Wednesday, December 15, 2010

UPDATE: Makeup Artist Corner: So You Want To Be A Makeup Artist...

(WARNING: Lengthy post but hopefully full of helpful tips!)

Gorgeous Claire on her wedding day

UPDATE: For MUA's that want to assist read this awesome post  from Huffy at Breathing Space. Important tips! 

I love being a makeup artist and I can see why so many want to be one. Playing with makeup, being creative, making people look pretty - what's not to love right? It's not all glamorous though especially if you're a freelance artist. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, great customer service, people skills, a love for what you do, and above all HUSTLE!

It seems everyday new makeup artists are emerging trying to be the next big thing. A makeup artist is like a realtor - everyone knows one. I think it's awesome because I find with each new artist I meet, I get inspired by their passion and excitement for their craft. I often get emails asking for advice on how to break into the industry. I love sharing my experience as well as the experience of other great artists I've had the pleasure of meeting, shadowing and interviewing. Their words and my experiences with them have shaped who I am as an artist. My journey will continue to evolve because it's always a learning process.

This post is inspired by Michelle, who is the founder of Her insightful post about becoming a beauty editor received a huge response. I felt in some ways the truths and myths of becoming a beauty editor were similar to becoming a makeup artist. Michelle's question to me was, "I’ve always wondered – what does it take to become a truly great, world-renowned makeup artist… how do you become, say, a Gucci Westman or a Pat McGrath?"

Here is what I say (my opinions and suggestions are based on my own experience):

1. I want to be the next Pat McGrath, Gucci Westman, Billy B. or the late great Kevyn Aucoin.

It's good to strive for something big and when I started out I wanted to be like my first makeup hero, Kevyn Aucoin. When I first started my blog, I had the amazing opportunity to interview world renowned celebrity makeup artist, Billy B. I'll never forget a lot of his advice but one that stands out the most to me was, "Don't waste your life aspiring to be me or to have my career". Wise words. Don't try to be a Pat McGrath (as AH-mazing as she is). Be YOU. Of course, be inspired by the great ones but always be you. Becoming world renowned are often extraordinary cases and often hard to achieve. I'm not saying it can't be done, but a lot of it has to do with knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time, talent and a little luck. But if being the next Pat McGrath is really what you want, get in touch with their people and see if you can start assisting them. You will be learning from the best of the best plus will be networking with people in their circle.

When I first started I looked up a few makeup artists whose work I admired. Over 6 years later I still turn to my mentors for advice and inspiration. Some of my mentors are Andrea Claire, Lucky B., Hung Vanngo, and Michael DeVellis from The Powder Group. 

Flare Magazine, Special Edition: Project Beauty
Model: Tasha Tilberg (ONE Management), Photographers: Mooishi, Stylist: Juliana Schiavinatto, MU/Hair: Joy David

2. You are only successful if your work is in the pages of fashion magazines.

Been there done that - ok I've only had 2 pieces of my work in magazines lol. Referencing back to point #1, success is not measured by whether you become the next Pat McGrath. Success is measured by whatever your goals are as an artist. Yes, celebrity artists and those that are session artists are successful, but keep in mind that there are successful artists in every area of the industry. I think there is a perception that if you are not an editorial artist, you are not successful or credible as an artist. There are some makeup artists that choose to focus solely on the bridal industry and are highly sought-after. I actually think it's more challenging and rewarding to work with real women who have actual flaws and make them look and feel beautiful. If you want to be successful, the first step is to stop comparing yourself to others and instead be inspired by them. Be proud of your work and never stop learning. If you think you know it all, don't because there's always something new to learn and always someone new to learn from.  

When I first started out, I wanted to work in the fashion industry but things changed after I had my son. The pace of the fashion world and the attitudes just weren't for me. For the first little while, I thought I was a failure because I was not working in fashion. After many years of searching and figuring out what I was truly good at, I'm very happy with my decision to work in bridal, have the opportunity to work with different beauty brands, special events and the odd fashion job. So far, I've had a successful journey and each job big or small is a stepping stone that I can add until I reach my ultimate goal. I'm by no means a Gucci Westman, but I'm still doing what I love to do and to me that is success.

