We’ve been training people to be make-up artists for nearly 30 years. In that time we’ve learnt a lot about the job, the people and the industry. Essentially, we know what makes a great make-up artist.
The world of entertainment is a wonderful industry and skilled make-up artists are at the heart of the action. All the nominees for Best Make-Up in the 2018 Oscars achieved some remarkable effects (congratulations to Kazuhiro Tsuji, Lucy Sibbick and David Malinowski for winning with Darkest Hour).
So what makes a great make-up artist (MUA)? We offer 3 key pieces of advice to those aspiring to the role.
Take your time to find your niche
You must take your time to find your niche. So, one of the first pieces of advice from our tutors is to be open-minded. Which suits you best – fast-paced or more leisurely make-up work? Are you after something different each time, maybe with lots of travel involved? Or do you want to specialise?
Knowing where your strengths lie is what makes a good make-up artist. And you’ll only know this when you’ve broadened your experience.
You could find your niche working on a long running stage show or well-established TV series (Casualty, Silent Witness, etc). Make-up artists often talk about the family feel of working with the same group of people. Brushstroke tutor and BTEC Qualification Manager, Paula Cahill agrees. A regular make-up artist on BBC1’s Eastenders, Paula loves the team spirit the programme creates. Without it they couldn’t work at such an adrenaline-fuelled pace and get through such a steady queue of actors!
A fashion show or crowd scene in a film can call for the same kind of speed and agility. However, your personality might suit less frantic work such as getting a lead actor ready. Generally you have more time, especially if wigs or prosthetics are involved.
Don’t turn down any job – you don’t know where it might lead, particularly when you are starting out on your career.
Propel your career with proper training
It’s a competitive industry, so naturally, those make-up artists with the right skills and attitude do well. What makes a great make-up artist is a foundation of proper training behind you, whether you decide to specialise or not. That’s why we includes hair and wig in our syllabus so our make-up artists have a more complete set of skills.
Make-up artists working in fashion and photography are often asked to create iconic looks. This can include special effects or the use of different materials – anything to help a designer achieve their vision. For this reason you need a good knowledge of anatomy, hairlines and face shapes. Being able to recreate a range of period styles is also important if you are interested in working in film and TV productions such as the The Crown and Call the Midwife.
Jo Chang chose Brushstroke to help her broaden her skills. Already working as a make-up artist in fashion, Jo wanted to break into other areas of the industry. She knew the solution lay in proper training to give her both the skills and confidence she needed.
The professionally trained make-up artist draws upon a bank of knowledge and techniques to help them fulfil their brief – however challenging that brief might be.
Be an organised MUA
An important part of what makes a great make-up artist is being organised. The students who get noticed and chosen for trainee jobs are not only good with the make-up brush. They’re willing to work hard and get things done; they’re organised and observant. As past Brushstroke student, Dani Haigh explains, continuity is an important responsibility – taking photos, preserving prosthetics and being super observant. How you organise yourself and your work can really help your job prospects and enable you to achieve a degree of financial security.
Proper training and an open-mind make great make-up artists
For those with the right skills and attitude, make-up artistry is a great career. Look at the variety – from film, TV and stage to fashion, music videos and advertising. In every case the make-up artist is vital in helping ensure the success of a production. And there are so many opportunities to be creative. How about the amazing special effects that transform an actor into fantasy creatures (or Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill). At the other end of the scale, ‘barely there’ make-up is equally important to make someone look natural on camera.
We can’t think of a better industry – it’s global, the UK is a major player and the opportunities are numerous. But such a great industry deserves well-trained make-up artists.
So, what makes a great make-up artist? Good, solid training and being prepared to keep fine tuning your skills. Stay open-minded and see every opportunity as a chance to learn something new. You’ll meet some great people and give yourself the chance of an amazing career.