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The Make Up Artist Profession

Makeup artists apply makeup to fashion and photographic models, actors and other performers involved in stage, film and television productions, brides and other clients for special occasions.

The professional makeup artist's job is to interpret the makeup requirements of clients and to produce both a creative and technically accurate visual representation. This may in some cases involve very basic makeup for a TV presenter to more complex period make up or special effects.

Depending on the nature of the job, a professional makeup artist can work alone, as an assistant to a more senior colleague or as part of a makeup design team. They may work in a variety of settings like film, television, theatre, live shows, or photographic shoots.

Makeup artists often must research the hair, make up, and clothing styles of specific time periods. Then they draw sketches or collect photos to show the designs they have in mind. Sometimes they make prosthetic devices. These items are used to change the appearance of performers. For example, artists might create a beard for an actor, or fleshy face parts to make him look older. Makeup artists also consult with directors and technicians about their ideas and designs at various stages of the process.

Before a performance or filming, the makeup artist's job is to apply foundations and makeup to create the effect they want. They style hair and attach wigs and prostheses. Some make up artists do special effects, such as wounds or deformities for horror or action movies. Sometimes the application of makeup can take several hours for one performer alone. Large productions usually have many makeup artist jobs.

During a performance or filming, makeup artists remain backstage to monitor the production. They maintain actors' makeup throughout the show or filming, doing touchups if needed. They also help actors remove the make up at the end of the show or workday.

A professional makeup artist job may involve performing the following tasks:

  • Prepare the skin for makeup application and remove makeup as required
  • Demonstrate cosmetic products to clients
  • Instruct clients about makeup application
  • Apply a wide variety of professional make up products
  • Design wigs, beards, masks and 'prosthetics' (artificial body parts) and apply them to achieve an appropriate character appearance
  • Use makeup to produce effects such as aging, illness, scars and bruising
  • Alter or maintain makeup during productions to ensure the continuity of a performer's appearance
  • Advise hairdressers on the hairstyle required for character parts.
  • Communicate with clients to clarify what look is required;
  • Read scripts to ascertain materials/look required/budget implications, known as production study, which may require further research;
  • Produce and sketching design ideas;
  • Work with other members of the design team to ensure the overall look/effect is consistent and coherent;
  • Build a rapport with makeup subjects;
  • Demonstrate and implement a practical understanding of lighting, the photographic process, colors and the impact of special effects/makeup processes on the skin and ensure that appropriate action is taken to minimize or eliminate any unpleasant side effects from the use of specialist make up/hairdressing techniques;
  • Ensure continuity in hair and makeup, taking detailed notes and photographs of work
  • Cast facial and body molds, sculpting latex foam - known as prosthetics;
  • Manipulate/apply wigs, hairpieces and prosthetics;
  • Maintain wigs, hairpieces, prosthetics and other specialist materials and equipment;
  • Hairdressing, which is an essential part of the work;
  • Plan, budget and order equipment and materials from specialist suppliers;
  • Work quickly and accurately in time-pressured conditions.
History of Hollywood Make-up
You will almost certainly have been struck by the way Hollywood actresses are made up, and with good reason, because it certainly makes them glow.

It all began when make up artists first entered the scene many years ago. Initially, cosmetics were scarce, and actors would spend hours and hours before they were finally made up. If you�d like to know what the first make up brands were, and the top makeup artists of the day, or Greta Garbo�s make up tricks, among others, read this article carefully as we retrace the history of Hollywood make up.

The makeup artist�s craft began to be increasingly recognised in the 1930s. It�s important to note that makeup artists were not highly considered from the outset, because most of them were out-of-work actors who took make up as a second option. This becomes easier to understand if we bear in mind that actors (be they theatre, or early-movie actors) had to be able to make themselves up.

