So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 7 – Portfolio Building

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

The next most important step – and challenge – in your progression towards becoming a professional artist is to show people your work. Portfolio building is an ever evolving process. At no point in your career will you ever stop working on your portfolio. HOW you develop portfolio will change, but rest assured, you will always be looking for new work to put in your portfolio.

What is a Portfolio, exactly? Well, good question because in recent years that answer has changed. Back in the day, a Portfolio was a physical book generally 9×12 or 11×14 in size, with printed photos of your work, comme ça;

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell Outside cover of my Portfolio Book portfolio building

Outside cover of my Portfolio Book

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell An inside page of my Portfolio Book portfolio building

An inside page of my Portfolio Book


Thus you will often hear a Portfolio referred to as ‘your Book’. Pre-internet, when a photographer or client would consider an artist for a job, they would call in that artist’s ‘Book’ to review the artists’ most current work. Now days, of course, most artists have a website to act as an online Portfolio. The Book, however, is still part of the equation and most artists still maintain one. My Book is a 9X12 Custom Book which I chose to make in Brown instead of the traditional Black, and I had my name embossed onto it. Most agencies require their artists to have Custom books. For those first starting out, good quality off-the-shelf books – which are much less expensive than Custom – are fine. Potential photographers or clients might use either a book or a website or both to review your work. In my experience, for example say I’m going to meet with a photographer for the first time, they will decide whether or not they want to meet with me based on my website ( Makeupwerks.com ), but then when we meet in person they’ll want me to bring my physical Portfolio Book. Therefore while it is vital to maintain strong web presence, do not make the mistake of letting your Book slide. It is important that you maintain both.

Now that we know what a Portfolio is, what goes in it? This is an extremely broad topic. The kind of Portfolio you will need to develop depends on the type of work you hope to pursue, and most artists actually have multiple Portfolios to showcase different types of work. Regardless of the type of work you want to showcase, be it Beauty, Fashion, Commercial, FX or what-have-you, as an artist you need a variety of the high quality photos showing your best work. That in a nutshell is your Portfolio. When you’re first starting out and have not yet started to book jobs, you obtain these photos by doing what are called “Tests” which is where you, a photographer and most often a hair stylist and a wardrobe stylist will collaborate along with a model in order to get photos for each of your books. Again, the operative word is COLLABORATION. The test needs to work for everyone involved. A bunch of photographs of the model with hair in their face doesn’t work for you as a makeup artist, hence you need to communicate your needs in advance to make sure you get what you need. You can’t just use any old picture where you happened to do the makeup. There are a lot of variables involved as to what makes a good, Portfolio Caliber photograph. For a photograph to be truly Portfolio caliber, all elements – photography, makeup, hair, wardrobe and the model – need to work. Good makeup in an otherwise bad photograph is just a bad photograph. You can save yourself a lot of time and heartache by doing some solid advance planning before starting to test for your Book.

Here now, are my suggestions for getting started on building and developing your Portfolio. Those of you who choose to go to a Makeup School will have a slight head start as most schools offer some form of Portfolio Development as part of the course. The following will still apply, however, as you go forward from school.

1 ) Use The Internet Carefully

As I stated in the previous article, I’m not a huge fan of the Model Mayhem, One Model Place, etc. type sites because there’s a lot of questionable talent on those sites. There are industry directory sites such as Workbook, Alternative Pick, etc. but those are **completely** different. IF you choose to participate on the Model Mayhem type sites be very discerning and more importantly discuss all the concepts in advance as well as how you are going to receive your images after the shoot. Again – Discuss All Of These Elements In Advance. This is a collaboration and you need to make sure that you are on the same page with the photographer with whom you plan to work and you also need to make sure you get what you need from the test.

2 ) Community Colleges and Art Schools Are Better Resources

Almost any city in America (and around the Globe) will have a local college with a Photography department. If you’re in a city like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. you are lucky to be living in cities with some of the finest Art Schools in the US. Here you will find the best and brightest emerging photographers who are also working on their craft and who are required to produce a Portfolio in order to graduate. Hence any photography student shooting any kind of beauty or fashion needs to collaborate with makeup, hair and wardrobe. Call the schools, ask for the photography department and start networking with these emerging photographers.

3 ) Use the 6 & 6 Rule™

The 6 & 6 Rule™ was something I developed in my Workshops in order for artists to be realistic in charting their progress. When you first start testing – particularly if you did not go to any kind of formal instruction – your early shoots will be very hit or miss. This is fine, and in fact it’s important because you need to learn how your work photographs versus how it looks to the naked eye. I find that it takes most emerging artists about a year to get their first working Portfolio. The first six months will be spent in the hit or miss learning phase, and in the second six months you should start honing in on what works and start getting consistently good photos. Obviously, this is not set in stone and some people may get a working Portfolio faster and some may take a bit longer, but this is a general guideline that most of my students have found useful.

