Cosmetology has been a popular career path for a long time and while a makeup artist career is a part of cosmetology, its history is not as old. We wanted to provide an overview of the history but also offer information regarding what it takes to be successful in this career today.
People have been creating elaborate facial designs since the beginning of time but as far as modern day artists, it was not until 1964 when William Tuttle received an Honorary Award at the Academy Awards for his incredible work in transforming actors into apes for the legendary movie “The Planet of the Apes”.
Just four years later, John Chambers also received an Honorary Award for the same movie and Rick Baker was given an Academy Award for his work in the movie “An American Werewolf in London.” However, prior to Tuttle making a breakthrough for what would become one of the hottest career opportunities in today’s society, a man by the name of Cecil Howard is considered the pioneer.
Although Howard was originally an actor, starring in a well-known 1914 movie called “The Mystery of the Seven Chests”, it was his work as a makeup artist beginning in 1920 that made him an icon. Over the years, he transformed many famous actors and by 1927, Howard had become the first person to head up MGM Studio’s Makeup Department.
Another powerhouse George Westmore, born in 1879 he would go on to become the patriarch of all makeup artists in Hollywood. Initially, he worked in Hollywood as a wigmaker by after discovering makeup artist work, his passion changed. By 1917, he established the first department at Metro Pictures that handled both makeup and hair. Interestingly, all seven of Westmore’s sons got involved in the world of makeup, as well as many of his grandchildren. As a result, the Westmore family was honored with a coveted Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008.
Probably one of the more intriguing professional makeup artist of all times is Maximillian Factorowitz. Born in Poland in 1877, he developed high quality creams and rouges while working as an apprentice for a local pharmacist. Quickly, his reputation for being an expert in the field, he was appointed by the Russian Royal family, as well as the Imperial Russian Grand Opera to work as a cosmetic expert.
Factorowitz moved his family to Missouri in 1904, selling his famous cosmetics that same year at the World’s Fair. Then just four years later, the family was moved to Los Angeles where he went to work in the film industry although instead of being known as Maximillian Factorowitz, he was called Max Factor. Today, not only are his brand cosmetics among the most popular for everyday women, a special greasepaint he developed to withstand hot stage lights is used by famous actors, both on stage and screen.
The last person who made a huge impact on makeup artist history is Lon Chaney. He was actually a very successful actor but his uncanny ability in doing his own makeup pushed him to true stardom. Due to his unrivaled skill, he was nicknamed The Man with the 1,000 Faces. In 1923, Chaney did his own makeup as well as costume when he played Quasimoto in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and in 1925, he created a mask worn for his part in the silent movie The Phantom of the Opera. Chaney’s ability to morph into bizarre characters inspired others in this field.
Types of Makeup Artists
Keep in mind that working in Hollywood is the ultimate goal for many people but this type of professional is also heavily involved with local theater across the country, provides services for celebrities and high-profile clients, and sometimes, works in high-end spas where virtually anyone could benefit with these makeup artist jobs.
What makes this particular career so fascinating is that responsibilities vary significantly based on the type of services offered. Below a brief description of responsibilities has been provided according to the exact position held within this industry.
Fashion Industry Makeup Artists – Work performed by makeup artists working in this industry includes getting models prepared for runway shows, advertisement work, and professional photo shoots. Success is achieved by someone with an eye for detail, artistic ability, and knowledge of working with lighting in different environments.
Freelance Makeup Artists – Instead of working for an organization, one could choose to conduct freelance work. With this, a strong portfolio would need to be created to show potential clients type and level of qualifications, education and training completed, experience which includes the names of previous employers, impressive references, and samples of work performed. Although it takes time to build a solid customer base, freelance makeup artists have more flexibility and with hard work and determination, they can often earn more money.
Service Industry Makeup Artists – In addition to doing a person’s makeup, someone working in a spa, resort, salon, or fitness center setting might also provide body waxing, hair removal, skin rejuvenation, facials, and other types of skin treatments.
Special Effects Makeup Artists – This professional is known for FX makeup skills, having the ability to morphing normal features of people into something bizarre, grotesque, frightening, or dramatic. With fantasy makeup skills, this artist often works with castings or molds, as well as prosthetics to get the desired outcome.
Theatrical Makeup Artists – This person would apply makeup to transform an actor for a particular role. Staying within parameters of a script, this professional’s services would be used for both stage and screen performances. In some cases, a theatrical makeup artistry also offers massages, hairdressing, manicures, and pedicures with everything being done on set.
Theatrical and FX Duties
For service industry makeup artists, work typically involves cleansing the skin and then using standard type cosmetics to create a look wanted by the client. For instance, a woman might use a makeup artist to create the perfect look for her wedding day. Other examples include creating something sultry for a special evening event, a soft and romantic look for dinner with a loved one, or perhaps a more subdued makeover for a client attending a critical business meeting.