3. Putting makeup on people seems like such a fun job. 

True, it is a fun job but just because it's a field in beauty doesn't mean there isn't any grunt work involved. Whatever industry you decide to go in you have to be prepared for the long hours, irregular schedules, egos, constant self-promotion, and always hustling for the next job. On top of that, you have to make yourself stand out in the growing sea of other makeup artists. You'll go far in the industry if you have a good work ethic and know how to have fun while doing it!

4. Do I have to go to school to be a makeup artist?

Going to school isn't necessary, but it's great for learning the basics. Some of the best artists I know are self-taught. I took a few courses in school, but the most valuable experience was working in the field. I do think getting formal training is good because it teaches you different techniques for fashion editorial, television, theater and film especially if you want to specialize in SFX  or airbrush makeup. You also learn a great deal about the importance of lighting and how it affects the way your makeup looks.

5. How do I break into the industry? 

Model: Malina (Sutherland, Chantale Nadeau), Hair/MU: Joy David, Photographer: Felix Wong

The term "industry" is such a broad term. There are many areas of the beauty industry to work in as an artist. Do you want to work in fashion? If so, start building your book by doing creatives. I suggest booking an appointment with an agency to show your current work and to see if you can start assisting the bigger artists. A rep at an agency will also be able to tell you what you need to work on and what they are looking for in an artist.

 The Shopping Channel for CARGO Cosmetics
Do you want to be a bridal makeup artist? Work in cosmetic retail? Television? Film? I suggest in the first two years of your career to dabble in everything. You'll not only gain experience but will realize what you want to do the most as an artist. This is another reason why school is beneficial; you will have the opportunity to work on fashion shoots, short films, and in theater.

Hope For Haiti beauty event, a mix of makeup artists, hair stylists and bloggers 

Start a blog, connect with other bloggers who are makeup artists, get a Twitter account, make a Facebook page, and have an online site to showcase your work. These are all great ways to break into the industry and get noticed. A lot of my jobs have come through Makeup Junkie. Staying connected via social networks is an excellent, cost-effective way to market yourself and to build your business. The more people see your name, the more they will think of you for a job. 

 Show me the money!

6. Can you make a living doing makeup full-time? 

The million dollar question! Have you heard the term "starving artist"? Well, that's what it's like the first few years and for some their whole career. You aren't going to be making the big bucks right away so you have to really love being a makeup artist. You will have to put in a lot of hours doing free work to gain experience. The best advice I can give is to plan out exactly what it is you want to do. This way, you know where you're headed and what you need to work towards.

I started in cosmetic retail and freelanced on the side. It was great because I got a steady paycheck and was still able to build my book. For some companies that pay above minimum wage, getting full-time hours was very competitive. If you're working part-time in cosmetic retail, it won't be enough to live on especially if you have rent or a mortgage to pay. If you want to work your way up in the company and be a counter manager, senior artist, or national trainer you will be able to live comfortably. Keep in mind, working in cosmetic retail isn't so much about makeup artistry as it is about sales. I think M.A.C. is a great company to get your start in because even though they focus on sales they also do fun makeup events and have workshops to keep up your makeup skills. In the beginning, I loved working at M.A.C. because I was able to learn how to think outside the box in terms of using products and brushes in different ways.

I had the awesome pleasure of working on Knaan for We Day Toronto

If the fashion industry is your goal and you want to get in an agency, the pay varies from job to job. Big campaigns, commercial work, working on celebrities, and catalog is where the money is at. The frequency of work will also depend on the jobs out there and how in demand you are. I've heard from some artists and stylists that are in an agency that there will be times when work is really slow and you'll have nothing for months then be busy for 4 months straight. So be prepared for the irregular schedules. Agencies also take a percentage of your pay but on the upside they are there to find you work.

