Many aspiring artists begin with attending a makeup or trade school. There are hundreds, with more schools opening every month. Some focus on beauty, others on special effects and some encompass everything, even hair styling. Graduates exit with the highest of hopes that they will walk right into a top paying career as a makeup artist.
With all these schools pumping out new artists by the thousands, there are now way more artists than there is work available. When I began my makeup career in 1992, schools were extremely rare. Cosmetology schools were readily available, but the focus on makeup was and still is about 2-4 weeks worth of lessons. And of course, the courses are taught by cosmetologists who focus on hair and makeup for every day looks, not for professional styling.
For those that choose to go to a school, keep in mind, you'll spend many hard earned dollars on getting that certificate and truly it means absolutely nothing. It will be worth as much as the paper it's printed on. There is no certification for makeup artists. Certifications exist for careers such as an electrician, plumber, doctor... You can not be a certified makeup artist because that does not exist in the US. You can get your state license as a cosmetologist or esthetician. Check your local laws as certain states will require you to have at least an esthetician's license before you apply product to anyone's face.
In Florida, if you apply makeup on someone with the intent to sell that product (such as a counter rep), you are exempt from needing the esthetician's license. If you are inside a salon and are applying makeup on someone, you will need to be a licensed cosmetologist or esthetician. There are also very strict rules for providing makeup to the general public outside of a salon setting. Please refer to the State Statutes for full details.
All of these makeup schools fail to tell you the honest truth about working as a makeup artist. You're in for a rough wake up call when you venture out to find work.
A piece of paper and a makeup kit does not make one a makeup artist. Anyone can print out a certificate and go to Ulta and stock up a caboodle full of products and call themselves a makeup artist. But you'll be hard pressed to find someone to pay you as a makeup artist.
With that being said, your best bet is to begin with your network. Learn for those with the experience. Being a makeup artist is much more than just knowing how to apply makeup. It's a business.
If your focus is on fashion and print start with building your portfolio. Begin by contacting some photographers that will allow you to "test" with them. This means that you won't get paid, but you will be provided images of your work that you can use to add to your portfolio. Your goal is to keep working with better photographers and models as you build your book. If you can't find any photographers willing to work with you, consider paying a great photographer and some awesome models, to collaborate with on a shoot.
For those that want to venture into the bridal industry, I don't suggest practicing on actual brides,. The worst thing you could do is ruin their wedding day by giving them a bad makeup job. So, until you are comfortable with your work, start by doing makeup for friends and family members. Take photos of your work. Then connect with some wedding photographers and see if you can collaborate together on a bridal shoot. You want to be sure your work is perfect enough for a bride well before you show up on her wedding day. Build up a great album of bridal images so you have something to showcase to the bride. Once you have a decent amount of fantastic images, consider setting up a booth at the local wedding expo or sign up for some online wedding vendor sites to get those bridal leads.
The film and tv makeup artist can be the toughest one to find work. More and more filming is being done with CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and the need for makeup artists, especially special effects, seems to be in a decline. California was once the mega for all things film and tv, but with tax incentives offered from states such as Georgia and Louisiana, production companies are pulling out of CA.
Being on a film set for 10 to 12 hours a day is only for the strong at heart. You must absolutely love this side of the makeup world. It's often long and boring and I've had many assistants who much rather prefer to be busy doing runway makeup where the hustle never ends than to sit around and wait for touch ups on set.
Theater and stage makeup is a whole different can of worms. A bit easier to get into than film, theater may be found in your home town. Check into colleges, schools and churches to offer your experience. Many times these may be volunteer positions, but with persistence, they may lead you to broadway or a traveling production.
No matter what area you choose to focus on, you want to be sure to do your research. Contact some seasoned artists and take them out for coffee or lunch. Be a sponge and soak up as much information as you can. Don't burn bridges, because although the makeup industry has grown tremendously, it's still a very tight network.
Next week: How to build your makeup artist network