And done!

Julep Haunted Hollow Instagrim 2

I am SO happy with this! It’s wonderful: spooky, mysterious, and beautiful. And it glows under blacklight! Might as well make the eyes glow, right?

Haunted Hollow Glow

A comparison:

Tutorial time! I promise I’m working on making video tutorials in the future! Materials needed:

Haunted Hollow Materials

Julep InstaGrim Haunted Hollow Tutorial
My photo has accrued about 1,700 likes on Instagram as of this post, but I think this well-timed screenshot is particularly amusing and definitely needed to be posted:

Haunted Hollow Instagram

Aahhh this definitely gets me all ready for Halloween! It’s definitely one of my favorite holidays because of the costumes, the spooky dark aesthetic, candy, and the endless opportunities for creativity!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my post! I certainly had a blast making all of this nail art 🙂 Good luck to all the entrants in the contest, and Happy Halloween to all! Thanks for reading!

– Emi

Disclosure: products from Julep were provided in compensation for producing this work. Read the disclosure policy under the “Disclosure” page.


3 thoughts on “Julep InstaGrim Part I: Haunted Hollow

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