For nearly seven months at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 I had the pleasure of working on Chicago Fire as an additional makeup artist. One of the best things about that show is the variety of makeups that I’ve had an opportunity to do. Ranging from basic corrective, beauty, trauma (Danger Makeup!), soot, sweat, blood, and many things in between, Chicago Fire has let me stretch and build my skills quite a bit. It was great. It was hard, but it was truly great. That said, come May, I was so ready for hiatus to begin. Hiatus, and as it turns out, the Great Purge of 2015.
I’m a lucky one, I have a spare room in my house that is dedicated to all manner of my art, makeup, crafts, and weirdness. I think my husband felt it wiser to hand over the room rather than have my eccentric collection of everything overrun the whole house. Over the course of this exciting and challenging seven months of work, this art room became increasingly difficult to navigate. I would come home from work tired, and just toss everything on the floor, or on my desk. There was a vague separation of makeup into categories, but nothing that was very useful or workable. Although I was working steadily on Chicago Fire, I was also still freelancing, so my kit was in large chunks. My large set bag for day checking on Chicago Fire plus any additional items I would add or remove each day, and then my suitcase full of freelance life — a little bit of everything that a makeup artist might possibly need on any given job. I was really proud of that suitcase. I tweaked it for years until it became a lean, mean, makeup machine. But when it finally came time, it was cathartic to unpack it.
Cathartic is definitely the first and best word that comes to mind when describing this process. Initially, I only needed to sort and organize my makeup. Anything related to my career and the day to day part of my job as a makeup artist. But as I kept going, I would find more things to sort. Bins and boxes full of things from years past; old notebooks, abandoned art projects, costumes, keepsakes, cameras, photographs, photographs, and more photographs. There were hilarious items (letter from Church of Scientology to my best friend regarding the personality test that “she” sent in), unexplainable items (locks of brightly dyed punk rock hair from my high school friends), and sentimental items (a birthday card from my grandparents dated 1999 still containing a crisp, ten dollar bill). It was exhausting. I filled garbage bags with trash, and I filled boxes upon boxes with donations to bring to Brown Elephant. I’m now on a first name basis with Greg at the Lincoln Ave location.
While working my way through this archaeological dig of sorts, I had to contend with all the detritus of my past lives. Mainly, the burlesque dancer life. The most surprising part of sorting and organizing my costumes was the sheer number of them. In four years, I did as many solos, plus one duet. But the group numbers, I had no idea there were so many! It was great to see the whole sparkly history laid out, it was impressive to think of how many times I stepped outside of my comfort zone, and it was blinding to see how many rhinestones I hand glued.
The other “past life” that I had to navigate, was my personal art history. I was an art student for almost 6 years, and that collection of supplies for various classes and mediums was pretty extensive. The hardest yet best to give up? My oil paints. I still paint, just not often. When I do paint, they’re small projects, with acrylics. I haven’t touched my oil paints in years. I think they’re beautiful, all the colors and the thinners and fancy adjuster mediums. I packed them up carefully, and then found them a new home. A good friend of my Dad’s is an artist, so they’re in good hands.
How did I stay sane? Every couple of days I would dedicate three to five hours to that room. I would listen to new music, mostly Ryan Bingham, Justin Townes Earle, and Kacey Musgraves (I know, it’s country. I’m not entirely comfortable with it either). I would bribe myself with the promise of a Manhattan at the end of the night. I would haul out bags of garbage or donations and with each one feel a weight lifted from my shoulders. I had no idea how much it was weighing me down. I developed a very happy relationship with my label maker, who needed at least two battery and tape replenishments. And mostly, I would call in my husband whenever I felt stuck or overwhelmed and he would advise, redirect, and occasionally build furniture.
I enjoyed my hiatus holiday immensely, both because I was tired and needed the break, and because I had plenty of plans and ideas and old friends to see. I am not a person who can easily relax and “do nothing”. I thrive when my head is buzzing with ideas, when I have a few simultaneous projects to work on, and when my calendar is healthy but not packed to the gills. In two and a half months I went to Isla Mujeres and swam in the Caribbean, spent a week in Las Vegas (and we kidnapped a friend for two nights of exploring, drinking, and blackjack), road tripped to Ann Arbor with my family, had many coffee dates with my Dad, did makeup for an old friend on a press tour, watched all six seasons of Justified, got stronger than I thought I could working out at the Brass Ring, and loved every single morning that I woke up to sunshine and a french press full of coffee made by my awesome husband.
Now all that’s left to do is pack a kit to move into the trailer. Luckily, I can easily pluck anything I need from one of my many neurotically organized, labeled, drawer stacks. It’s that “back to school” feeling, when you really like school. I’m heading into season 4 with a clear head, an organized kit, and mantra taken from LA sidewalk graffiti “Kindness is Magic”. Here we go!