Nevertheless, by the end of the silent era, studios were beginning to hire people to be specifically responsible for make up, and this was the birth of the make up artist. And characterisation was all the more important in classic Hollywood where little was known about make up (makeup artists were hired for movies only from the �30s) and where products were scarce. But the early days of this new profession were no bed of roses, far from it. A neither was it so for those unfortunate actors who had to bear the agony of spending four hours sitting in a barber�s chair.

This is how ever more make up artists began to appear, in the steps of the Westmores and Max Factor. The pioneers were: Cecil Holland, Lon Chaney and George Westmore.

Cecil Holland, whose name until quite recently was utterly unknown, was not only known in his day as �The father of the make up profession�, but also was credited with being the first �Man of a Thousand faces�, and with having handed this title over to Chaney. Two of his most outstanding creations were the ones he produced for Bull Montana in THE LOST WORLD (1925) and for Boris Karloff in THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932).

The Westmore dynasty were pioneers and among the most important in Hollywood�s make up scene during the silent era, when George Westmore, a Jewish Cockney, set up the first make up department in the history of cinema, at the Selig Studios. Probably some eighty percent of all movies made in Hollywood in between 1930 and 1950, had Westmore�s name among the credits.

Jack Dawn, for example, managed MGM�s make up department for four years. His team had good facilities, adjustable barber seats, many mirrors and adequate illumination, and demanded that it�s employees be treated as artists, not technicians, despite their craft being an extremely tough one.

William Tuttle started out as a Fox apprentice, working under Dawn. Thus, he started out sweeping and scrubbing floors, as Dawn was a cleanliness freak. He typed, wrote reports, ran errands and answered the telephone. �I would prepare all his make up, all the colors, and that�s how I got familiar with what make up the actors wore. There was no established system for young people to learn the trade. You�d enter it bit by bit. No apprenticeship period was agreed on; you just began when they thought you were competent�, Tuttle remembers. One day Dawn looked at the sketches that Tuttle had made for Fox, and that was when he thought he would make a good makeup artist. He began by letting him help out on tests. One day, the person in charge of make up on THE MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935) didn�t show up, and they sent Tuttle on as a substitute until they could hire someone else. He himself ended up taking charge of work n that picture. When Jack Dawn moved to Metro in 1934, he took Tuttle with him.

Jack Pierce and Maurice Seiderman were two famous makeup artists who worked during the �30s, and thanks to whom the movie market was revolutionised. Both sttudied human anatomy in an effort to make their characterisations more realistic. Pierce was behind Boris Karloff�s transformation in Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi�s in Dr�cula. Pierce continued to work on characterisation in all the films made around the Frankenstein story that followed the first version, such as: THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939), THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942); FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943); HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1945), etc. But he also had the chance to show his creativity by creating other monsters that have appeared in the history of the terror-movie genre. From the title character in THE MUMMY (1932), to the one in WEREWOLF OF LONDON, etc. Seiderman, for his part, was able to perfect the human ageing process to such an extent that he created 37 different �faces� for Orson Welles in Citizen Kane. The actress Jane Wyatt was frankly overwhelmed upon entering Universal�s make up dept. for the first time.

Now let�s go over actresses� make up, decade by decade; what was being worn, and the new products...

During the 1930s, a radical change took place in feminine aesthetics. A shift occurred between a feminine and very fragile woman, full of sweetness, which had been the female prototype that marked out the 10s and 20s, to a serious, not too feminine woman of cold aesthetics, who was both hard and masculine. The change came with the circumstances of the time; the First World War, during which women had taken over the roles of the men who had gone off to war. The only trend that remained was the pale face. The most characteristic aspect of 1930s make up was that unlike the decades to follow, this one was never copied.

The most representative visual icon of the decade, who exemplifies this make up, is Greta Garbo as she was in the �30s. During the �20s, she had a totally different aesthetic. The make up was hardly cheerful at all, very serious, skin was very pale and the skin tone very unified. Harmonizing was still done with very white rice powder. The most curious thing about this make up was that a black line was traced over the upper line of the eye, from the tear duct to the end of the eye, which had a sort of little mountain in the middle. On the side opposite the tear duct, in the corner of the eye, an upturned triangle was traced in black pencil, which wasn�t filled in. A �banana� shape, covering the upper eyelid�s crease in brown, lengthened the eye socket downwards. This shape was blurred and gone over with a brown form. The mobile eyelid typically bore an ivory, beige or cream color. The same color as on the mobile eyelid went in the arc of the eyebrow. The entire upper lashes were very strongly marked out with mascara, while lower lashes were only marked in the middle, a quarter either way. The eyebrow which led the fashion of the day was a rounded, very fine eyebrow, with a tendency to fall. Lips were very fine and stretched, horizontally. Colors were dark; reds, maroons, or browns. The top of the lips were round, sometimes the upper lip was made up to look longer. And blusher was very discreet, almost always in a brown tone.

In the 1940s, the most characteristic thing was the mouth. The centre of the upper lip was thinned, and then widened towards the corners of the mouth, creating something akin to a disgusted expression. The aesthetic continued to be very cold, with little color. Skin was still pale, eyes were still very much as they had been in the 1930s, shading was done in half-moon shape, with the eyelid crease area marked out in brown, downwardly, and the upper line of the eye in black, in a fine line. Mascara above, brown or cream on the eyelid. Eyebrows were still fine. And rouge brown, discreet and lengthened. A woman who defines this decade very well is Katharine Hepburn.

In the 1950s, make up took a radical turn; women became more feminine, the skin�s whiteness didn�t look so sickly any more; a healthier skin tone, going towards tan began to be seen. Color came into eyeshadow, the eye was traced in open fashion, with eyeliner. A blue or brown banana shape was drawn over the eyelid crease, which was blended in well, and the eye�s upper line was marked in eyeliner, closing in the shape of a seven. The mouth was heart-shaped, the lips were that shape; neither thick nor thin, and always in dark tones. A rouge underlined the cheekbone. 1950s make up is among the prettiest and most feminine. The way eyeliner was traced is something which is still done today, at once very discreet, subtle, and sophisticated. It always gives a touch of elegance. You�re sure to pick out this style if you examine a photo of Marilyn Monroe.

The �70s
A cosmetics revolution took place. Make up began to be more easily available and there was more of it. The decade�s most characteristic shadow was a fusion of the banana-shape over the eyelid crease with the upper outline, one of the most trend-setting innovations was doing this kind of shading in black and white. Cream shadows also made their first appearance. The look was always �very dirty�. Blacks were not perfectly blended, and mixed in with whites.

Skin was no longer so porcelain, nor so nuanced. It had a slightly greasy look, and a dark-skinned look. Rouges began to be worn in �L� shapes. The fake lashes that appeared in the �60s had their heyday in the �70s. Light brown lips, not overly made up, sometimes even the same color as the foundation �were made up using the very same foundation. This is the decade in which Susan Sarandon burst onto the scene.

The �90s-2000
This decade saw a total make up explosion, bearing in mind that make up was accessible. There were different types of brands. And everyone could afford it.

Maroon and purplish were the most widespread colors in the �90s. At least, women were able to wear any kind of color at all.

Women have less time to dedicate to their image, but their image is nevertheless more looked-after, as make up is more practical and easy to apply. The most typical �90s shading, which is still being used, is a horizontal, U-shaped gradient effect, which only very slightly marks out the eye socket. Only a third part of the eye�s inner line was marked out , and all colors were worn. Black, brown, transparent, and even blue and green mascaras.

Skin is very tanned, two tones above the skin�s natural color, this was the tan explosion, of UV rays, and long sunbathing sessions. Skin with glitter, brilliant powders, on cleavages, a lot more daring. Lips tended to get bigger. A liner was used two tones above the lips� color. This is a trend which has practically disappeared today, although it is still liked. The same color lip liner as lipstick was used. Lip gloss appeared... Eyebrows were worn normally: they didn�t tend downwards, a little pointy. The eye tended to be lifted and lengthened in shading. Rouges were marked in 3 colors.

