Nathan Johnson: Time Trials - QC Makeup Academy

At some point in life, everyone must face at least one moment when they believe what they are up against is impossible. I don’t know about you, but I have had many. It’s what we do in those moments that defines both our personal and artistic character.

One of my first impossible moments happened relatively early in my career: I was hired as the key artist on a star-studded charity event with a list of stars ranging from A-list to legendary. The talent alone was enough to instill fear, but it was what was required of me that made it feel insurmountable. After I signed my contract, I was informed that there was neither the space, nor budget, for any other artists or assistants, and that I would have a total of ninety minutes to complete eight full faces—all alone. That meant I had eleven minutes each to work on two men and six women of all skin tones, including resetting the station, cleaning my brushes, and chatting with them in between. My jaw hit the floor.

Prior to this event, my record for a full face with lashes was twenty minutes. During my two seasons on Project Runway, that was the time we were allotted, and I adapted very quickly. But this was nearly cutting that record by fifty percent, and even for me this was a tall order. Before panic fully set it, I reminded myself that I had prepared for this… and I’m going to tell you exactly what you need to do to be just as ready.

MUA practicing


First, the only thing you can ever really rely on is training and practice. One course in makeup would not have saved me in this instance and it likely will not save you. I was prepared because I had received an extensive education and I had put that knowledge to consistent practice. If you have taken your education seriously, (mastering the materials contained in Skincare, Master Makeup Artistry, Pro Makeup Workshop, and Global Beauty) and put in hundreds of hours of practice (on a variety of faces, ages, and skin tones), you will never have to worry about your skill and expertise in times of trial. That’s what happened for me. But it was the specific way that I practiced that really prepared me first for Project Runway and the eight mega stars in ninety minutes.

Start Doing Time Trials

Working on friends now and then will also do little to aide you. And spending all the time in the mirror working on yourself will teach you even less. You need to learn consistency, practice your consistency, and practice it in the right way.

Here’s what I did to prep myself — and it’s the best practice advice I can offer you. As you learn the techniques properly, start doing what I call “time trials.” For those of you who are QC students, you should begin this immediately after you have completed Unit B of the Master Makeup Artist program. For those that are not, begin as soon as you know the proper techniques to apply full-face corrective makeup. Set a timer for one hour and place it beside your fully set up makeup station. As soon as the practice client enters the room, press start on the timer. The hour includes chatting and hearing them describe what they want, just like it will in the real world. When the hour ends, stop, no matter where you are and take a picture. You can reference these images to see how quickly your speed and agility improves. Keep doing this on a variety of clients until you are able to fully complete the makeup before the alarm sounds.

After you have succeeded at least five times in a row, change the time to forty-five minutes. Repeat the procedure, capturing it with an image at the end of the allotted time, and continue with this time window until you are able to do it five or more times in a row. Once you master that, change it to forty minutes, then thirty-five, and keep deducting five minutes at a time until you reach 20 minutes.

believe in your training

Believe in Yourself

It may seem impossible now, but believe me, if you start working consistently with time trials, you will quickly increase both your speed and precision. Working in this way requires an extraordinary focus and it will transform your artistry. The stars I worked on that evening proved pivotal in opening doors to new opportunities and they raised my profile as an artist. I was able to achieve this feat because I was highly trained and put my training into effective practice.

The habits you set for yourself today will determine your future tomorrow. So get back to learning, get back to practicing, and prepare yourself for the career you’re working toward.

You’re going to need the perfect professional makeup kit to conquer these challenges! Check out this article!


Author Nathan Johnson

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