IMATS Los Angeles 2014

One week ago I headed out west to the International Make-up Artist Trade Show (IMATS) in LA. This was my second year attending the show, and I took my notes from last year in order to be better prepared for this year’s madness. My notes, in short, read like this: “Shop first, shop fast, take as many classes as possible”. For those of you who have attended trade shows, especially ones in which there is a great deal of shopping direct from vendors, you know that it SUCKS. Maybe some people love it, but if you’re a bizarre, introverted type A like myself, the shopping part is sort of hell on earth.

Crowds and lines and elbows and huge shopping bags

Crowds and lines and elbows and huge shopping bags

See? Hellish, right?!? Opening night was pro-only, so my MUA friends (Crystal and Bek from Cirque FX, beauty artist Jen Brown) and I jumped right in with our shopping lists and cold hard cash. I stocked up on some long time favorites (Embryolisse products, a favorite mattifier, Crown brushes, Nurturing Force primer) and had a chance to see and handle some things I’ve been curious about (Linear Standby Belts, Vueset palettes, Viseart’s much beloved neutral eyeshadow palette). I squeezed my way in to say hello to my friends at the ever-swamped Frends booth, and elbowed my way in to say hi to my wonderful artist / educator friend Autumn, at the Crown Brush booth. Full disclosure, my travel companion Jen and I had a margarita before we hit the show. That is definitely going into my notes for next year, as a must do.

Martina & Jen wisely have a margarita before shopping

Martina & Jen wisely have a margarita before shopping

Vamping for Frends Beauty

Vamping for Frends Beauty

Day one of the IMATS began like this; strong coffee and long lines. Once we made it into the show, I headed straight to the education wing of the convention center, the place where you could visit the Makeup Museum, watch the “Battle of the Brushes” student competition, and take numerous classes from industry pros. The class I intended to sit for seemed to have been cancelled, and I found myself listening to Robin Mathews, the Dept. Head of Dallas Buyers Club. I was riveted. I sat down and started taking notes. Listening to her answer questions and talk about DBC with interviewer Joe Nazarro is truly worth a whole blog of its own, but I’ll do my best to sum it up.

Dallas Buyers Club cover of Make-Up Artist Magazine

Dallas Buyers Club cover of Make-Up Artist Magazine

Also worth a blog of its own is my obsession with character, and why that has led me to be passionate about film and tv makeup. For right now, I’ll try to focus. Dallas Buyers Club is an incredible feat of character makeup. Most people know that Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto lost weight to play their roles in the film, but most people do not know that it was shot in 28 days, on a relatively modest budget, with a handheld camera using ambient lighting. What does this mean to a makeup artist? It means camera was ready in 5 minutes, but makeup changes still take the same amount of time. Since the film was shot out of sequence (as most are) this also meant that during one shooting day the characters might have up to 5 different complete changes, and when you’re talking about people whose health deteriorates drastically, these are important and very particular looks. Because of the severe time constraints, Mathews and her team used old school, tried and true methods to add and take away weight. Plumping the face with reverse highlight and contour to add pounds, and using in depth knowledge of human facial anatomy to take away pounds in the areas that recede with illness; temples, under cheekbones, along the jawline.

Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club

Technical challenges aside, DBC also presented a number of exciting opportunities for the makeup dept. The film is set in Dallas in the mid-’80s, so it was a period piece as well as needing to have region specific makeup. Texas, you guys! In the 80’s! McConaughey and Leto’s characters battle illness throughout the film, and Leto’s character is a trasngendered drug addict, so there were endless layers to the character looks. During her talk, Robin Mathews said that for a project like this, you really need to “relish the research”. Some of her inspiration for Leto’s character were 60’s starlets, Bridgette Bardot, Twiggy, and Dolly Parton.

Some of the payoff for dealing with insane crowd congestion at IMATS

Some of the payoff for dealing with insane crowd congestion at IMATS

The next class I took was, “Pretty as a Drag Queen” with Courtney Tichman from OCC. I’m a big fan of OCC (not least of all because they were very generous and sent some amazing product to use on a film I did last year) and this sounded like a blast. Right from the start, Courtney said that the takeaway from this class would be, “Put more on. If you want to be more glamorous, put more on!” I’d have to agree. The class was fun, a good refresher in highlight and contour and sculpting the face.

