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Workology: How to Become a Professional Makeup Artist

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So you wanna paint faces and such, huh? At least that's the goal of a reader who emailed me a few days ago to ask what she should do to find her way into a career as a makeup artist in the fashion and runway arena. It's also the dream job of a teenager I know, the daughter of a high-school friend who says she thinks maybe her husband's not going to like hearing his kid doesn't want to go to university. *grin*

The great thing about makeup artistry is that if you have a flair, a talent for it, and the passion to pursue it as a vocation, you don't have to go to university. Many of the top pros I know didn't even go to makeup school. They taught themselves, maybe worked at department-store makeup counters, and early on put themselves in apprentice positions to learn from industry experts, honing their skills until they became known in their own right. Now their names appear in international magazines, they pop up on national and international television shows, they're quoted in countless beauty stories, some land spokesperson gigs for huge cosmetics and grooming brands, and guess what? They make a pretty good living.

To snag a makeup-assistant position -- an unpaid gig, FYI -- your best bet is to contact the makeup-artist agencies in the biggest city you can access, which, hopefully, is the city from which most advertising and magazine work originates in your home country.

If you don't know who the agencies are, read the bylines in your favourite local fashion and beauty magazines. In each makeup-artist credit, you should see the artist's name followed by the agency he or she is with. Contact as many of those agencies as you can, make an appointment to meet with someone, and ask about apprenticing with or assisting their artists for free. Expect to do things like go on coffee runs and clean brushes -- "What Not to Wear" makeup star Carmindy did exactly that in her learning days. Whatever work is asked of you, do it eagerly and in good spirits. You want to get on set and backstage, to learn from every artist you can.

Take makeup classes if you like -- they're usually taught by working industry professionals. But chances are you'll gain more from watching pros work and being in the thick of things. Read every respected beauty magazine, stay on top of runway trends as well as red-carpet looks. Also take every opportunity you can to do makeup. Make up your family and friends, offer to do weddings, work with new photographers -- anything that will expand your experience and body of work. You might also consider contacting established artists through their own professional websites or blogs to ask whether they might have any advice to share.

The key of course is to follow your passion. Clichéd, yes, but frankly, if you really want to do something, you'll find a way. Truth.

Photo, Eddie Malter.