Celebrity makeup artist, Nathan Johnson (@nathanwalnut), is QC Makeup Academy’s Executive Makeup Artist and is based in New York City. This month, Nathan explains the importance of global beauty techniques for every makeup artist!
The ability to work on a global palette is a necessity for modern makeup artists. We live in a multicultural world and a strong understanding of the vast diversity of tones, colors, and cultural specifications is just as important as a solid understanding of basic makeup techniques. The wider your knowledge and experience, the more opportunities you will have at your disposal!
Mastery of Skin Tones
There is a basic building block of makeup artistry that most new (and even some experienced) artists all too often overlook—mastery of tone and undertone. It is the ability to recognize the fine nuances in these two areas that set a master apart from a novice. When you train your eye to recognize the differences, however subtle, you will be able to match your client’s skin with ease and perfection.
There are two very important things to consider when finding the perfect products for your client. First, you need to acknowledge the tone of your client’s skin, whether they are light, medium, deep, or any of the levels between. Second, and more importantly, you need to identify their undertone. The ability to recognize whether a client has a warm, cool, or neutral undertone may seem daunting at first, but once you make a habit of it, you’ll discover it’s easier than you initially thought.
Being able to recognize undertones is imperative when it comes to matching foundation because every tone of skin has warm, cool, or neutral variations…even deep tones, which people often falsely assume are all warm! Mastery of undertone is also a secret weapon that will maximize your use of color in all other areas of the face. When you can identify a person’s undertone, you have the full power of makeup at your disposal.
Foundation should always be a perfect match in tone and undertone, but you have many more opportunities to experiment when it comes to lipsticks, eye shadows, blushes, etc. For example, when you use lipsticks or eye shadows opposite to the client’s undertone, you can create specific effects—both positive and negative. This knowledge, when put to practice, will not only allow you to create a perfect base, it will also allow you to properly utilize a host of subtleties that create incredible depth and dimension in your artistry.
A great artist knows these distinctions and how to work with them—and truthfully, it’s a skill that is very easy to learn and master.
Finding Jobs as a Makeup Artist
In the modern world, having a successful makeup career is dependent on an artist’s ability and comfort level to work with people of every shade. It will be near impossible to have a long and successful career in editorial, celebrity, runway, film/television/theatre, advertisement, medical makeup, or even research and development if you are not comfortable working with every tone, undertone and eye shape that make up our rich and diverse planet. The world is smaller than ever before and it is essential that you be trained and ready to work with any and all people who may end up in your makeup chair.
All too often, I hear artists express their fear of a variety of things that really should not make anyone afraid—for example, the Asian eye, deep-toned skin, and cultural makeup applications. Your career will be severely limited if you are only capable and comfortable working with people of a single tonality. It is your responsibility as an artist to get the correct training to meet all the specific needs of each individual demographic, but it’s even more important that you put this knowledge to test by working on a diverse group of friends, colleagues, or neighbors.
To someone who only works on Caucasian skin, it may be shocking to learn that a bright orange color corrector is ideal for making dark circles vanish and adding an overall brightness to deeper skin tones. It may also be news to many that the perfect red lipstick is a staple for some traditional Asian wedding ceremonies. Do you know that what is considered “natural makeup” in the West is very different that what is considered natural in the Middle East and other places? These are only a few of a treasure trove of secrets one will learn when they open their mind and practice to the world of global makeup artistry.
Working with Clients
Being a global artist means having a diversely stocked kit. It means understanding, and continuing to learn about the nuances of skin tone, eye shapes, and even cultural specifics. It means getting proper training and putting that training to work. But, it also means that you will create a larger demand for yourself across a broader spectrum of clients, thus increasing both your hire-ability and profitability. If you are not comfortable working on every skin tone, eye shape, and culture, your career will be limited to your own small town—and all your potential clients will be people who look just like you. When you expand your horizons and work with the rainbow of tones that make up our world, you’ll be ready to work any international runway, film or television set, editorial, red carpet, and anywhere else beautiful faces appear (which truthfully, is everywhere).
As a modern makeup artist, it is essential to be well-trained and prepared to work on every aspect of the beautiful human palette. The techniques you learn when mastering makeup for skin tones and cultures that differ from your own will not only allow you to work on a broader range of people, but these new skills will also impact, inform, and strengthen your current abilities.
Makeup is always changing and evolving, and your artistry should be as well! Everything you learn in makeup will always make you a better (and more prepared) artist.