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, students are encouraged to practice themselves, and I will 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. Never in all my years of teaching have I taken a brush out of a student’s hand to make adjustments to their work. If I, or any educator took that approach, it would cheat the student out of the opportunity to 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 corrects it on their own, they take the invaluable step towards becoming their own teacher. As they watch their own positive techniques and habits multiply, the result is beautiful and properly applied makeup. The student is then able to train their own eyes (and mind) to naturally make these improvements without any external guidance.
However, online learning does have its challenges. Because there is no one there to ensure that you are putting the time into learning the techniques and practicing consistently. In this case, it can be very easy to slip back into old habits, or to procrastinate for so long 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 can watch the instructions as many times as you want, pausing and practicing as you go. You can, and should, practice them again and again. This repetitive practice is equivalent to 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 an effortless symphony on the face.
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. By dedicating yourself to consistent learning and practicing, your work will always be fresh and evolving. When you receive your feedback from your tutor, you will truly be able to take your work to the next level.
Do not mistake online learning for what is available on Instagram and YouTube. I would not dare to 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 keep coming back to their channel. They are not concerned about whether learn the proper techniques or not. In fact, their applications are often entirely trend-based and all about learning the look, which essentially makes them into a copy artist.
In a proper makeup school, you will not learn looks, instead you will learn techniques. Techniques are the building blocks for every look and they are what will allow you to be a makeup artist and not a copier.
Neither a brick and mortar school or an online school can promise success. I have seen students achieve the same results and successes in both locations. 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 that your 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.