If you work a full-time job right now and are thinking about freelancing, make sure you are busy enough to make a living before taking the plunge. Of course when I decided to leave M.A.C. and freelance 4 years ago, I did not take my own advice but call me spontaneous (or not a good planner!). Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband and family. Consider yourself self-employed which means you have to find your own work, network like it's nobody's business, keep track of all your paperwork/receipts and do your own taxes (that is if you register yourself as a business). The upside is that your schedule is flexible and are able to build work around your life. You are your own boss and can run it however you want. This is also great for artists who have kids or plan to start a family. It works for my lifestyle and I don't have to compromise spending time with my job or my family. Another plus is that each job is different and new. Every new experience is a stepping stone to where you want to go in your career.

My beautiful friend Lauren

The bridal industry is great for freelancing because depending how in demand you are, you can make a pretty decent living especially if you're booking 2-3 weddings a weekend. If you're new to bridal makeup and don't have a lot of clients, stick to doing makeup on the side. You may have to do some weddings for free to build your book because brides will want to see examples of your work. Another option is to offer your trials for free and if she likes your work you can charge her on the wedding day. This way you can build your book and get paid later on.

People are always getting married and the majority of the time makeup artists are in high demand. To stay competitive with your fellow artists you need to rely heavily on referrals. Once one person refers you it creates a snowball effect. No one will refer a bad makeup artist. Work your network of people which includes your family, friends, workmates, other artists and other industry type people. If you have the budget, it doesn't hurt to pay for an ad in a bridal magazine or bridal site. Getting in touch with wedding planners and wedding photographers will also help you out. Keep in mind the wedding season usually starts mid-March (earlier for some) and typically goes until mid-November. You will have some slow months so be sure to budget for that. Be prepared to lose your weekends too, but it really isn't that bad. Most times you'll be working early mornings to noon and have the rest of the day to yourself.

7. Figuring out rates is so confusing

When you feel you've gained enough experience and confidence to start getting paid for jobs, figuring out what your rate is can be a little tricky. There was a great article that went around about not underselling yourself because well, you want to make a living don't you? The more artists start undercutting their rates, the more clients will expect lower rates. 

VAWK feature in Zink Canada. I had a lot of fun working backstage Sunny's Fall/Winter 2010 show during LG Fashion Week in Toronto

If a client asks you what your rate is for a special event, editorial, music shoot, commercial or a TV shoot and you're not sure what to charge, I always like to ask what their budget is. Most times the rate is negotiable and you can come to a compromise. If you charge too low, the client won't take you seriously. If they can't budge on the budget but you feel the opportunity will be good to add to your portfolio use your judgement. More often than not, the experience will be something to learn from.

I have a standard half day rate and full day rate. When figuring out what your rate is, think about how much you want to be paid per hour, your level of experience, how valuable your time is, what your travel time and costs will be, and how much you would charge to work on one person/per hour. Depending on the job, there can be long hours where you're waiting around on set doing touch-ups and sometimes you'll have to change up the model's eyes and lips. Another great way to gauge your rate is to figure out the total hours you spent doing a wedding and how much you made per/hour.

If you're still stuck just asks other artists. Most are willing to give you an idea what to charge.

8.  Do I really need to learn how to do hair? 

If you want to work in the Canadian fashion market, then yes you do need to know hair. For a long time, I was resistant against learning how to style hair. It just wasn't my thing, but not knowing any techniques hindered my career and my confidence. The more you know the more in demand you will be. It's cheaper for clients to hire one person that can do it all. There will be some jobs where a separate hair stylist and makeup artist will be needed but most times you'll have to do both. If you're in bridal, knowing hair isn't crucial as brides are willing to hire both a hair and makeup artist, but if you can do both it'll benefit you financially.
Other artists told me to wing it but winging it wasn't enough for me. So, I decided to get a job working in a salon and a blow dry bar. I'm not a pro yet, but I can style hair pretty good now! After working at it for a couple of years, I don't mind it so much now. Although I don't work in a salon anymore, I'm glad I can take my new hair skills with me to any job. You can also learn hair by assisting other makeup artists and learning their techniques.  

