Celebrity makeup artist, Nathan Johnson (@nathanwalnut), is QC Makeup Academy’s Executive Makeup Artist and is based in New York City. This month, Nathan shares his view on learning makeup online versus learning in a brick-and-mortar school.
A common misconception about makeup education is that you need to learn in a hands-on setting rather than online. Having had experience teaching in both settings, I could not disagree more.
Wherever I am teaching, my methodology is the same. After demonstrating a proper technique, I encourage my students to practice themselves, and I review their completed work. This teaching process is the same, whether the learning is happening in-person or from behind a computer screen.
Some may argue that hands-on adjustments are needed in makeup education, and again, I disagree. In all my years of teaching, I have never taken a brush out of a student’s hand to make adjustments to their work. Instead, I comment on the work and gently direct the student. I praise what they have done well. I guide the student to understand for herself where improvements can be made. I enable the student to make the required changes and adjustments him or herself. I help the student to really train their eyes to see what needs to be adjusted. When a student learns how to spot their own issues, and is able to make all the adjustments and corrections based solely on instruction and direction, then that skill will be theirs for life.
As an instructor, whether in-person or online, my job is to look at a student’s work and guide them verbally. I train them to see what needs improving as well as how to refine their application techniques. This process is very valuable because it trains the student to have an unbiased eye towards their own work.
When an artist is able to see what needs to be corrected and correct it on their own, they take the invaluable step towards real independence, towards becoming their own teacher. As they work, their own positive techniques and habits multiply, and the result is beautiful and properly applied makeup. The student is then able to further train their own eyes (and mind) to naturally make these improvements without any external guidance. The students develop into true professionals.
However, online learning does have its challenges. There is no one there to ensure that you are putting the necessary time into learning the techniques and that you are practicing consistently. It can be easy to slip back into old habits, or to procrastinate for so long without practice that the new material is forgotten. But if you’re determined and dedicated, then this will not be an issue.
In fact, you can achieve an even better education online than you ever could in person. At a brick and mortar school, you hear your lesson from your teacher once and you only get to practice it for a few minutes. In those few minutes, you either get it or you don’t, and everyone else moves on. Yes, you can practice when you get home, but without the visual demo, will you be able to remember what the proper technique is?
In an online school, you move at your own best pace, you can watch the instructions as many times as you want, pausing and practicing and improving as you go. You can, and should, practice your techniques again and again. This repetitive practice is the equivalent of a pianist practicing their scales. The basic techniques may be a bit boring (like the scales), but in time, mastery of them will allow you to create the makeup equivalent of a beautiful symphony.
This pause-and-go style of learning also allows you to watch, practice, and perfect your techniques before you move on and share your work with your tutor. When you dedicate yourself to this process of consistent learning and practicing, your work will always improve and evolve. When you receive your feedback from your tutor, you will truly be able to elevate your work to the next level.
Do not mistake online learning for what is available on Instagram and YouTube. I would never discredit those artists because they are very good at what they do, but it is important to remember that their primary business is getting you to subscribe and to keep coming back to their channels. They are not concerned about whether you actually learn the proper techniques or not. In fact, their applications are often entirely trend-based and all about learning a look, which essentially makes them into copy artists.
In a proper makeup school, you will not learn just looks. Instead, you will learn the techniques that are the foundations of looks. Techniques are the building blocks for every look. They are what will allow you to be a makeup artist and not a copier.
Neither a brick and mortar school nor an online school can promise success. I have seen students achieve results and successes from their training at both types of school. I have seen just as many online students go on to work on celebrities, on TV and film sets, with major brands, and even be agency represented, as I have seen from brick and mortar school students.
Where you attend is far less important than your own dedication. The more time and energy you put into consistent practice of the proper techniques, the more likely you are to find the success you desire.