A rant regarding people who use the term ‘make-up artist’ who can’t deliver what they promise…
I’ve come a long way from plastic pink packaging! With make-up artistry, I get to be the influence that leads to a love affair of colour and character. I encourage personality, experimentation, self-love and a hint of vanity (because in the holy words of RuPaul, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”).
Makeup has been a part of my life since my first £1.99 concealer in ‘Ivory’ (which was still at least 3 shades too dark for my porcelain skin). Early puberty lead to my cracking rack, a height of 5’10, mega oily skin, and bouts of acne on my cheeks all before I turned 12. My mum wasn’t too clued up on cosmetics and skin-care herself. She didn’t have much to offer other than a Clearasil face wash, and the doctor gave me steroid creams that would dry my skin out, bleach my bedding, but still leave my face red and blotchy. My trusty concealer was all I had to make myself feel better.
Who remembers saving up their Saturday-job earnings for their first Urban Decay glitter eyeliner? My priorities were set as soon as I had ‘wages’. My favourite colour was (and still is) green, and my investments in shimmering emerald Barry M ‘Dazzle Dust’ and Urban Decay’s liquid liner in ‘Acid Rain’ made my juvenile makeup collection colourful, but predictable! With gradients of green on my eyes and trademark big red lips, I looked consistently Christmassy (‘red and green should never be seen’?). This is an issue I still had when my hair was mint green, but I would not forsake my holy red lipstick for any fashion ‘no-no’!
Soon, I became infatuate with vintage icons, pin-ups and bombshells. Cue years of wonky liquid liner and ill-matched red lipsticks. Hollywood icons lead me to discover my ‘look’, and most of my photos from aged 15 to 18 pretty much have the same face staring back, accompanied by home-bleached platinum hair and no specific eyebrow shape to speak of *shudder*.
Look at me, I think I’m bloody Gwen Stefani don’t I? I’m 16 in this picture, getting ready for a night of heavy metal and alcohol (as standard).
Being a busty 5’10 blonde at the time had its benefits, and getting into the local metal nightclub was one of them. There was that glorious period of time when Primark started selling plastic boned corsets in various colours of cheap satin and lace. Boy was I a fan! That was my Saturday night outfits sorted, with a tutu/gothic skirt of sorts and ripped fishnets. It was cheaper than saving up for brands like Hell Bunny, Emily Strange, Punkyfish and Necessary Evil. Some of these alternative brands have lived on and adapted to modern styles, others have perished along with Avril Lavigne’s career.
THIS is why lip liner is important… and blusher. I was going for porcelain doll, I ended up with corpse face and bleeding lipstick. CHIC.
Moving on, I studied a performing arts course at university. This meant early mornings, rehearsals, active-wear and a fresh face. I got used to my natural look, not feeling the need for my war-paint of flicks and lips every day. I cut my severely damaged hair off, and was left with a cute layered crop. I embraced a slightly more natural hair shade, and discovered I suited being a redhead!
My ‘night out’ makeup journey through university was basically defining my flicks and discovering blusher. I still hadn’t branched out with my look, but it was getting better! I was also blessed with a few years of better skin, although lord knows why – I had very little sleep and no skincare routine to speak of. Moving from a village in Scotland to a small city in England was scary, but having a high street full of shops, tattoo studios, bars was surprisingly easy to adapt to. And I received a student loan. Oops.
This is when I began to develop my style, purchasing pencil skirts and making sure EVERY outfit had a matching hair flower to go with it. Here’s me on my 21st birthday:
Oh to have this kind of stamina again! I think I had been drinking and dancing since 3pm in my friend’s flat. Give me a beer at 3pm nowadays and I’ll likely call for a 2 hour nap before any kind of evening festivities.
So far, we have a slightly tragi-gothic evolution of a pin-up girl. Judging by the kind of beauties I associate with nowadays, we all seem to have gone through the same journey, wallowing with Amy Lee from Evanescence, yet wanting to look like Marilyn Monroe. Talk about a conflict of interests!
So how did you become a make-up artist Patti? Well my little squirrel friends…
In 2011 I was walking through my town to meet my Scottish sister at the train station. I had some spare time, so what’s a gal to do? Go shopping in the Debenhams beauty hall of course. I had made a bit of effort for my sister as it’s not often I get to see my immediate family. Full hair, makeup, and cute vintage-y styled outfit, I wanted to go shopping. I decided to treat myself to a premium red lipstick, as my go-to rouge up until that point had been a special edition L’Oreal Marilyn Monroe lipstick (this was a long time before I discovered what the phrase ‘cruelty free’ meant).
I was already drawn to the Urban Decay counter, with it’s vibrant silver and purple packaging and edgy makeup artist fronting the wall of cosmetics. She was complimentary and admired my makeup, which made me feel amazing coming from someone with a perfect smokey eye and flawless skin. I mentioned red lipstick and she immediately sat me down to try some on. For some people, this ritual can seem quite normal, but I had always felt like I didn’t deserve the ‘sit down and pamper’ process these counters follow. This is mostly because I knew I usually would only walk away with one product that I had budgeted for, and I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.