9. Now that I'm a makeup artist, I need to go crazy building my kit. 

When I was in makeup school and we were given our M.A.C. student discount, the first thing I did was made a list of all the things I "needed". The reality is I didn't know what I really needed. I was young and naive and the sales rep at the time totally cashed in on me. He looked at my list, set it aside, and walked me through each section of makeup telling me which ones I absolutely needed for my kit. A little over $400 (with the discount) later, I left the store feeling like a "real" artist. As time went on, I ended up not using half of what I bought and either gave it away or let it go bad. 

In the beginning, don't worry about upgrading your metal train case for a bigger one until your makeup stash grows or you're getting really busy. Items to invest in would definitely be brushes, foundations, powders, and concealers. I'm sorry but in my experience, drugstore face products just don't cut it for makeup that needs to last long in photography or television. Some brands let you buy samples of their foundations. Stock up on samples until you find the best ones you like to work with. Read reviews and ask other artists what they have in their kit. 

IMATS Toronto 2009

Apply for every makeup artist discount possible so you can save because in case you haven't noticed makeup can get expensive! Most brands offer one so just inquire. Back in the day, makeup shows didn't exist but they do now! If you want to save on some quality high-end products, definitely visit the makeup show especially for deals on brushes. 

For shadows, you don't necessarily need to splurge on high-end brands. If you're going to go drugstore, just make sure it has strong pigment, is long-lasting, and offers a variety of textures and shades. I like going with pro lines, however, because you can buy empty pro palettes and customize your palettes. When it comes to choosing what shades to include in your kit, don't go overboard. It's surprising how many artists starting out don't have neutrals in their kit! A good neutral palette is essential - I use this for just about everything to shading brows, lining the eyes, and of course as a shadow. Have another palette that includes your pinks, purples, plums, olives - think colours that would compliment different eye shades. Then have a palette that has your bright bolds but don't go crazy. Unless you do a lot of high-end editorial or beauty ads you probably won't reach for this palette too often. Also, keep frosty and glittery textures to a minimum as these textures don't photograph too well.

For your cheek products, I think having 1 pink, 1 peach, 1 rose, 1 neutral pink/brown, 1 raisin or bright berry, and a medium and dark bronzer will cover all or most skin tones. Go for a satin finish and if you want a shimmery finish just brush a separate shimmery highlighter over top. I think it's also great to have the same shades in a creamy texture for drier skin tones. 

Lip products are fun to splurge on but you don't have to. There are so many great drugstore brands that offer a variety of colours, textures and are well pigmented. Most women are particular about their lip colour so it's best to have as many shades on hand as possible, but you can also mix other colours together. For glosses, all you really need is a clear gloss, 1 shimmery champagne/gold, and 1 shimmery pink. But again, some women prefer just using glosses. Having a medium coverage gloss in nude pink, nude beige, rose, pink/brown, peach, berry, plum, shimmering chocolate, sheer red and bronze are good starters. 

10. When I'm on a job, I can act however I want and just have fun. 

Last day of TIFF 2010 with eTalk correspondent, Susie Wall

With every job even if it's in a fun environment, you still have to bring a level of professionalism. When you get chosen for a job and are not familiar with the client, it's always good to research and find out what their expectations are of you. Most makeup jobs are fun, but it's best to keep inappropriate comments to yourself to avoid offending anyone. Some clients want you to keep chit chat to a minimum especially if it's a talent that has to go on air. It doesn't mean you shouldn't be friendly and cold though. Being polite and professional will always put a talent at ease. When I worked on eTalk Vancouver correspondent, Susie Wall for TIFF, she brought up a very good point; the makeup artist is usually the last person she speaks with before going on air. If you make the talent feel uneasy in any way, you could mess up their whole take or the whole day.

Bride is all smiles!

The same goes for doing makeup on a bride. Brides are under a lot of stress and can sometimes be on edge. If you are condescending or are not listening to what she wants, this could cause you the job if it's a trial or ruin how they feel on their big day. 

Bottom line is to be polite, professional, work hard, have a good attitude, ALWAYS be on time for every job and SMILE!

