Tag Archives: character makeup design

Everything but the kitchen sink (2014)

2014 was good to me, in ways that were both unexpected and long striven for. Of course, I wish I had done more, written more, read more…but that’s the way it is every year.  Instead of regret, I have so many things that I’ve been a part of, or learned, or people who I’ve met who have made this year a great one. So, here is my post that attempts to wrap it all up, and look towards even greater things in 2015!

The fun stuff: CONTAINERS!

If you know me, then you know I have an affinity for containers, large and small. I am always searching dollar stores, craft stores, art stores, home stores, for the latest and greatest magical container that can be used for makeup purposes. Check out the picture for some of my favorites from this year. Palette paper, by Royal and Langnickel. These were at Joann Fabrics for $1, perfect 5×7 size for a quick, disposable palette, and you can even leave some product on them and fold them up for touchups later. I keep a pad in my set bag. Semi-clear zipper bags from Blick. The ladies of Cirque FX introduced these to me, and they’ve become a staple in my kit for quick organizing. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and of course, are more affordable than most similar “makeup” bags. Pill boxes for creams. In an effort to condense my day-checker set kit even more, I made teeny-tiny cream palettes out of pill boxes. Sun – Sat, they were 7 for $1 at Dollar Tree. Lightweight, tiny, and just enough product to cover a variety of sins, in a pinch. Slider pencil boxes – for keeping brushes, pencils, tools, etc. Great for keeping brushes CLEAN, and separated for different actors. Blocks of asian market kitchen sponges! These look just like blonde stipple sponges, and guess what? I cut them into different shapes and used them for some fx, they worked just as well as the tried and true version. Two of the best containers and gifts I’ve received this year. I have to brag a little, my friend Chris is the Special Makeup Effects head on Chicago Fire, and he custom made these two-well brush / cup holders for us. I love it! The other ceramic piece is a beautiful handmade pottery bowl that I use for brushes, a gift from my boss on Chicago Fire.

Irresistible container fun

Irresistible container fun

Pillboxes

Teeny Tiny makeup boxes

The artsy stuff: Inspiration.

Japan. I have a somewhat new love of Japanese things. Maybe it started with makeup – Hakuhodo brushes are the most luxurious I’ve ever touched, and Koh Gen Do makes the most perfect foundation I’ve ever applied. But this year it became more of a “thing”. I’d go to an antique store and leave with a beautiful, campy, 1960’s paint-by-number Geisha. Then I found a small vintage decorative lamp, a little tableau of a woman standing on a bridge. It didn’t help that some friends in Las Vegas opened a perfect, Japanese styled, members only cocktail bar, a refuge overlooking Fremont East. That just fueled the fire, and now it’s becoming an obsession, maybe. I’ve started daydreaming about going to Japan someday, and looking up images of Buddhist temples in Kyoto, and Tokyo alleyways. And finally, sake. Delectable, cloudy, unfiltered Nigori sake.  Just because it’s delicious.

Like a dream

Like a dream

Tokyo alley

Colorful inspiration

Museums. I’ve always loved museums, but this year in particular I’ve been thinking a lot about the texture of paint, light and dark, chiaroscuro. My favorite painting resides at the Art Institute here in Chicago (lucky me!), it is called “Resting”, by Antonio Mancini. When I talk about makeup, I find myself going back to the idea of light and shadow. So much of what we do as makeup artists is about light, and how it plays on the face. Understanding the art of lighting is something I’ve been working on, and hopefully learning from the talented professionals that I work with. This painting is so inspiring to me because it is a perfect example of how a blob of white paint means light, and the most subtle brushstroke reads as the plane of a woman’s face. I love how it demonstrates using paint in just the right way to convey light and shadow.

Resting, Antonio Mancini

Resting, Antonio Mancini

Italy. Cheating a little, these images are from 2012, but I absolutely fell in love with this series by Giampaolo Sgura of “Italian family” life, for Dolce & Gabbana. I have very little interest in fashion, but occasionally I’ll find certain images so arresting, intriguing, fantastic, etc. that they grab my attention and hold it. I love this campaign because of the over-the-top, character or caricature? aesthetic, and pure, old school Italian glamour. I also think Monica Belluci is the most beautiful woman alive.

Viva Italia!

Viva Italia!

The deep stuff: What the hell did I learn?!?

Professionally, I’ve experienced highs and lows this year. From this I’ve learned that neither one should define me, and that empty praise can be just as damaging as negative feedback. Having a true sense of artistic purpose is the only way I’ve found to combat the over inflated pride or the unnecessary devastation that sometimes comes with other people’s opinions. Also worth noting, you will probably never catch me posting “#alwayslearning” or similar popular sentiments. Why? Because the negative things I went through at work this year broke me down, but changed me in some good ways too, and to say something like that feels trite. F*@$ yeah, I’m always learning. Is it hard? Sometimes heartbreakingly so. But it’s a given that as an artist, I’m a lifelong student, and I refuse to turn it into a dull hashtag.  On the flip side, I’ve never felt more connected to some of my fellow artists, and after years of knowing them I can say that I trust and respect them deeply, and that is an incredible feeling. I’ve also learned that “be yourself” is not just a mantra for the first day of school, it’s truly the only way to find yourself working where you are happy and fulfilled, with like minded artists.

So what do I want from this year? The same things I always want; to read more, write more, and make art. To spend time with the best people I know, eat great food, drink tasty drinks, travel to new places, and hopefully discover some fancy new containers along the way.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Patience, Good Fortune, and Hard Work.

As of September 20th, 2014, I am a member of Studio Mechanics Local 476. In order to express just how damn cool this is to me, or how excited I am about all the new possibilities, I can only reference these events: Getting engaged (and married, of course), graduating from college, buying a house. Major life events! Getting voted into the union is on par with all of those. I started moving towards this goal sometime in 2010, with the warning advice from a fellow makeup artist, “expect it will take about five years.” At the time, five years seemed like an incredibly lengthy amount of time, for anything really, but I was grateful to have a realistic idea of the process.

How I felt when I heard that I made it into 476!

How I felt when I heard that I made it into 476!

How did this happen? I think, because of these things: Having a lot of patience and persistence, a strong dose of good fortune peppered throughout, and working hard every chance I get. I know some really lovely people who threw my name out there every chance they got, wrote letters to the union on my behalf, and gave me advice whenever they thought of something that could be useful. People who knew very little about me gave me a chance to get on set and prove myself. Not only that, they treated me better than they needed to, and taught me more than I could have hoped. Artists who are generous with their knowledge are worth their weight in gold.

The other thing that is a constant with me is that there is always a list. After every job, big or small, there is a mental or written list of the things I could do better next time, ways to consolidate my kit, new things to add to my kit, better ways to work with talent / clients. I am constantly self-assessing and evaluating my work — I am a harsh self critic.  I do possess a strong work ethic. During the slow periods, I feel like a complete loser for not booking more jobs. When things do finally pick up after a slow period, I am relentless. I clean my kit, restock, shop if needed, pack it up neatly, and do any research that may benefit my performance for the next job.

I try to keep in mind that this life is short and, “you can’t take it with you”. Money comes and goes, or as my friend Karina says, “Your last shirt has no pockets”, a German saying. This year (the very beginning of May) I worked my final shift as a bartender and leapt head first into being a full time makeup artist. Naturally, the weeks immediately following that major decision, work was really slow. Then summer came, and a slew of jobs with some of my favorite people, a few of whom I’ve known since my first days on set.

One of my summer jobs involved several local entrepreneurs. There were some common themes throughout the interviews, things that ring true and encourage me. Here are some of my favorites:
Be willing to work harder than anyone else you know.
Never give up.
Read voraciously.
Be brave.

As summer came to an end, I knew that things were going to change, for myself and all of the friends I’d been working with on a very regular basis. Lo and behold, “summer camp” ended and most of us were split up. Granted we all got on some really great jobs that have led to really great things, but I’m glad that I knew to appreciate all of the goofy, ridiculous things we got to do before summer ended. And now — I’m a union gal! On to my next adventures….

But first, how I spent my summer vacation:

At Cirque FX, bald capping is serious business!

At Cirque FX, bald capping is serious business!

Sometimes your job is to get on a bus with 100 dancers and ride around the city, touching up their lip gloss.

Just a regular day at work, on a bus with 100+ dancers, riding around the city, doing touch ups with my dear friend Cindy!

These guys.

These guys.

Sometimes you have to do important work on your phone, and sometimes you have to imitate #2ndcineboss while he's doing such things.

Sometimes you have to do important work on your phone, and sometimes you have to imitate #2ndcineboss while he’s doing such things.

Just because.

Ricky and I, just because.

...and the guilt trip that I gave Ricky when she got hired on Real World.

…and the guilt trip that I gave Ricky when she got hired on Real World.

Matt Hughes and I on Sinister 2, Pop Tarts are for sharing!

Matt Hughes and I on Sinister 2, Pop Tarts are for sharing!

Mallory and I, enjoying the sunset and having cute braids, out in the country on Sinister 2.

Mallory and I, enjoying the sunset and having cute braids, working out in the country.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Character.

Why do I love what I do? On paper, I do makeup. My resume says I am a makeup artist, it lists the various jobs that I’ve done over the past few years, and neatly lays out my education and qualifications. It’s been six years since I had an epiphany about becoming a makeup artist, and in that time I have slowly and steadily practiced, learned, and earned a living as an artist. Clearly, I still love what I do. But I love more than just transforming faces, and applying product to skin, choosing colors and techniques. For me, it is about character.

When I was a little girl, I was a voracious reader. I would stay up late reading under the covers with a flashlight until my Mom would yell at me to go to bed. I devoured fiction more than anything, and I spent a great deal of time reading and re-reading descriptions of the characters. I couldn’t move past those introductions until I had a true, solid picture in my head of what the character looked like. I would take all of the detail the author provided, and mix it with faces I’d seen, until I could clearly see this person as I read their story.

Full of characters...

Full of characters…

When I started working in the commercial world I was exposed to new characters every time I booked a job. The outline is there, the dialogue, and of course, the product. I work within these parameters to build part of the physical manifestation of that character. Once I started working in film, I was a kid at Christmas. Fleshing out these characters and working with the director and actors was an incredible challenge and a rewarding, albeit exhausting, process. It’s the very best kind of work, for me. No one, single person can make it all make sense on screen, and I thoroughly enjoy my part of the process. Where is this character from? How was she raised, where does she work, is she happy, is her life hard, does she care about her appearance, does she drink or smoke? So many questions, and I take the answers (when I can get them) and turn them into a story on someone’s face. It’s not easy, in fact sometimes it’s extremely hard, but it is always seems to pay off in the end.

In the often discussed tv series True Detective, we watch the two main characters flip back and forth in time, over a seventeen year span. There are no less than eighteen makeup and hair artists listed for the series, all of whom are working under the direction of the Department Head, who has to design looks and come up with a plan to execute them with precision and continuity. The standout is the makeup for the character Detective Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey. Not only has he been aged in an exceptionally realistic way, but there is a subtlety to every stage in which we see him that allows us to fully believe Cohle, without being distracted by the makeup.

Aging, tired, smoking alcoholic? But hey, perfect makeup!

Aging, tired, smoking alcoholic? But hey, perfect makeup!

Younger Rust Cohle, still surly, but less weathered.

Younger Rust Cohle, still surly, but less weathered.

I enjoy so much about my job, but it stretches beyond my makeup kit and paying attention to how an actor is holding up on screen. I am a sucker for a beautiful camera move, I am in awe over how things are lit, I will pause a scene to investigate a perfectly set vanity table, pointing out (maybe slightly annoying my husband) and appreciating the character’s “perfect” New Orleans go-cup next to a tube of lipstick, a flyer for a band, and so on and so forth. Someone else had to think about those things, and decide why this character would own these items, and how they would display them. I find it all endlessly fascinating. This world has its own language, and I love learning to read and understand what each department does to tell the story.

One of the True Detective sets. To read more about the amazing production design, read more here: http://www.vulture.com/2014/03/true-detective-alex-digerlando-set-design-props-interview.html

One of the True Detective sets. To read more about the amazing production design, read more here: http://www.vulture.com/2014/03/true-detective-alex-digerlando-set-design-props-interview.html

Sometimes, I think I need to be reined in. On a film last summer, I had an idea that a waitress character would apply her makeup so badly that she would have a line of demarcation along her jaw, where her cheap foundation didn’t match her skin. It worked, in theory. The character was strange, angry, and certainly not supposed to be attractive. Luckily, my wonderful assistant Kelly made an excellent point. The audience wouldn’t “get” that it was part of the character, it would simply look like BAD MAKEUP. Which led me to think, what are the audience’s visual and subconscious expectations of a character? How far is too far? When is an idea more distracting than helpful in fleshing out a persona? For example, realistic dirt and sweat on an actor is a great thing to do, but you usually aren’t supposed to detract from their beauty if they’re a lead actor. It becomes all about the careful placement of dirt, and the deliberate application of something that is supposed to look haphazard and organic.

I would never try to give Shelly a line of demarcation... a character from one of my favorite shows, full of interesting characters -- Twin Peaks.

I would never try to give Shelly a line of demarcation… a character from one of my favorite shows, full of interesting characters — Twin Peaks.

On set, I love all the moving parts, and the organized chaos that takes place in order to set up a shot. I love that everyone is under their own stresses, but trying their absolute best to do their best work, and come together seamlessly with all the other departments. I love when the shot is ready, and everyone is ready, and the actors are in place and then it’s STILLNESS and QUIET and it happens. As an introvert, I crave the built in break that comes every time the camera rolls. I love that “you guys, you know this is forever!” as one actress would excitedly / nervously joke before certain takes. I love that it is indeed forever, and then as soon as everyone is satisfied, we move on, and that specific shot and that specific angle and those moments with the actor are over and gone, and then everything starts moving again. The chaos takes over and everything is stripped down, and reset, and cleared out, and we just did something so fleeting, but we grabbed it forever.

As a ten year veteran of bartending, I’d come to realize how valuable those years really were, beyond the monetary gains. It was my job to pay attention to people. Whether or not I loved or hated them is irrelevant, it was all part of a lesson in character. It’s still my job to pay attention to people, now it just happens to be about fictional people as well as actual people. Oh, and there is far less real vomit involved.

No shortage of characters here! Gman Tavern, in Chicago.

No shortage of characters here! Gman Tavern, in Chicago.

Some of the things I most enjoy about my work make so much sense when I think about being a kid, reading way past my bedtime. I’ve always loved the details that make a character real; in books, tv, film, anything. I could go on about this subject ad infinitum, with examples from all of my favorites movies and tv shows, but I think I can stop here for now. One of the best things I’ve heard about finding what you want to do in life is this: Don’t do what you love, do your obsession. I’m pretty sure I am obsessed with character.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized