Tag Archives: Makeup

Advice for Working on Set

My good friend Matt Morelli from Frends Beauty recently gave me an opportunity to write a guest blog about set etiquette. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, taking notes, and learning new things continuously. I finally put it all into one big, cohesive piece of writing and I am happy to share it.

This article is a labor of love – it may seem harsh at times, but it is all of the things I wish someone had told me when I first got started in this business. As you read this, you may learn a lot, you may only learn a little, but hopefully you’ll gain some perspective on this industry, and as you move about the set, you will be confident in your professionalism. Some of this advice will sound like common sense, but all of it has been learned on the job; through a kind mentor, by watching and observing, or the hard way, being reprimanded by a seasoned crew member! This article is intended for artists who have an interest in working on film, TV, or commercial sets, or artists who are already getting started as a day player and want to soak up knowledge of this exciting new world like a sponge.

Advice for working on set:

Do not be overly comfortable – always watch and err on the side of caution. Never assume that anything is yours to touch, play with, etc. Ask questions, and listen more than you talk.

Get to know your call sheet, and read it thoroughly. It contains a plethora of information that will serve you well. What is my call time? Where is crew parking? Where is base camp? Are we shooting interiors or exteriors?

Get to know your paperwork. Most new jobs will give you the same or similar start paperwork, so try to be prepared with all of the needed information. Take a snapshot of your time card to help you remember how to fill it out correctly in the future. Look up a cheat sheet for recording your hours in military time.

Familiarize yourself with the daily “sides”. Sides are the pocket sized, printed pages of the script that contain the scenes that are being shot that day.

Be prepared for all different types of weather. Have some emergency items in your car, invest in raingear, and a pair of waterproof shoes or boots.

Sometimes it is appropriate to have a small, portable chair to bring to set. Ask your department head if you should bring one. There are many affordable, lightweight options available at sporting goods stores.

Being on time is being 15 minutes early.

In the trailer – set up your station and stand ready to greet / make up actors. Do not sit when you have talent arriving or talent going through other artist’s chairs!

Don’t be weird around actors. You’re at work, not working to get good Instagram pictures.

Spend a minimal amount of time on your phone, even if your Dept Head and Key use theirs often. You don’t know what they are using theirs for, and it really doesn’t matter anyway. It’s none of your business.

Listen more than you talk – it’s not about you.

Ask what you can do to help, then do it.

Bring a small, but comprehensive makeup kit. A large set bag filled with a little bit of everything is the holy grail. Do not expect other people to provide a kit, but try to take up as little space as possible with your day player kit.

Same goes for on set — try to have a small footprint, other people are working all around you and it looks ridiculous when HMU is camped out, looking like they’re doing nothing (even though this is not true). I think it’s important to earn the respect of other departments. That means having a professional and easy to move set up. Take pride in your ability to be clever. As artists we are constantly reassessing our kits and making them better, more condensed, more comprehensive. Use this inventiveness when thinking of ways to work efficiently.

Be aware, watch monitors when appropriate. If no one (actors) that you are watching is on camera, and video village is full of producers, necessary crew, etc. then you should excuse yourself (tell someone in your dept) that you are stepping away so you are not in the way.

Don’t complain – most of us are burnt out and overworked, and as a day player we need you to be optimistic and fresh. You don’t have to put on a fake happy attitude, but just remember that if you want to be here, you should not exude bitterness and a jaded attitude.

It is a powerful and emotional thing to be entrusted with someone’s face – never take it for granted.

Mind your own business. Other people’s conversations, phones, work talk, is not for you. Even if you are within earshot, don’t make unwanted comments, and pay attention to your own work. If you’re included, great! Being friendly and kind is a great way to meet people on set, eavesdropping is not.

Always stand up (if sitting) when introduced to someone.

You never know who someone is, or who they know. Word spreads fast, and this is a very small business. Be mindful of telling stories or voicing opinions about actors, shows, other artists etc. Always use cautious judgement.

Get to know the other departments on set, what they do, who they are. It’s always helpful to have a good relationship with the DP, and to be familiar with some of their terminology when it comes to lighting. Be respectful of other department’s time and space. The sound department may not want you trying to touch up an actor while they are adjusting a wire. When in doubt, ask.

Familiarize yourself with film set terminology. There are many books and websites that will explain all of the different departments, as well as film set lingo.

