How and why I became a Makeup Artist.

How did I become a makeup artist? That seems as good a topic as any for a first blog post. I’ve always been an artist in one way or another, my parents encouraged the making of art, crafts, whatever inspired me or my two sisters. Above my parents bed there hung a very large tempera paint piece that I made when I was very young, my view of the solar system. Crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, construction paper, clay — it was all a part of my home life. As I progressed through school I went from being an outstanding student (straight A’s in grade school) to being a mediocre at best student (high school). My high school art program trained me to dislike art classes, having had my freshman and sophomore years spoiled by an aging and bizarre woman whose tenure kept her in place as the antithesis of a mentor. From there I had some lost years (but very fun!) in which I worked, hung out with friends, and enjoyed not having to go to school.

By 2002 I had grown bored with not having much purpose (again, having fun, but not working towards anything) and I decided to try some classes at a local community college. Drawing I, Color and Design, Art History — I was blown away. I LOVED SCHOOL! I had two really spectacular teachers who lit a fire in me, and I remember hearing that they had spent years teaching at more prestigious art schools only to realize how much they loved community college students. I can’t speak for their exact reasons, but I wager they had something to do with the fact that almost all of us were paying our own way, had lived life between high school and college, and were truly passionate, and dedicated to making art. I discovered that with a little practice, I could still portray things in a way that made me happy. I made friends with people from completely different backgrounds because we were all drawn there for a similar purpose. (Okay, yes, I’d like to think it was a little like the show Community!) This eventually sent me back home to Chicago, where I enrolled in Columbia College, the BFA program.

Columbia wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Some of it certainly had to do with the curriculum that is laid out for undergrad students. You have some choice in your classes, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. I made the mistake of taking all the classes I was passionate about (painting, drawing, watercolor, woodworking…) in that first year, leaving me with less and less options later in my college career. I won’t say that it was a waste, because so many of the things I learned were training for what I do now. The principles of color theory, composition, chiaroscuro, anatomy, balance, and harmony, have served me well as a makeup artist.

While in school, and for a long time before that, I knew as a fact that being an artist would never guarantee a livelihood. I was always enamored with the idea of being a “working artist”. A tattoo artist is a great example of this, but basically anyone who could earn a living by making art. I accepted the fact that my college degree would mean very little once I graduated, in terms of getting a job. Lucky me, I tended bar throughout college, so I wasn’t terribly concerned with the money aspect.

I guess I did make some interesting art in college, most of it related to New Orleans.

I guess I did make some interesting art in college, most of it related to New Orleans.

Then something really cool happened. I went shopping. Or rather, I went shopping at Sephora and re-met one of my now closest friends, Emily.  She was working as an artist on the Sephora Pro Team at the time, and we started chatting about makeup. She was so excited about everything she showed me, and her enthusiasm was contagious. I already loved makeup, but by the time I got home I was in the midst of an epiphany. Makeup. Artist. Makeup artists are working artists, why had this never occurred to me before? So I found myself less than 6 months away from graduating with a BFA, on a new path. I did research, reached out to friends who are or were makeup artists, looked at schools, and got really damn excited about this new idea.

Emily, part of my makeup artist epiphany, and I at my wedding. She did my makeup!

Emily, part of my makeup artist epiphany, and I at my wedding. She did my makeup! She’s also one of my best friends.

The summer after I graduated, I took classes at a makeup school in downtown Chicago, Makeup First School. Fresh out of school, I networked and tested as often as possible. It was important to not only have school under my belt, but real world experience as well. I tried a ton of different things, worked with a lot of different people, and my focus has changed a lot since then. I started out testing mainly with photographers and models who were interested in fashion and beauty. I later found that my true love is character work, be it small and subtle or bold and exaggerated, the story and narrative of a character is what inspires me. Research is a pleasure, and imagining a characters whole life is a fantastic challenge.

One of my first projects with Lisa Predko, one of the best photographers ever.

One of my first projects with Lisa Predko, one of the best photographers ever.

Along the way I met a wonderful producer, then several more, and started booking commercial jobs. I realized that I love working with a crew, and I really wanted to do film. I also discovered that I completely love makeup effects, and am fascinated by the technical skill and artistry that goes into doing makeup in that realm. I took a makeup artist Boot Camp with Kerry Herta, an incredible woman who changed the way I do makeup. My makeup partner in crime, Jaime, and I went to LA and worked on a horror movie. I played with and on so many friends, and learned to appreciate the related art of hairstyling, even though it’s not my strong suit. I like to think of it as sculpting, to make it less intimidating.

One of my good friends, favorite people, and makeup partner in crime.

One of my good friends, favorite people, and makeup partner in crime – Jaime.

That’s a pretty good summary of my story so far. Of course there are lots of stories and adventures to write about, but this is how I got to where I am today. There is so much more to learn, and I love every minute of it, even when the lessons are painful and the hours are long. I just love what I do, and I can’t wait to see what I learn next…

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