She explained their latest new formula Super Saturated lip crayon (sadly now discontinued!) before applying the shade ‘F-Bomb’ on me. Well, little country girl Patti had never seen such pigment, such rich texture, such staying power! SOLD. As I was paying, the makeup artist began asking what experience I had with makeup, and commented on how well suited I was to Urban Decay. I explained that other than researching stage makeup for my degree, I was just eager to learn and fascinated by techniques and new products. I thought she was just being complimentary to entice me back to the counter, but she was in fact scouting me for a potential job! She asked if I could make it to the Trafford Centre in Manchester a week later for an interview, and I agreed immediately. I had been working in Ann Summers for over 2 years at that point, and although I loved my colleagues and it was by no means a boring job, it had never been my intention to stay longer than my degree. I agreed my interview slot and bounced my way out towards the train station, where I greeted my sister with extra enthusiasm! It turned out I had been served by Caron Keane, celebrity makeup artist and national artistry trainer for Urban Decay UK, and she had seen something special in me *welp!*.
Fast forward just over 4 years, and I had worked my way up to a Counter Manager, running Urban Decay in Preston and distributing the UD love throughout Lancashire! I met some incredible customers, each with their own passion for makeup. I brought gorgeous ladies out of their shell, encouraging them and befriending them when they became regular Urban Addicts. Throughout that time I developed my skills as a makeup artist, executing more complex and experimental looks professionally and earning the right to charge for my services.
Do you need a qualification to be a makeup artist Patti? Here’s my opinion…*rant alert*
I have met some incredible makeup artists who have spent years developing their skills through a degree or relevant academic course (Melissa, my babe). I have also met some genuinely awful makeup artists who have the same qualification, but can’t come up with an original look and think that a pop of colour is ‘something different’. I have met people who can beat a face like no other just from practicing in their bedroom (see Ben, SICKENING!), and I have met people who have paid thousands to join a 6 week course for a quick qualification who can’t even apply liquid eyeliner. I always use this example: do you need to go to art school to be able to draw a cat? No. You either already have the ability, or you know you are crap at drawing. I think the same applies to makeup artists. Don’t get me wrong, as an individual, you can perfect your own look and become accomplished in your every day makeup. The question is, can you execute a look on another person’s face to a professional standard?
You are asking someone to pay their hard earned money for you to create something beautiful/different/polished that they cannot achieve themselves. If they require something outside of your skills, be honest. If your tools and kit are valuable, but you do the same nude smokey eye with your beat up Naked palette and use the same over-rated MAC lipstick colour because it is trending on Instagram, how can you call yourself a makeup artist? I call these the hashtag m.u.a’s. They have perfected their selfie pose, bought a handy phone case with a ring-light attached and become best friends with Hula by Benefit. People want to look like them because they take a beautiful picture, but how does it look in real life? And how would they cope when faced with someone who suffers from acne or rosacea? What contouring would they use on someone who doesn’t already have chiseled cheek bones and maybe has more than one chin? I believe part of my purpose as a makeup artist is to compliment someone’s features, to help them accept their beauty, to draw attention away from things that make them self conscious. I want them to be amazed by the confidence it has given them, not just amazed by the blending and sparkle (although that has to be on point).
I will always adore Urban Decay products, and I’m forever grateful for the chance they gave me to discover my passion. I now have the opportunity to work freelance alongside a better paid day-job, and the support I have had from friends and strangers has been overwhelming. I’m so proud to be developing a reputation as an accomplished makeup artist, and I’ve recently presented a masterclass to a local boutique salon to provide inspiration and pro techniques for their resident beauticians.
Forgive me if I’ve insulted anyone in this post, but if that is the case then it’s most likely that you’ve had a wake up call. My intention is to keep the passion and artistry alive surrounding the social media side of makeup artists. Some people let their love of makeup cloud the reality of their skills, and it makes me beyond mad when I have clients telling me ‘I wish I booked you for my wedding’ or ‘I wish I’d found out about you sooner’. I also want to set the expectations of customers, to help them understand that a ring-light and a filter can improve the shoddiest of blending. I’m also a huge advocate of cruelty free products, and in this day and age I don’t see any reason why I should invest any of my money into a company who chooses to test their products on animals, or chooses to sell in China (where animal testing is legally required on all cosmetics). It is pure greed that drives these companies to focus more on their profit from sales in China than their horrific ethics reflected all over the globe.
I’ve never claimed to be the best. I’ve learned from my customers, I’ve learned from the pros, and I’ve learned from fellow artists. The main thing I focus on with my customers is building their confidence, helping them feel just as beautiful and glowing before I’ve even touched their face.
I’m always learning, always growing, and most importantly always blending.