2 Pro Trainers Told Us Exactly What It Takes to Make It As a Makeup Artist

Updated 07/27/17

As professional beauty buffs, we're constantly reaching out to makeup artists to learn best practices for wrangling all sorts of products. Full of life-changing tips and secrets, it's easy to forget these virtuosos didn't come into the world pre-armed with ace eyeliner skills and wearing a brush belt. So, recently we got to thinking, who taught these talented makeup mavericks all they know? (And how do we contact those geniuses?) Of course, the people responsible for unleashing trained makeup artists upon the world are none other than pro teachers. (Think of them as the experts tasked with developing the next breed.) Amber Moxey and Rox Baldan are two such individuals. Both work as trainers at The Makeup Institute, a prestigious Sydney makeup school dedicated to coaching the next generation of Charlotte Tilburys and Michael Ashtons.

Savvy to every beauty hack in the book, and full of advice on how to make it as a successful makeup artist, we reached out to Moxley and Baldan and asked them to divulge all they know. From the most common mistakes they see even the most experienced artists make, to the best career advice they've received, we've got the insider intel on what it takes to make it as a pro.

Keep reading for all the insider info.

How to Be a Makeup Artist
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BYRDIE AUSTRALIA: What are the most common mistakes you see less experienced makeup artists make?

ROX BALDAN: Firstly, don't always insist you know everything. Assist where required, especially when working in a team, and follow directions from seasoned professionals, even if you are only removing nail polish. Also, not doing enough research or being prepared for the job—this is fundamental. If you don't understand what is required, don't assume. Always ask questions, pay attention to detail, take notes, and never deviate or stray from what is asked.

AMBER MOXEY: I think in the beginning there is a tendency to freeze up a little if something isn't working, but with time and practice there is a shift and we start becoming more solution-based and become able to troubleshoot with confidence. It's also important to make mistakes; it's a crucial part of learning. Some of the best work comes from making a mistake.

"Always ask questions, pay attention to detail, take notes, and never deviate or stray from what is asked."

B: Are there any mistakes you see even quite experienced makeup artists make?

RB: Not breaking old habits to create new fresh ones. Don't get too comfortable—push the boundaries and challenge your skills. Not staying current and forecasting trends is another mistake. Along with miscommunication when it comes to breaking down the brief—it's important to be clear. Not having a product or running out of something mid-job is another error I've seen. Often, things go wrong creatively, or you're just having a bad day. This happens as well. Lastly, I've seen so many artists get lost on their way to a job, and end up late. Always leave yourself enough time.

AM: Assuming your assistant or less experienced artists have nothing to teach you.

"Seek out any opportunity to learn. Even if you are specialised in one area STAY OPEN—everyone has something to offer."

B: If there were one thing you wish you could impart on all of your students, what would it be?

RB: I would say determination. Be fierce in a good way! When I moved to Sydney I knew two people. I didn't have a job and had $800 left after the move. I had to start all over again and had loads of rejections. I did a range of jobs from hairdressing to promotions for various cosmetic brands—even spraying fragrance on blotters in department stores. I eventually began studying makeup again while I was working in a hairdressing salon four days a week to pay my rent. I was flat-out all seven days. Once completing my studies, I was employed as an educator, but after a few years the school shut its doors and I was out of a job again. I remember doing a "Thelma and Louise", packing my little car with a surfboard inside and driving to the Gold Coast with my flatmate. Then an opportunity came along as a "wiggy" in the theatre musical Showboat. I had minimal experience, but I did learn not to melt wigs in the oven! After a few months, the stars aligned when MAC launched in Australia in 1998, and I began working there.

AM: Seek out any opportunity to learn. Even if you are specialised in one area STAY OPEN—everyone has something to offer.

B: In your experience, what traits do all successful working makeup artists have in common?

RB: Drive, being self-motivated, an ability to work very hard either solo or in a team, and adaptability to change. These things need to be in the natural core of your being.

AM: Excellent interpersonal skills, a willingness to share their experience and knowledge, and humility.

"A lot goes into the decision-making process inside the mind of an artist, before the brush ever touches the face."

B: What's something most people would be surprised to learn about makeup artist training?

RB: There are many layers to makeup artist training and it is a continual learning cycle throughout your career. You are forever pushing your creativity. However, you must also understand business structures, how to establish industry networks, and how to build business relationships. Training can be intense. At The Makeup Institute, the Diploma of Screen and Media in Specialist Makeup Services takes 40 weeks to complete, and during this time you must also complete industry experience.

AM: The theory side. We study history, colour theory, and human anatomy, just to scratch the surface. A lot goes into the decision-making process inside the mind of an artist, before the brush ever touches the face.

"Accept the career-defining moments even if [you're] afraid, and don't give up."

B: What's the biggest career mistake you think a budding makeup artist could make?

RB: Not accepting career-defining opportunities out of fear or self-doubt, or being put off by knock-backs.

AM: Speaking negativity about other professionals in the community. It gets you nowhere, fast.

B: And on the flipside, what's the best thing they could do?

RB: Accept the career-defining moments even if they're afraid, and don't give up.

AM: There is so much talent out there and the makeup world is competitive. What sets you apart may not be your skill set, so ask questions. Say YES. Work hard. Pay attention. Be humble. Use manners. So much of what we do involves working with people that we meet for the first time on the day. Great energy and positive vibes go a long way. You want to be remembered for the right reasons.

B: What kind of personality do you think does best in your industry?

RB: You have to be quite flexible and personable. Being able to adapt to different working environments in film, television or other entertainment industries is key. You must always be professional and engaging, on the ball and in the moment.

AM: All types. As long as you can be flexible and solution-based.

"What sets you apart may not be your skill set, so ask questions. Say YES. Work hard, pay attention, be humble and use manners."

B: What's the worst thing a client could say to a budding makeup artist?

RB: "Take it off!" Or just to ask for another makeup artist. How crushing. But, it happens to experienced makeup artists too.

AM: Communication is key. When you are starting out it's important to be honest about your skill level. Because you never want anyone to request something you can't deliver on.

B: What are the most common setbacks for budding makeup artists?

RB: Constantly getting out there and not getting the job. Your motivation drops and you lose confidence. You can go through quiet times, so my advice is to have a backup plan or a second job when starting out. You have to walk through the fear, it's so powerful.

AM: Access to different people. To develop as an artist, you need to be able to work with different skin tones, eye shapes, ages, and skin conditions.

B: What's the best advice you've received in your career?

RB: Move to Sydney, become a professional makeup artist.

AM: What sets you apart may not be your skill set, so ask questions. 

B: Any other insider secrets you'd care to share?

RB: Yes! Do you believe in magic? You should. I waited for an opportunity to become a makeup educator for two and a half years, and here I am.

AM: When it comes to your daily foundation, less is still best.

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