4 ) Models Are At Modeling Agencies

Not every pretty girl is a model. For a working Portfolio, you need to have real models in your photographs. Yes, there are some very good models online, but again, the whole online scene is extremely hit or miss. You can cut down on excess steps and taking the long route by simply doing things correctly the first time, and that includes working with real models as quickly as possible. Will you be working with Gisele Bundchen right off the bat? Of course not, but just as you as an emerging artist need to develop a book and an emerging photographer needs to develop a book, most modeling agencies have what is known as a “Development Board”. The Development Board consists of the newly signed, emerging models who also need photographs for their book. When you have a few good, clean pictures to show, introduce yourself to the booker in charge of the Development Board and inquire about testing with their models. Different agencies will have different procedures as to where to go from there, but trust me this is a MUCH more efficient way to find models to work with than placing a Craigs List ad.

5 ) Headshots Do Not Count

Actors headshots are not generally used in a pro makeup artists’ portfolio. You want your face shots to be Beauty shots, not headshots. Think of the difference between a cosmetics ad and an actors headshot. You want your photos to look like they come from the pages of a magazine.

Edit: I heard your cries and I have added a chapter on purchasing an actual Portfolio.

Next Installment: Marketing Basics Now Added: The Actual Portfolio

Previous Installment: Kit Building

The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 6 – Makeup Kit Building

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Now we’re starting to get to one of the fun parts about being a makeup artist and that’s makeup kit building. Needless to say, the major investment of and throughout your career will be your kit. By a “kit” we mean the tools and products necessary to do your job as a makeup artist. What type of kit you need will ultimately be determined by what kind of artist you hope to be. Everyone needs a basic beauty kit, and that’s what most schools will require so you can go through the basic makeup program. If you plan to do Character and FX makeup, then you will need to add an entirely other array of products to your kit in addition to your beauty kit. If you plan to start airbrushing, that’s a whole other set of product and tools you need to add. And finally, in most markets you should be prepared to do some basic hair and that’s even more tools and products to add to your kit. Again – makeup kit building is the major investment of your career. Therefore doing so thoughtfully will serve you better as an artist in the long run.

makeup to go blog makeup artist san francisco makeup artist los angeles Tania D. Russell old Makeup Kit

makeup to go blog makeup artist san francisco makeup artist los angeles Tania D. Russell old Makeup Kit

one version of my makeup kit


The above is a version of my makeup kit. Yep, that’s it. And within that small 20* suitcase I have the tools and product necessary to do both makeup and hair (my tools and a power-cord are underneath what you can see here). The major mistake that young artists make is at a time when they can most likely least afford to do so, they want to buy every single item of everything. Tempting though this may be – and trust me it’s still a temptation even at my stage in the game – it’s really important to control your costs because in your first few years of being an artist you’ll have a lot of them. If you blow all your money on your kit, you won’t have any left for promotion so then you won’t be able to get any work. That’s no good. As a freelance makeup artist you are your own small business so like any successful business you need to know where to spend money and where you can save.

1 ) Start Using Professional Products

Yes, there are instances where drugstore brands are the thing to use (I’m a Great Lash mascara girl all the way!) but you won’t want to build an entire kit of those products. Firstly, it just looks tacky to show up to a job with an entire kit of cheap product. Secondly products that are made for end user, everyday wear may or may not translate well to photography so you need to build your kit with that in mind. For this reason not all department store brands necessarily work, either. At the department store level, however, there are brands that are Professional brands in consumer packaging (Nars, Make Up For Ever, most Bobbi Brown, most Laura Mercier, Smashbox, Stila, etc.). The brands most young artists don’t know and should become aware of are the old-school theatrical brands like RCMA, Kryolan, Ben Nye, Mehron, etc. If you don’t know any of those names go hit Google. They will be very useful in building your kit. Lastly, if you’ve only ever used consumer product, professional products feel and work quite differently so you’ll need to get used to working with ‘the real thing’.

