I get asked the question below frequently, although I hardly consider myself qualified to answer it. This question also differs from the everyday stuff I usually post about make-up, but I thought it may be useful information for those aiming to become make-up artists. I know I had the same questions (and then some) when I was just starting, and everyday, I’m still finding new answers!
Q: I want a future career as a make-up artist and am looking to take make-up classes, but there are so many make-up schools and beauty academies out there to choose from. What school did you go to? How did you narrow your choice down? Is make-up school really a necessary step to becoming a make-up artist?
You’re right. There are a wealth of schools and beauty academies out there to choose from and it can be seriously overwhelming trying to decide which would be best for you. (But hey, it’s better to have selection right?)
I attended Ryerson University’s School of Continuing Education and obtained a Certificate in Advanced Make-up Artistry and Special Effects upon completion of the course this past August 2008. The course itself spanned about a year and encompassed everything from bridal and glamour make-up to stage and prosthetic make-up.
I actually can’t say that I did the conventional school-then-work route either – I guess I did it kind of backwards. While I was studying for my Psych degree at the University of Waterloo, make-up was a love I could never suppress (even sacrificing precious study and sleep time to go through my usual 40 minute make-up routine!). While still a university student, I started working my first paid part-time gig (aside from some freelancing at that point) as a Make-up Artist for various prestige make-up lines including Estee Lauder, Lancome and Christian Dior. I remember being so excited about that interview – using a point and shoot camera to document different looks I had done on myself and on friends, enlarging them for print and then presenting it during my interview while being extremely anxious. I did not have any formal training at this point; I had learned a lot of what I did from experimenting on my own face and from flipping through beauty magazines for inspiration.
After completing my undergrad, I worked as a Make-up Artist for Inglot Cosmetics. At that point, all things still pointed to make-up and I made the decision to improve my own technique and started shopping for make-up courses. I wanted to enhance my skill set, as the stage and prosthetic make-up were two aspects of make-up that I likely would never try on my own. I chose the course at Ryerson because it was being lead by Jane Stevenson, well-known throughout the industry for her work in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues and also because it was a night class that fit in well with my schedule. It was a great experience for me, but you shouldn’t base your choice of school solely on where someone else went, as the path is different and unique for everybody.
Some of the more well-known schools out there are Complections, School of Make-up Art and the George Brown & Yorkville School of Make-up and Esthetics. You just need to take a peek at their price range to get an indication of why they command such a reputation. There are other make-up courses offered through more affordable avenues such as the School of Professional Make-up, Seneca, Humber and Ryerson and most of these schools offer studies both on a full-time and a part-time basis. Before signing up for any, I would recommend getting a sense of the class environment by going for a tour of the school and trying to speak with their teaching staff.
Before choosing your school, keep in mind that the reputation of the school can only do so much. Once you get that piece of paper, you still have to work (and a lot of the times in the beginning do stuff for free) to get better photos and build a portfolio, particularly if you want to make it in the fashion and beauty industry. You will have to network, gain experience (and save money) from freelancing and/or working at a counter and then get even better photos for your portfolio. Rinse, wash and repeat and then hopefully things take off from there! I’m still learning every step of the way – but that’s the fun part!!
Keep in mind that some of the best artists out there had no formal training (think legendary Kevyn Aucoin and modern make-up master Pat McGrath), but were the fateful beneficiaries of hard work, talent, timing and luck. Unfortunately, success does not happen overnight for everyone in the industry, but if you do it for the love of it and continue to work hard, success – once it happens – will be even sweeter!