"Put more on", drag queen / glamour makeup advice

“Put more on”, drag queen / glamour makeup advice

Day One of the IMATS, I got to have lunch with my beautiful and talented friend Karina, who I met on an indie feature last fall. We talked about working on this film together, and how it affected us. She reinforced the feeling that I am so fortunate to have worked on this, because of the cast and crew. Even though I had to keep pushing myself through all of the difficulties, in the end, I am so damn proud of what we did on that movie. I gushed to her about the DBC talk, and we sat in the sunshine and caught up on all the other things in life. I adore her, and the fact that she made time to see me (in Pasadena!) while I was in town just made me that much happier to be in the business that I’m in. She is a gem.

Sunny lunch break with this beautiful firecracker!

Sunny lunch break with this beautiful firecracker!

Next up was the Thomas Suprenant, Out of the Kit Character Makeup class. I really loved this one, he had two models onstage and brought only the ubiquitous large, clear set bag that I myself use. He unpacked it for the audience, and explained each product and why you might carry it. I loved seeing so many of the items that I carry and use, as well as some neat new tricks that I can’t wait to try. He talked about the challenges of starting your day doing a full makeup in a trailer, then going to set with everything you MIGHT need on hand, at a moments notice. The ever changing “perfect” set bag!

In between classes, I wandered around the makeup museum and watched makeup demos

In between classes, I wandered around the makeup museum and found this cool cat

Day One ended with Steve Prouty discussing the transformative makeup for Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa, and the nature of making a film in which the public cannot know they’re on film or that Johnny Knoxville is the man they’re interacting with. Fun fact, Prouty notes that, “In North Carolina you can get people to help you bury a body”. The makeup and prosthetics had to be “bulletproof” due to the amount of expression that Knoxville uses with his face, hands, and whole body. There were stunts involved too, so that adds another element of challenge. And a makeup artist’s favorite — stunts followed by a CLOSE UP (note: not actually a makeup artist’s favorite). He talked about working under time constraints, and the need for the makeup dept to become a well-oiled machine and execute the look with perfect precision each time, in under 3 hours. Say what you will, but Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa has an Academy Award nomination.

Steve Prouty talks about the unique challenges of Bad Grandpa

Steve Prouty talks about the unique challenges of Bad Grandpa

Day Two of the IMATS began with a class on Color Fundamentals, with my friend Autumn Scruggs. Autumn has an unusual and fantastic background in that she started in makeup effects and animatronics, and then discovered that she loves beauty makeup. Her philosophy is exactly what I love about beauty makeup; clean and fresh, with healthy skin that actually looks like skin, not plastic. Her color theory is spot on, and it is apparent that she loves teaching. She knows her stuff when it comes to product, and is happy to share, however she does emphasize that being an artist is about experimentation and thinking on your feet. Use whatever works best for you when it comes to brushes, makeup, and technique. I’m lucky to call her a friend, and I get to pick her brain about makeup whenever she’s in Chicago!

Softest brush ever made?!? From Crown, the Ve's Favorite collection

Softest brush ever made?!? From Crown Brush, Ve’s Favorite collection

The Bill Corso keynote was exactly what you’d expect, a retrospective of his brilliant career with some truly mind-blowing makeups. I’m sure the reel didn’t even scratch the surface of the work he’s done. A truly fun part of the talk was dedicated to an old age makeup he did for Heidi Klum last Halloween. Klum is known for elaborate Halloween makeups, and she contacted Corso with her request months in advance. It was a full body makeup, complete with custom prosthetics and painstakingly applied vericose veins. Show director Michael Key noted that if this makeup had been in a movie, it would likely be nominated for an Oscar.

The process...

The process…aging a supermodel

The last talk of the day, Joe Nazarro interviewing Dexter Dept Head Keith Hall, was a great way to wrap up the show. In a recurring theme for me, I was fascinated by the variety and the task creating “normal” characters (cops, regular citizens), regional makeup (Miami tans), and ultimate gore. Hall was humble and softspoken about his work, but when the Q&A began, his excitement about his job was clear. The intense schedule of working on a episodic (especially one with so much BLOOD) and breaking down a script one week in advance is something I have yet to do, and I hope I get a chance to work on someday. During their respective talks, both Hall and Mathews spoke about the actors involvement in their character’s looks, and I love that collaborative part of the job.

The ladies of Cirque FX and I SURVIVED the IMATS! Now, let's get a cocktail and look at all of our loot...