However, work performed by theatrical and FX makeup artists takes things to an entirely different level. In this case, makeup artists are responsible for transforming the appearance of a client but along with facial changes, it is common for these professionals to perform body makeovers and create special effects.
The following are some of the tasks that would be performed for the professional working these venues;
- Apply makeup to alter or enhance the appearance of people starring on stage or in movies
- Create and maintain makeup as needed during productions in coordination with different lighting effects for continued effect
- To be successful with the two primary responsibilities of makeup artists working with actors on stage or screen, any of the following tasks would be performed.
- Study a stage or screen script to understand each character’s appearance on a scene-by-scene basis whereby plans could be developed for the appropriate transformation
- Use photographs, sketches, and other visuals to understand desired character look
- Meet with officials for the stage or screen project so desired effects could be confirmed
- Confirm budget constraints and work within that realm
- Assess each actor’s skin type so the safest cosmetics and special effect applications could be chosen
- Evaluate stage or screen environment to include size of venue, type and amount of lighting, and even props so appropriate makeup requirements could be determined
- Requisition materials needed to create special effects to create, which usually includes makeup but also wigs and various types of facial hair
- Choose appropriate makeup type and shade from available inventory or mix colors with the right grease or oil to achieve desired effects
- Work closely with the hair and costume departments so overall look or effect could be achieved
- Cleanse and tone the face of clients in preparation for the application of makeup
- Design and develop prostheses made of plastic or rubber for creating character special effects
- Attach prostheses as needed and according to script, followed by makeup being applied to create special features
- Create special effects using makeup artist skills to include aging, scars, sadness, illness, death, and more
- Duplicate work whereby a character’s appearance would be identical each day of performance or shooting
- Offer assistance to actors with the removal of makeup
Education and Training Requirements
In the early years as shown by the historical examples provided, some of the most famous makeup artists learned the craft by doing their own makeup but with this now being such a competitive career and one in high demand, specialized education and training is mandatory to secure a respected position. To get started, someone interested in working as a makeup artist of any type would need to have a high school diploma.
From there, it would be necessary to complete vocational training, whether as a cosmetologist, esthetician, or hairdresser. Because licensing is required to work as a makeup artist in most states, we recommend anyone interested in this career path start by identifying special education and training needs for the state in which work would be performed. That way, an individual would know the exact skills and knowledge to possess in securing a license to work as a makeup artist.
Preparation is by far the best way to enter this particular field. While this might require more education than the essentials, in the long-run, it would be time and effort well spent. Having a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of three years of experience in the cosmetic industry or bachelor’s degree with at least five years of experience as an actual makeup artist, a person would find more and better doors of opportunity being opened.
Future Needs for a Makeup Artist
According to the latest statistics released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 42,000 estheticians work, with just 2,500 holding positions within the film industry. This alone shows that becoming a reputable makeup artist in Hollywood is hard work.
Being able to see the statistics regarding the number of makeup artists that actually secure positions for stage and movie stars proves the value of getting the right education and training. However, while there is great need for skilled makeup artists to work with stage and screen actors, there are limitations regarding the number of job openings. Even so, with determination and time spent developing a strong skill, getting a foot inside Hollywood door is possible.
Of course, along with makeup artistry work in Hollywood positions are available on luxury cruise ships, high-end day spas, fitness centers, and popular hair salons. Many people find work as a conventional makeup artist completely fulfilling while others strive for more. The important thing for a person to know is that time spent working outside of Hollywood should be viewed as an educational journey, a time when an individual can learn, hone existing skills, and learn new techniques that would provide an edge.
Even for states in which licensing is not required for makeup artists, it would be to a person’s advantage to achieve certification or licensing if possible. The reason is that securing a pristine and high paying position would be more likely than for the person without certification or licensing. Whether someone holds a license or not, the good news is that for makeup artists a 14% increase in demand is expected by the end of 2016.
As far as earning potential, a licensed esthetician or makeup artist only makes between $12 and $14 an hour but with time on the job, potential to earn more would increase. Using experience gained, as well as taking continued education and training through workshops, seminars, and even college courses, opportunity to work for organizations that pay even more would be possible. However, for someone with sights set on working in Hollywood, along with education and training specific to makeup artist services, education in performing arts and/or theater would be essential.
Opportunities for qualified makeup artists are much greater than any other time in history. While getting into the Hollywood scene is challenging, with hard work it is a goal that could be achieved. However, having the ability to create different looks that make people happy and using creative skills are what draw most people into this particular field. To enjoy expected growth and good earning potential, an individual would first complete necessary training and education, followed by pursing the dream.