Make a career
Working in fashion, television, film or theatre can offer a varied and exciting career, as our former student Kristie Matthiae explains.
Make-up artists often work in a range of different environments during their careers. You might choose to focus exclusively on one area, or try working across different ones (like students who take our 5* Programme).
It's freelance life
One thing to bear in mind is the freelance nature of the job - sometimes it's hard to imagine what you might be doing in a year's time, and job security is usually not guaranteed. On the plus side, as an experienced makeup artist you have the freedom to choose when and where you work, and who you work for.
For more detailed advice, our Open Days provide a great chance to talk to people who have worked their way up and enjoyed successful careers in the industry.
What does a make-up artist do?
As a Fashion Make-up Artist, you might work on photographic shoots for magazines, commercials, fashion shows and personal appearances for celebrities as well as pop videos. Make-up artists often work regularly for the same publications and photographers. New entrants into this competitive industry usually spend two or three years building up a portfolio (which should always contain published work), before signing up with a specialist fashion agent. We've found other recent students have been lucky enough to be taken on by a leading make-up artist either as his or her assistant, or as part of a team.
Make-up work in Television might include historical dramas requiring careful attention to period detail and often elaborate wigs. Or you might work on a live entertainment show and be responsible for making up presenters and guests. Hours can be long - early starts and night shoots are often part of the job.
Quoted in the Daily Mail in 2008, Greasepaint's principal Julia Cruttenden said that initially success in make-up is "60% personality and 40% technique. When you finish your make-up, be fully prepared to hand hairpins to other artists, make tea or clean a wig. Make yourself indispensable - it will help you find work." (Are you a dab hand with the eyeliner? Daily Mail, Thursday August 21 2008.)
If you are working as a Make-up Artist on Films, you will usually be part of a team, doing long hours from early in the morning, either in a studio or on location. On major feature films, there is usually a separate team of hairdressers. You may find yourself working abroad for months at a time. A new entrant into the industry would start as a make-up trainee (or alternatively as a daily - doing occasional days as and when needed). You can hear from our former student Ivana Primorac, now a leading make-up deisgner, about her work on the feature film 'The Reader'.
Our former student Max Campbell specialises in prosthetic make-up for TV and film. Featured in the career section of the Daily Mail in 2008 ('Are you a dab hand with the eyeliner', Thursday August 21), he had this to say: "I trained at Greasepaint and enjoyed the prosthetics part of the course, so when I was offered two days' work experience on [TV hospital drama] Holby City, I leapt at the chance ..." Max's work experience turned into a contract which lasted four years. "For open surgery shots, I made the body cavity and organs, using silcone and colours, to be fitted on to actors playing patients". Max went onto work on the horror film Wolman, making up actors playing the victims of the werewolf. "Research courses well and be prepared for lots of competition for jobs", he says. "As a freelance you have to promote yourself - skills from my previous career in marketing have helped."
On Theatre productions, Make-up Artists usually concentrate on hair and wigs but make-up and even prosthetics can also be important. Several of our students have started their careers as wig assistants in the West End or on tour, usually moving into television or film as well after a couple of years.
Other freelance make-up work includes weddings, makeovers and camouflage (for example, hiding scars).
In our experience, Make-up Artists rarely regret choosing this creative, challenging and often well-paid job. Whether you work in film or fashion, you may have the opportunity to work alongside highly skilled and often famous people. You may also travel internationally and enjoy a high degree of control over where and when you work.
However the very attractiveness of this career means it is highly competitive. Prospective students ask us whether they can be guaranteed a job after finishing their training. Some are lucky, but most students gain their first work experience in unpaid roles for expenses only.
Daily rates vary widely, but usually start at around £200 a day. Experienced artists may earn considerably more than this (and trainees considerably less).