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Advice to an Aspiring Makeup Artist

repost/update from a previous blogpost from 2013.

Me doing a bit of Makeup Photo by Ryan Williams of Four Wings Photography

Me doing a bit of bridal makeup. Photo by Ryan Williams of Four Wings Photography

me on a commercial job doing little men's grooming.

me on a commercial job doing little men’s grooming.









I decided to update and repost this, since I am continually asked by aspiring, and new Mua’s, ( stands for makeup artists) about assisting, teaching classes, and mentoring. I updated several of the artists who inspire me, and of course added some newer books/apps. Some of this advice can easily apply to any industry, where learning from those already in the business, can be valuable.

I was recently emailed by a young, aspiring, makeup artist. She asked if she could question me about certain choices, and ask for advice. I was humbled, and honored to be sought out for this, so, of course, I wished to be of any help I could. Here are her questions, and my answers we were very informal.
Her questions to me:

How did you know that you wanted to be a makeup artist for a profession?
what steps did you go to get there? Did you go to Cosmo school or makeup school? What do you recommend? As in school wise? Should I move to the west coast or east coast?
who influenced you?
what tips/advice would you give a starting out make-up artist in the real world?
Did you shadow people often?
My Response:

I didn’t so much choose to be an mua, until I was already doing it, LOL!  I was the person who everybody asked to do their makeup. I worked in a salon at the time, and was getting bookings and referrals. Then I started getting more work outside of the salon. I had actually developed my own line of makeup, and was doing private consults as well, and it kept growing, and I just loved it!
For me, the steps started very early. I was a dancer and was doing a lot of stage makeup by 10 years old (yes really, my mom was So horrible at makeup) and all through high school and college I danced. It was my minor, so I have always done/wore makeup, and always helped others with theirs as well.
I went to cosmo school for nails, and am licensed. I did that after my daughter was born so I could work 2 days per week. There is no license for Makeup in my state. If you have an interest in skincare, or ever want to work in a spa, or salon performing makeup services, you most likely will need an esthetics license. If you wish to freelance, it may not be necessary, (check with your state)  BUT, my best advice here is, you should educate yourself by taking classes with real, working pros, who are doing the type of makeup work you want to do.

People who you see their work when you open a fashion magazine, or someone local who’s work you truly admire. But regardless they should be doing the type, and category of work you wish to pursue. Many, many of them do teach as well, myself included! That, to me, is the BEST education money can buy,  and a true, worthwhile investment. I still take class, and will probably always take classes. And yes, you SHOULD invest real money, not just into your kit and products, but into your education. Read lots of books, like Assisting Rules, by the fabulous ( who also has a fabulous blog- see link), and work continually improving your skill, as well as your portfolio, and website. In fact, all of those are a MORE important investment than product.

Some of my personal favorite Makeup Artist books

Some of my personal favorite Makeup Artist books

If you want to do special effects, or more prosthetics, etc. you really should go to school, because, honestly you will learn faster, in more detail and mediums, and have better access to jobs. There are several good ones in California, Joe Blasco in Florida. Definitely do your research, and get references. See which school has actual grads working in the type of work you want to do.
Also where you live will somewhat conclude what TYPE of makeup work is available to you. If you desire to do movies, or fx, you have to go where the market is, California, Canada, North Carolina, now Georgia, are just some having a strong movie market.

If you want fashion and editorial, nothing beats NYC.  But, there are pockets for all different types of makeup work, and, of course, bridal is everywhere! Commercial is also to be found in many of the bigger cities, and are often the jobs that pay well enough for an artist to make a full time career. (Bridal does as well).

Lastly, you can’t overlook counter work, and for many it can supplement income in a smaller market. It can also provide on the job training, product knowledge, and connections to the industry. I do suggest finding a brand that is supportive of artists, and artistry,and training, over just pushing sales, however.