The ladies of Cirque FX and I SURVIVED the IMATS! Now, let’s get a cocktail and look at all of our loot…

I enjoyed the whole weekend, but truly, the winner for me was listening to Robin Mathews talk about DBC. For me, it was everything I love. It was the perfect mix of behind-the-scenes stories, character design and collaboration with actors, clever product usage (grits and cornmeal borrowed from Mathews’ Mom!), and the entirely relatable less-than-perfect conditions of filmmaking that end up leaving an artist with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. After the show, I spent three more days in LA with my husband; eating, drinking, sightseeing, and hanging out at some of the coolest dive (and non dive) bars I’ve ever been to. I caught up with friends that moved out there years ago, and now that I’m in the same business, we had a ton of catching up to do. I admitted to a DP friend that I kind of want to live, eat, and breathe my work right now. I would definitely not hate it, if work in LA became a part of my future. It’s all about the company you keep, and I’ve got some awesome friends out there.

Our last night in Silver Lake, for now...

Our last night in Silver Lake, for now…

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Year End Wrap Up

2013 is almost over, and although I have a couple of regrets (this poor, neglected blog being one of them) they only exist because of the crazy amount of work and learning that I’ve done this year. So I never posted any of the other blog entries that I started and never finished…so I did not even come close to meeting my book goal this year…it turns out, I’ve done a lot of other things with that time.

Sami the Snowflake Princess, from a recent shoot with my love, Lisa Predko!

Sami the Snowflake Princess, from a recent shoot with my love, Lisa Predko!

For a while now, I’ve been in a sort of limbo between being a full time freelance makeup artist, as much as that can exist, and a part time bartender. Bartending has always allowed me to pursue whatever artistic endeavors I want, and the time to do so at my leisure. I am forever grateful to bartending for the freedom that I would never have had with a 9 to 5 job, and for the income that ultimately helped me earn my BFA, get started as a makeup artist, buy a house, and visit my favorite cities throughout the year. I love you bartending, but I think we’re almost done.

Serving Grind and Grind erasers for...too many years!

Serving Grind and Grind erasers for…too many years!

This year I worked on three films in their entirety; one as an assistant, one as dept head / key, and another as key makeup artist. I learned fast and hard what it’s like to be in charge, and what it’s like to give up your life to a project, day in and day out. I learned to trust my instinct and to speak up for myself and my team. I learned that there is never enough communication. I learned that the worst situations are still worthwhile as an experience. I learned that I really can do my best work every day, in spite of unfavorable circumstances. I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses, and I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who helped me understand those parts of myself. I can still say that I love what I do, and only want to see, do, and learn more in the coming year.

Kelly and I behind the scenes on Prank.

Kelly and I behind the scenes on Prank.

The last six months have been non stop work. I worked on difficult, artistically challenging projects, as well as relatively easy and totally enjoyable commercial jobs. I got a chance to day play on one of the many shows being shot in Chicago this year, with hopefully more to come. I finally assisted an artist that I’ve known and admired for years, and I felt right at home with her. I will be a very lucky girl if she keeps using me in the new year. My favorite photographers still call me, my favorite producers still call me, and every single time I am thrilled. I am inching towards my goal of being a full time makeup artist.

A Day of the Dead makeup for one of my favorite parties of the year, Cutters Bloodbath.

A Day of the Dead makeup for one of my favorite parties of the year, Cutters Bloodbath.

With all of this wonderful work, I had to make the difficult decision to step away from something else that I love very much — burlesque. For nearly five years, burlesque has been a constant in my life. It deserves its own damn blog! I can say without a doubt, that doing burlesque was always hard, and it was always worth it. Leaving the Chicago Starlets was the best and worst decision, because although I really do miss it, A LOT, I had to leave out of absolute necessity. I no longer had the time to dedicate to this art form that I adore, and it wouldn’t be fair to do it half-assed. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

My alter ego, Delia Aces.

My alter ego, Delia Aces.

So this means I’m becoming one of “those” people. I think about work all the time, I am excited about work all the time, and even though I am looking forward to some time off in Mexico fun, and LA for IMATS next month — I seriously cannot wait to get home and get back to work.

Makeup trailer

Brushes and coffee! Always.

Brushes and coffee! Always.

I’m not much of a “new year’s resolution” person. I believe that if you truly resolve to do something, or change something, you’ll just do it a little bit every day, without having to make a big deal out of it. So my goals are much the same, I want to continue along the path that I’m on because things just keep getting better. Oh, and I really do want to read more books and write more blogs!

Happy New Year!

...maybe just one resolution.

…maybe just one resolution.

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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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Martina

Martina

That’s me, shot by Lisa Predko in 2011.

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March 27, 2013 · 11:49 pm