2 ) Consider A Pre-Assembled Kit

A good way to hit the ground running is to get a pre-assembled kit, much like what they have at makeup schools. The downside to a pre-fab kit is that no one can include everything, there’s always something else to buy. The upside to a pre-assembled kit is that a well done kit has all the basics necessary to get started so there is no guess work on your part as to what to buy. Also a good pre-assembled kit has professional grade products. I’ve seen a lot on-line kits of questionable levels of quality so here I am going to make a specific recommendation; Camera Ready Cosmetics Deluxe Kit (follow the link and then Search for DeLuxe Kit) . If you’re a regular Makeup to Go reader, you’ll know that Mary Erickson is a trusted colleague of mine and a long-time respected working artist. She actually has two kits, the Basic and the DeLuxe, but I vote for the DeLuxe because it’s not that much more expensive and it adds professional grade liquid foundations which you would need to buy eventually anyway. Many of the products included in the Kits are items I personally use, and the quality of products included are professional level. You can order in a case or just the product alone if you already have a case. Also, my Workshop students get a discount code upon registration for one of my classes. 🙂

3 ) Know Where To Shop and What To Buy

If you’re going to go out and purchase your own kits, it’s really essential that you know what a professional kit is comprised of and where to get said products, particularly if you are outside of Los Angeles or New York. In my Workshop I provide students with a list of my specific preferred products as well as resources of where to buy. If you’re not in California to take my class (or you are thinking about taking my Workshop and would like the list before hand) you can purchase the list for $10 including shipping. The list is organized by Product Type (followed by my specific brand recommendations), and in Order of Priority so you know what you need to get right away and what can wait for later. I’ve designed it to be a great resource for DIY Kit Building, and you can order it by hitting the Buy It Now button below. (Note – if you order the list and then decide to take a Makeup to Go! Workshop, we will deduct the $10 from the price of your class.)





4 ) Tools Are Part Of Your Kit

Included on my list and also in Mary’s kit are Tools. Some artists – myself included – believe your tools are actually more important than your product. There are times when you’re working for a client and you may have to use a specific brand or product and not your pet items. However with proper technique and tools you should be able to get any look you want with any brand you may have to work with. Buying tools can be very very expensive, but there are ways to get the quality of brushes that you need at more reasonable prices.

5 ) Hair Too?

Yep, you’ll need to do some basic hair in most markets. By “most markets” I mean, anywhere in the United States not called New York City and even in New York more and more artists are being called upon to do both makeup and hair for commercial clients. Reason being that budgets are just getting smaller and its obviously less expensive for a client to hire one artist who can do both than to have to hire two separate artists at full rate. You don’t have to be Orlando Pita, you just need to be competent. When you’re ready to start marketing yourself for work, you won’t want to lose good paying jobs because you refused to learn hair so just go ahead and learn some basic hairstyling and keep a basic hair kit.

6 ) What About Airbrush Makeup

I’m actually going to talk a bit about airbrushing in a later installment, but if you are going to include airbrush in your skill set and services that you offer, bear in mind it costs about $1000-$1500 to get into it (that’s including tools, product and education). Some artists swear by it, some (myself included) barely use it. Again, we’ll get into the pros and cons later and I’m actually going to pull in the advice of some of my artist friends who do use Airbrush for that section. In the meantime I’m just bringing it up so you can be aware of the initial investment associate with it.

RESOURCES For This Section:

Camera Ready Pre-Fab Makeup Kits

Makeup to Go Preferred Kit Items List

Next Installment: Porfolio Building

Previous Installment: Going It Alone

The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 5 – Going it Alone

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

At the end of my last chapter I wrote that the next chapter would be on Kit Building. However, a few folks emailed me and asked how to embark on becoming a professional makeup artist without going to school. This is a fair question, particularly since I am a partial DIY artist myself (I went to school for film makeup after college, but working on films wasn’t my thing so I learned the print side of the biz all on my own…). Here are a few suggestions to guide you on your self-tour (note: all of these suggestions apply to artists who plan to go take lessons as well, it’s just that a good school or workshop will generally bring these points up). View Post

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 4: Good Instruction

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

If you’ve decided that some type of formal education is the way to go for you, the next step in your journey is to find the best education option for you. In this chapter I’m going to mostly focus on schools because schools are the most expensive option in terms of both time and money, but all of the points – with the exception of licensing – also apply to selecting a workshop or private lesson as well.

One of the challenges of finding quality instruction is that makeup instruction is literally the wild west. There are no governing bodies overseeing makeup artistry the way there is for Cosmetology. This means that anyone, yes, literally Anyone can wake up one morning and decide to teach makeup. View Post

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 3: How

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist How

Your next step in becoming a makeup artist is to learn makeup. I’m sure some of you think you know makeup but chances are if you’re just starting out you do not, at least not to the extent necessary to work on the high-end projects you are currently coveting. This is not to discount whatever level of experience you may already have, but it is to say that there’s a reason the people who get hired for those high-end projects are the ones who get hired. As the old adage says, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and for the aspiring makeup artist that first step is becoming good (if not great or excellent) at the craft of makeup. The best way to go about doing so depends on the individual but there is one question that comes up over and over again: To School or Not To School – That is the question.