In the �90 we meet actresses of the stature of Jennifer Aniston, Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie or Alicia Silverstone.

You must have already noted what was worn in the various decades of last century, the tricks of yesteryear, etc. Now you�ve got no excuse not to wear the makeup of your favorite actresses.

Training for Professional Make Up
To work in a professional makeup artist's job, you will need:
  • A high school diploma
  • Experience in cosmetology or the theater
  • A good eye for detail and;
  • good artistic skills
Informal experience with makeup is just as important as formal qualifications from a makeup school; so industry experience, whether paid or unpaid, is critical to professional development and to the ability to get makeup artist jobs.

Regardless of whether you pursue formal a formal make up school education or not, you should always be learning as much about makeup as possible. Read and learn about new products, new uses for products, and new application techniques and styles constantly.

Makeup and clothing fashions change with the seasons. Colors change in popularity, too. You will need to know what's hot and what's not, both in terms of colors and clothes. You must be prepared to adapt and change your looks constantly to keep up with the latest styles. That way, your makeup will always be evolving and improving.

Formal Makeup School Education
There are no formal education requirements beyond high school. Many make up artists have a bachelor's or master's degree in theater, art, film history, or a related subject. You should take makeup, drawing, painting, and drama courses in college. You should consider taking anatomy, chemistry, and photography courses.

Attending a Makeup School
Many makeup artists and designers want to develop or improve their skills to open up new job opportunities, to improve areas of expertise, or to produce better quality work within their own specialization(s). Makeup Artist schools and make up courses provide the opportunity to experiment, diversify or obtain the specialist knowledge desired.

If you want to study professional makeup, shop around. Look for a makeup artist school in your area. There are many makeup schools all over the world and there is likely to be one near you. Makeup schools offer theory and practical make up courses about different styles of makeup, history, tools and their care, and may help with finding makeup artist jobs.

Check the following things about any potential makeup course or makeup school you plan to attend:
  • Do the teachers have current working experience or have they been out of the field for a long time? Professional make up is a constantly changing industry and it is essential that teachers have current experience with today's techniques.
  • Is the curriculum up to date? Find out what the latest additions to the curriculum have been to see if current technology is included (e.g. high-definition TV, internet movies, airbrushing)
  • Will the school help you look for work? The best makeup courses offer assistance with marketing yourself as a professional makeup artist, as well as finding makeup artist jobs.
  • How big are the classes? Too many students in a makeup course means less personal attention for you.
  • Talk to past graduates of the make up school or makeup course you plan to attend. If the school won't help you find them, be concerned.
Home Study
Another option is to complete a professional makeup school program at home in your spare time. Elite Makeup Schools of Madrid and Barcelona, Spain, offer a high-quality, newly designed program that matches their on-campus makeup courses. It is highly visual and includes all of the content of their regular make up school programs, along with professional makeup artist tutoring and free optional classroom classes. The professional makeup school program is available in Spanish and English.

Work Experience
If you can land a part-time job that allows you to work with professional makeup in one way or another, your experience will leap ahead, until you are ready to launch yourself as a full-time makeup artists. It is very helpful to have experience working in the theater or on the production of films. Assisting with make up and hair for school plays and Community Theater is a great way to gain experience. Find out if your state has a film commission and try to get involved in film productions in your area.

On-the-job Training
Professional makeup artists can also learn skills on the job from experienced makeup artists. Given the popularity of freelance work, training is often on the job, with individuals taking responsibility for their own continued professional development. You can take individual makeup courses for specific interests, such as character makeup or period make up. You can also take makeup courses from companies such as Mary Kay and Avon, which are more oriented towards helping their makeup artists achieve success with the company.

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