Starting out, MAKE connections, and Good ones! Look at the actual work of anyone teaching a class, or seminar, etc., if they have amazing work, if you have reached out to them and they have responded , they may be the right fit, as they will offer REAL advice. But, understand they will be in great demand, so don’t lose hope if they can’t personally take you under their wing.

Go to trade shows, like the Makeup Show, and Imats, etc . to meet your peers.  That is where you can most likely find a good mentor as well, especially after taking their class. Offer to assist, which I have done, and will STILL do in a heartbeat! It will mostly be unpaid, but you will be paid In observing, and experience!

You must test, test, test. Find amazing people to work with, and always strive to work with people you feel are better than what you already have in your portfolio. Pay them if need be. That can be hard, or seem counter-intuitive, But it is better to pay an amazing photographer and/or model, to get pics for your port, than it is to buy a crapload of expensive makeup. I can make a model look amazing with dollar store makeup if forced to, but I can NOT make a photographer take a better picture, or, EDIT it well. Nor make a model emote, pose, or look,  better.  I HAVE offered to hire a very busy, local photographer because I wanted to shoot with him. I think I surprised him, he looked at my work, and instead he came back to me with a paid test. So I got to shoot with him, and ended up with a job. But it took awhile to get there, and had my port not been where it is, and I not wiling to PAY to get what I needed, that never would have happened.
In the very beginning shoot a lot with a lot of people to gain the experience of what happens, how things work, what you like, what you could have done better, etc. As you build you port and are getting pictures that are port worthy, then you start being more choosy about your tests. Before you say yes, you ask yourself and the team, what is the concept? Is the model good, agency or agency stats? Does this fill a current need in my port? When it’s a concept/look you don’t need, then this test doesn’t benefit you, you say no, or offer a rate. I will also add, Start EVERY test with a Clean Beauty look. It shows true skill to perfect clean beauty, AND it is always in demand.
I personally, would love to shadow more, actually, even now, there is ALWAYS something to learn! I bet I could learn something from you, by watching you. That is how this industry works. Since it is artistic, we all have these insights/inspirations that live in us, and we get to bring it forth in our work where other can see it.  THAT is what makes an artist! And it is unique to each of us. The techniques can be taught, the artistry cannot.
Who influenced me??? there are so many. I adore Roshar– he is so different from me in style and he literally blows my mind and takes my breath away with his amazingness.  Dick Page- blah! Everything stunning!!!! I met him and got to ask him questions at the NY Makeup Show, just wow! Of course the greats; Pat McGrath, Lisa Eldridge, Charlotte Tilbury. I simply adore the style of Rae Morris, and actually find her style, and way of doing makeup, exceptionally similar to my own, and I recently downloaded her app ( for Ipad/iphone) and truly saw a very similar application method to what I always do, and it really encouraged me as an artist.

I also discovered Hector Simancas when he started following me on Instagram and I was a little geeked out and humbled because his work is amazing. Lottie is another, such great, clean, lovely work. Fumiaki Nakagawa, from the Wall Group, is another artist I discovered from instagram, and cannot get enough of his work.  I also have current working makeup artist friends, again, soooo many, so talented, so much love, AND for all different reasons! Some are film, some commercial, some fashion, some more editorial, and some bridal. Massachusetts, (where I am located) is flush with makeup artists who are so talented, and inspirational, as well, and I am lucky to personally know so many of them. Trust me, there are So, so many more that awe and inspire me daily!

me (middle) and two of my makeup besties! Liz Washer (left) and Christy Lavallee (right)

Me (middle) and two of my makeup besties! Liz Washer (left) and Christy Lavallee (right) backstage after working a Fashion Show

Ok, ( aspiring mua), I hope I answered everything you have asked, there really is so much more, and if you have any further questions I’d be happy to help! Keep in touch and let me know how it’s going, what decisions you’ve made.

As always I offer a free sample with any full sized order- this week it is out top seller Poppy cheek color- perfect for that springtime flush!

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