Disclosure # 1 – I used to be very anti makeup schools.

Disclosure #2 – I now teach at one.

How did that happen? Well, I tell you, despite the fact that I started my workshops as a reaction against makeup schools, I ended up teaching at one because of said workshops. The reality of the matter is that everyone learns differently. Some people can watch something once and they’ve got it. Some people can read and study and then go grab a friend and just practice until things start to look right. Others need lots of repetition along with a watchful eye to guide them in the right direction. Again, becoming an artist is non-linear so whatever method works best for you is whatever method works best for you. There is no right or wrong, better or worse. It is essential to find the method best for you, however, because pursuing the wrong method may impede your progress or halt it altogether.

Another reality is that not everyone starts his or her career at the same skill level or with the same skill set. Some people are very naturally talented and it’s just a matter of some practice to refine their skills and further develop their talent. Some people have never touched a makeup brush before in their lives when they decide this is the profession they want to pursue. Still others are honestly not naturally talented, but have the love, passion and desire to succeed in this profession and are willing to do what it takes to become a good makeup artist.

How do you know what kind of learner you are? These are the three basic kinds of learning types:

Visual Learners – those who learn by seeing
Auditory Learners – those who learn by listening
Kinesthetic Learners – those who learn by doing

Many artists think they’re visual learners but when I start working with them, they actually turn out to be Kinesthetic learners. Makeup is in your hands, literally. You have to DO makeup to become good at it. I’ve run into a few very very talented souls who can truly look at something once and just do it cold, but most of us will need some level of hands-on practice and repetition in order to become skilled in our applications.

Thus for those of us who learn by doing, lessons, workshops and schools are our best bet for learning makeup. Which one to choose is individual and there are pluses and minuses to each choice. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each choice:

Lessons
Pros
• Individualized attention
• Customizable to your specific needs
• One-on-one just you and your teacher
• Teachers will often let you work from their kit (I do in my private lessons)
• GREAT for those already doing makeup who want to learn new skills or go in a new career direction (i.e. a bridal artist who wants to start doing photographic makeup)
Cons
• Some students feel more comfortable having other students working along side them
• Seeing other people’s work can inspire or instruct your own work
• Shorter instruction period (1 day vs. several weeks or months)
• No one can fully learn makeup in a day. Student will need a support system to be able to continue to practice and learn in order to continue as an artist.
• Will eventually need to get your own kit in order to continue
• More expensive than workshops
• There are no standards of who can teach. Teacher may be a successful working artist or they may not. Research is vital.

Workshops
Pros
• Get to work along side artists who are also just starting out.
• Get to see how makeup looks on different face types.
• Can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.
• Most workshops have a smaller class size.
• Generally the least expensive education option
Cons
• Have to follow a pre-set curriculum.
• Will likely need to bring your own kit and tools. (I provide some basics in my workshops but it’s better if you have some makeup as well and you do need tools)
• Shorter instruction period (1 or 2 days vs. several weeks or months)
• No one can fully learn makeup in 1 or 2 days. Student will need a support system to be able to continue to practice and learn in order to continue as an artist.

Schools
Pros
• Get to work along side artists who are also just starting out.
• Get to see how makeup looks on different face types.
• Can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.
• Most good schools have teachers who are working professionals.
• Most good schools include a full kit for students to get started as part of their tuition, or have one available for purchase.
• Most good schools have classes on business development and portfolio development in addition to makeup application.
• Longer instruction period: Most school courses are anywhere from one week to a few months depending on the program you take
Cons
• Most expensive option.
• Longer time commitment
• There are only so many good schools thus you may have to relocate for a while.
• Not all schools use a hands-on class model. Many do mostly discussion and a little hands-on work.
• Not all schools are certified for secondary instruction (very important).
• THERE ARE A LOT OF BAD, DISREPUTABLE SCHOOLS

That last Con was my most prevailing reason for why I was so anti-schools for so long. There are a lot of baddies out there. A. Lot. Of. Baddies. In fact there are more bad schools than there are good, in my opinion. In my next segment we will discuss what to look for and how to find a good school, and why I chose to teach at the school that I did.

Next Installment: Good Instruction – Picking a good school.

Previous Installment: Now Why

The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.