I studied for my degree in Makeup and Prosthetics for the Performing Arts at the London College of Fashion. Despite it being constant hard work, they were the most fun and creative 3 years of my life!
Before my degree I did a diploma in Art and Design which gave me the opportunity to develop my own style and discover my interests and talents. I chose to specialise in fashion and creative textiles which led me to look at LCF and the makeup courses on offer.
I wanted to apply for the degree in makeup which only accepted 25 students a year from the thousands that apply. Getting onto these courses is incredibly competitive so you need to prepare yourself for some hard work!
Build Up A Portfolio
Building your portfolio is key. Don’t just rely on school or college projects to show off your skills, do things in your free time. Practice makeup and hair, re-create iconic looks; Audrey, Marilyn, Twiggy.
Try to incorporate some form of makeup artistry into your school or college work to make your portfolio relevant to the course you are applying for. For example; I was set a fashion project on ‘paper’ and whilst every other student was constructing sculptural garments, I was folding, cutting and manipulating paper, printing the patterns onto transparent sheets, projecting them onto bodies and using body art to give the appearance of clothing. It’s all about looking at things with a ‘makeup mind!’
Be prepared for your interviews, an interest in the arts is essential, not just makeup but all elements of production. Know your favourite films and directors, theatre shows and production designers, makeup brands and products. Standing out is what will get you noticed, but do this with your talent and knowledge rather than crazy hair and makeup!
The syllabus for makeup courses will vary, most are heavily focused on fashion and photographic hair and makeup and involve 90% practical work which is great for developing your skills. My course was constructed differently and, being a specialist degree, demanded a lot of lectures, essay writing and design work alongside the practical lessons.
Practical lessons included make-up application for film, television and theatre, advanced prosthetic and casualty makeup, historical wig dressing, sculpted wig construction and hair-styling.
Our knowledge and understanding was developed through lectures in cultural and film studies, which introduced us to different perspectives of performing arts.
Design workshops helped to process our project concepts into something visual. The course required collaborative projects which allowed us to create entire characters with makeup, costume and technical effects. This method of shared learning allows creative partnerships to form, which are essential when working in the industry.
In my second year we were required to do a number of industry placements which really tested my skills. I learnt more in those three months than I had in my first two years because nothing can prepare you for the reality of working as a makeup artist.
Work placements are the best way to set up future contacts and employers which are instrumental to your success after graduating. Network and build contacts whenever you can, it’s all about who you know and gaining a good reputation in this business to get your name known.
My final year involved showcasing our work in a theatre production where the three courses collaborated to design everything from the set to props, costume, wigs and prosthetic makeup. This was our opportunity to display our work to industry professionals and get noticed. This project was my favorite, it required each and every course member to work together to develop a finished product. Being part of a crew is one of the best feelings about working on a production and I always get a real buzz when I am on set.
Following my degree I went back to college to study for a further qualification in hairdressing. From my work experience I realised that hairdressing was an additional interest of mine and a key skill to have as a film and television makeup artist. It is not essential to do this and many of my peers went straight into work and developed their skills on the job instead. It is always useful to update and expand your skills with training and courses along the way. The world of hair and makeup is forever developing so there is always something new to learn.
If you are looking to do any further courses in hair and makeup, my advice would be to either learn through a placement or work experience, or do an intensive course. These may work out more expensive, but the sooner you get yourself into the industry and working, the better.
Google makeup artists and production companies for television, film and theatre shows and write letters asking for work experience. Many makeup artists take on assistants to help them, it might mean making the tea and washing makeup brushes, but it’s a start!
Build contacts with people in other departments, you never know who might pass your name on.
Always have a friend who is into photography, it’s a great way for you both to get some practice in and build up your portfolios.
In addition to the degree at LCF, specialist courses are on offer at Greasepaint, Brushstrokes and Delmar Academy.
Image credits: Lynda Pearce, Rachel Speke, Faye Windridge, David Cordeaux and Laura Unter.