I hope my 2 cents (or 10 in this case) have helped you figure out this crazy world of makeup artistry. To be successful, it takes a lot of hard work but if it's really what you want never give up! Join makeup artist communities, sign up for makeup artist related websites or magazines, get a mentor or a few, do your research, stay connected via social networks, make a plan and stick with it. If something doesn't go your way, figure out a way around it to make it work for you. Above all, don't try to be someone else. Bring your true self to any job and you will go far! Good luck!

If you're a makeup artist and have any other great tips to add please feel free to add in the comment section!


dani@callitbeauty said...

FANTASTIC post, joy!

reading this cements the fact that while i love playing around with makeup, i truly don't have the passion to be a professional makeup artist... at least not right now :p

Flora D. said...

Thank you so much for the great post. It is very useful for all of us. I am a freelance MUA who just started out in another country from my home country. Your post and experiences have taught me something valuable. Thanks so much!


ElaineA said...

AMAZING post Joy! Ok I might have to pick your brain a little more in the future ;)

Make-up Junkie said...

@Dani - Thank you so much for your feedback! You certainly are talented if it is just a hobby lol. Well, when you're ready you know what to do! hehe

Make-up Junkie said...

@Flora - Being a freelance MUA is hard as it is but starting out in another country I can only imagine is harder! You go girl and I hope my tips will help you go further in your career! Thanks for visiting and all the best!

Make-up Junkie said...

@Elaine - Aww thank you! So glad you were able to find some useful tips and anytime you need to pick my brains I'm here! ;)

BeautyParler said...

Great post! Although, I don`t want to be a MUA I loved reading this. I know who to keep on my radar in case I get married:)

Make-up Junkie said...

@BeautyParler - thank you for reading! it's such a long post too lol. Yay - you better keep me on your radar! lol I'd be honoured to do Miss Beauty Parler's makeup!!

Michelle said...

Amazing post Joy! Thank you so much for writing this - I learned a lot (and there are lot of similarities between being a freelance makeup artist and being a freelance writer... all us creative types have to HUSTLE!)

I love that you mentioned how you find it more rewarding to work on real women - I always ask that whenever I'm meeting a new artist (usually hairdressers) and find that the people who say that are always the best at what they do.

I feel the same as you about the fashion industry too - it's kind of why I'm in no rush to go back to having a staff job in magazines. I much prefer being self-employed and involved on the sidelines instead of getting all caught up in it like I used to!

Make-up Junkie said...

@Michelle - Thanks so much for your feedback! I thought it was such a great question you asked and such a great opportunity to share my experience. It's nice to know that other freelance types share my same experiences good and bad! I love fashion but my personality is just not cut-throat enough for it! lol

I think you made the best decision going on your own and starting your site! It's one of the best beauty sites out there! Again, thanks for the inspiration!

Jennifer said...

I tell you this all the time, your amazing!

Altho I did go to school to do this as a "side job" I enjoy hearing insight from other MUA who have been out in the trenches.

Keep doing you <3 Also fingers crossed we get to work together in the future :)

Make-up Junkie said...

@Jenn - I heart you. YOU are amazing!! I know we will work together in the future - I'd be honoured! ;)

Huffy said...

Great post....have added the link to my blog! thanks for the sound advice :)

Make-up Junkie said...

Hi Huffy! Thanks for reading the post and for adding a link to your blog! I hope the tips were helpful!

Cassandra Rae Ferguson Sydney Makeup Artist said...

What a great post Joy - so nice of you to give such helpful advice to others :)

Jenn @ So Very Fabulous said...

Thank you Joy for such a wonderful and informative post! I've recently decided to take the plunge and go to school full time to become a makeup artist. I start in February and these tips are very useful for me, I'm sure it can be pretty intimidating out there to try to find work with so much competition! I'll definitely be keeping your tips in mind!

Make-up Junkie said...

@Cassandra - Thank you! I was lucky enough to have great mentors to help me out in the beginning so why not do the same? :)

Make-up Junkie said...

@Jenn - Amazing news! So exciting! I hope some of these tips will help you out - another thing I forgot to mention. When you're done school don't take a break - work on your port right away. What you've learned will be fresh in your head. You also don't want to lose your creative drive so get out there will you still have the drive! All the best!