Job as a makeup artist

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Sophie James started out as a professional ice skater and discovered she had a love for makeup and wigs. She now works as a makeup artist on a range of assignments, from weddings and children's parties, to film, television work and teaching.

How would you outline your role?

I use makeup to transform and enhance a person's looks. They may want to present themselves well for a particular role or function, or simply to make the most of their appearance.

What are your main responsibilities?

At first, I identify the look that needs to be achieved. Then I use makeup, wigs, body shaping and hairdressing skills in a creative and imaginative way to bring this about.

What hours do you work?

The hours vary, according to the client. Sometimes I have to travel for hours to reach an assignment.Weddings usually involve early starts, depending on the numbers of people involved. In film and television work the hours are even longer – the makeup artist is the first person to arrive and the last to leave. When I'm teaching I work from 9am to 5pm.

What is your working environment like?

In the college, I work in a classroom with mirrored walls and tall chairs.When I work at parties and weddings, I'm often in people's homes or in a hotel. For studio work, I will be based in a special makeup room surrounded by mirrors.

What special skills or qualities do you need for your job?

You need creativity, patience and a good imagination. People skills such as empathy and sensitivity are essential – even more so than actual makeup skills, as you are often dealing with people under pressure.

Why did you choose this type of work?

I came into contact with makeup artists when I was an ice skater, and enjoyed seeing how the different effects were achieved. I was offered the chance to maintain the makeup and wigs for the ice shows and eventually decided to train further as a makeup artist.

What training have you done?

My initial training was learning from other makeup artists working on the ice shows. I then took an intensive training course called 'Brushstrokes' at Shepperton Studios. Most of my other training has been on the job and I am now studying towards an NVQ.

Do you use any tools or equipment?

I take a lot of equipment with me wherever I go, including a folding chair, electrical equipment for hairdressing, a large makeup mirror and a good set of makeup brushes and sponges.

What are the particular challenges in your work?

I suffer from dyslexia but it does not affect my competency at work and I have established 'workarounds' for any problems I have encountered. I have to transport a large heavy kit with all my work equipment and this can be awkward and heavy to carry around. Sometimes, meeting people's expectations can be emotionally challenging, especially at a critical time like a wedding or on a shoot.

How do you see your future?

In addition to my makeup work, I'm starting my own company shortly, making wigs, theatrical headdresses and tiaras. What do you like about your job? It is very rewarding to see people grow in confidence when they realise their potential.

Sophie's route to her job as a makeup artist

  • On-the-job training in makeup artistry.
  • 'Brushstrokes' Intensive Media Makeup and Hair Course (Shepperton Studios).
  • Nail Technician Diploma.

Sophie's tips for a makeup artist

  • Be willing to work long hours.
  • Be patient and friendly.

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Salaries for makeup artist

  • A new makeup artist starts from around £15,000.
  • Those with experience can earn from £16,000 to £25,000.
  • Very experienced artists, or those working on major productions, earn £25,000 or more.

Getting a job as a makeup artist

  • Makeup artists usually enter the profession through makeup/beauty therapy courses and work experience in beauty/hair salons. Many artists start in film, theatre or television as an assistant and work their way up.
  • Relevant qualifications include a BTEC National Diploma in Beauty Therapy and a BTEC/SQA HND in Beauty Therapy and Beauty Therapy Management.
  • NVQs/SVQs are available in Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy through a makeup route at Levels 2 and 3.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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