Penny Dreadful: Sarah Greene as Hecate

Advice For Aspiring Makeup Artists

Sarita regularly receives requests for advice from aspiring Makeup artists.

Some seem to have fairly glamourised ideas about what the job entails—that it’s mainly hanging out with stars and occasionally dabbing the odd bit of blusher on an Oscar-winner’s cheek.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It can be hard, hard work, and you’re just as likely to spend twelve hours on location in extremely challenging conditions, battling the light and the elements, as you are in a warm, perfectly-lit studio.

Sarita’s Top Ten Tips for Budding Makeup Artists

1. Network, network, network

Make as many contacts as you can. Use imdb.com to investigate shows and movies you love, see who was involved, read up on them. Curiosity and enthusiasm go a long way.

2. Be available

If you’re offered half a day on a low-budget horror movie bring shot in Bognor Regis—and you had planned to go bowling with your friends that day—cancel the bowling. Who knows where it could lead? Perhaps the bargain basement zombie flick is being helmed by a future Tarantino. Put work first.

Get to know your materials and how they work
Get to know your materials and how they work

3. Keep your CV updated

Document new projects as soon as possible so the facts are fresh in your mind. Take care when it comes to putting your portfolio together—you never get a second chance to make a first impression and you are hoping for a career in the visual arts, so make this count.

The people who will (hopefully) be employing you will notice and remember a well-presented portfolio—and they will quickly forget a poorly-produced one.

4. Get to know your materials and how they work

Brushes, pigment, Makeup, glues, silicone—they all have hugely different properties and qualities and you should do all you can to familiarise yourself with them. These are the tools of your trade.

5. No such thing as a stupid question

Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask more experienced artists questions. It’s how you are going to learn. In your early days—and even throughout your career (I’m still learning!)—every job is an opportunity to expand your knowledge.

There are always new products coming on the market, so try to keen abreast of developments and innovations.

Wearing wet-weather clothing during a night shoot
Wearing wet-weather clothing during a night shoot

6. Experiment!

I find the kitchen can be a fantastic source of inspiration. Play around with ingredients, see how they react to heat and cold. Salt and icing sugar, for instance, played a part in the frostbite Makeup I designed for the award-winning movie Touching The Void.

This goes back to the final point in tip number one—remain curious, be imaginative.

7. Invest in good quality all-weather clothing

If you’re lucky enough to work on a series which is shot on location, you’ll need to have temperature-appropriate clothing.

Very early on in my career I turned up for a night-shoot on the backlot at Pinewood Studios in a skirt and a sweater and very nearly froze to death. The next night I was multi-layered and much more comfortable. So think: waterproof jacket and boots, warm hat, gloves.

8. Food is provided on most location shoots—but quality can be very varied

If you are particular about what you eat or have dietary requirements, don’t assume these will be catered for—bring your own. These days I usually prepare my own lunches the night before the shoot. Water, tea and coffee are usually provided.

Having knowledge of working with all skin types is essential to being a makeup artist
Having knowledge of working with all skin types is essential to being a makeup artist

Many Makeup calls can start very early, so it’s also a good idea to pack something to keep you going first thing—I take a muesli bar and some fruit.

9. Practice makes perfect—or at least better

Work on as many skin types as you can, to see how they ‘take’ to materials. Your mum, granny, boyfriend or girlfriend—the more skin types you can practice on, of every colour, age and texture, the better. Practice gives you confidence.

10. Did I mention curiosity?

5 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Nicky Colemanreply
July 17 at 06:07 AM

Thanks Sarita, I love your work, this is very informative and helpful. I am about to start a years course on theatrical and media makeup level 3. I have a summer task to feature some of my favourite work by Makeup Artists around the world. I would like to add some of yours, is there anyway I could view some more of your amazing work please? Many thanks. Nicky Coleman

Sarita Allisonreply
July 18 at 06:07 PM
– In reply to: Nicky Coleman

Hi Nicky, thank you so much. I am pleased that you found the top ten tips of use to you. The selection of photographs shown here on the website are my best selection of hi-res images available. Best wishes Sarita

Mandy Goldreply
July 17 at 10:07 PM

Spot on!!

Sarah Lakereply
July 19 at 10:07 AM

Loved this blog post, I found it extremely helpful and very inspiring. I have been finding the long transition from college training to industry life and work a challenge however this article kicked me into the right direction. I have shared it with my makeup colleagues as I know they would find it as helpful as I did. Your work is brilliant and I think its lovely that you are giving back some knowledge to aspiring makeup artists. Would be lovely to read some more of your blog posts in the future.

keira hinderreply
August 28 at 02:08 PM

thank you so much! I’m about to start college and I’m taking a media make up Course and I want to carry it on in my life and I’m doing so research and this really helped me thank you so much, you’re work is so amazing and I could only dream to be like you one day.

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