Take responsibility when things go awry, and do not throw other people under the bus. Handle issues professionally and calmly, be all about solutions, not blame.

Kit inventory – Most jobs will pay you a kit fee or kit rental fee. Save yourself some time by typing this up in advance and keeping a copy in your kit, or having it accessible to print from your phone.

Do your research on the project that you’re working on. If it’s film or TV, familiarize yourself with the actors so you’re familiar with the cast. Look up the other artists on the call sheet if you’re curious about the kind of work they do. There are a few inexpensive continuity apps available for your phone, they may make it easier to keep track of the cast, and serve as a quick reference throughout the day.

Maintain integrity. Own up to your mistakes, accept compliments, do your personal best each day, and you will rarely have any professional regrets.Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, drink lots of water, and stash protein bars in your set bag to battle a drop in blood sugar.Finally, one of my absolute favorite quotes, some wonderful words for both our personal and professional lives.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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


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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Product Post: Cleaning brushes

This is too cool not to share. All makeup artists have their preferred methods for cleaning, washing, shampooing, and sanitizing their brushes. Alcohol and brush cleaners are great in a pinch for killing germs and keeping things tidy on set. Many different brands make many different products designed to kill germs and clean your brushes, but I just want to share my current favorite method, and products.

Clean brush shampoo is a lovely product. Natural ingredients, and highly effective. Shampooing brushes is a process that normally involves getting the bristles wet, swishing them around in the solid shampoo, and then gently agitating the bristles. I do this in the palm of my hand, taking care not to damage the bristles while making sure to get them saturated with the shampoo. Powder makeup tends to come out of the bristles easier than cream makeup, and usually I just take extra time and care, rinsing and reapplying shampoo until the brushes are clean.


Makeup artists LOVE any products that make our lives easier, save time, and are just plain cool and innovative. So when I was shopping for supplies at Target a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to discover a new toy. Roaming around the kitchen section, I spotted a little item called a Corn Scrub Brush. Palm sized, oval, with one side full of soft but densely packed almost-clear bristles. Perfect for cleaning brushes! I bought one and tried it out that night, cleaning my most stubborn red sable foundation brushes, tiny lip brushes, and synthetic bristle concealer brushes. It worked amazingly well! The color of the bristles makes it easy to see the makeup coming off the brush, and the softness of the scrubber doesn’t damage the soft hairs of the makeup brushes. It fits in the palm of my hand, and when I’m done cleaning brushes I give it a spritz of alcohol and let it air dry. Easy and effective!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Product Post: Fun with Containers

I recently had the enormous privilege of working as a day player on an episode of Chicago Fire. For this episode myself and my lovely fellow day players were tasked with making up over 100 background extras who needed some degree of blood and / or dust.

In the early, early morning the background came to see us for their first round of makeup, and we had to crank them out. They formed a line and we called them as quickly as we could get someone out of our chair and onto the next step in their process. After doing the initial makeup, we then spent the day keeping an eye on them on set, and running in to do touch ups whenever we could. For touch ups on a massive and busy set, you need to be prepared to do good work quickly, efficiently, and always making sure to stay out of everyone else’s way. For this, you not only need a system and good communication with your department, but also a few tricks up your sleeve.

I am a container junkie, I will wander the aisles of Home Depot, Michael’s, and of course, Container Store, looking for the next awesome item that I can use in my kit. When I was packing up the night before my first day on set, I tossed into my kit a small container designed for holding sliced cheese. It ended up being extremely useful on set.

This is how I packed the cheese container: One small travel sized container of cotton swabs, with the lid broken off so the swabs were easily accessible. Several makeup sponges, some with the ends ripped off so they could be used to achieve a more organic feel when applying makeup. Orange stipple sponge and black stipple sponge. All of these fit nice and snug in the body of the cheese container, but the real innovation was the lid. When doing touch ups I popped the lid open and poured a small amount of fake blood into the well created by keeping the lid open. This allowed me to hold the container in one hand, and use my other hand to grab tools from the cheese container or my set bag, and dip them into the blood to apply to background.


I used this little system for 6 days on set, and it worked really well. I still had a small set bag on at all times to hold the containers of blood, baby wipes, and other touch up materials needed, but the cheese container made it possible to jump from one person to the next very quickly, and with minimal mess. That’s my blood touch up trick, I’m sure the same container could be used for any number of different makeup artist purposes!


Filed under Uncategorized

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…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized