Wow, this is a bold headline. Are Makeup Artists to blame for the glut of makeup enthusiasts and “insta-famous” “makeup artists” who are saturating the industry? This is a question I have been pondering for some time. There are always a number of Facebook threads and conversations going on about how these “want-to-be makeup enthusiasts”, who say they are artists, are ruining our business. The question of why so many think they can be an educator of professional artistry, regardless of experience, training, or ability, is a constant theme in so many social media platforms.
So the question is why. How did this come to be? With the social media boom we have seen people who we would refer to as a makeup-enthusiast become famous for doing makeup in front of a ring-light on themselves. We see these people on Instagram with millions of followers who are better known to the consumer masses than Dick Smith, Rick Baker, or Ve Neil. We see young people and and makeup hobbyists on You Tube “teaching” how to do makeup. And more recently as professional education has become a popular trend in makeup, we are seeing some of these enthusiasts teaching classes in various cities as professional makeup artists. They are also being coveted by cosmetic companies who see the inexpensive marketing potential of someone with hundreds of thousands of followers happy to get free product.
I think that we have to take some of the blame for this phenomenon.
Before I get into the reason, let me first give some background on the professionalism of makeup artistry. Makeup artists until very recently were behind the scenes. Their techniques and “tricks” were secret and coveted. So much so that artists would often spy on each other to learn. Makeup artistry, like wig making, was considered a craft. It was a trade that was passed down from generation to generation or from master to apprentice. They considered themselves “make-up” technicians, in other words, they made-up people. They made people up for stage, and later for camera. They used a specific set of skills, in many cases created their own products, and they learned and perfected their crafts as they worked.
The regular woman, or consumer, would see these made-up faces on stage and film, and want to wear makeup. Hollywood and Max Factor brought makeup into the consumer market more than it had ever been in the early part of the 20th century. They created a need for the every-day woman to wear makeup everyday. And so the 20th century brought us a world of cosmetics and makeup being created and manufactured for the consumer. And yet, despite how common wearing makeup became to the consumer market, the secrets of the working makeup artist were still behind-the-scenes.
Imagine if you watched an episode of Bob Ross’s painting show on PBS and painted along with him. Or that you attended a “paint party” and created a beautiful vase of poppies by following someone else’s step-by-step instruction. Can you now take commissions to paint cathedrals? Are you qualified to apply at the Art Institute as a professor? Should you tour the country and teach others how to be a famous painter? NO! Of course not. That would be ridiculous. Just because someone can break down their art into a bite-sized task so that you can repeat it, does not make you Michelangelo. You don’t have the knowledge of color theory, texture, medium, light, and technique. You don’t have the experience of a true master. And yet….
That is what we are seeing in the world of makeup. And I think that we as professional artists need to take some of the blame. With social media, everyone is trying to promote themselves. Professional artists are all over Facebook, You Tube, Instagram and Television breaking down skill, and promoting the art of makeup. We make it look easy! We break down a precision line into three easy steps and condense it into a 2 minute “how-to” video. We show our finished work and say “ta-daa!”, giving no time to express how long it took us to do the work, or how many years we have spend perfecting a technique, or how much training we have.
We have broken down what we do for a living into bite-size morsels. And I cannot emphasize enough how easy we make it look. We say, “Look, a quick contour that you can do with these three products!”. We have blurred the line between what women do to themselves everyday and what we do as professionals. I think as social media has made things more visible, we have stepped out from behind-the-scenes and shared what used to be secret with the world. Those enthusiasts and hobbyists are merely parroting what they see. They think they can do what we do because in many ways, that is what we are telling them. And the trickle down of that information, the mentality that “anyone can do makeup” is watering down our profession. Because suddenly “anyone” is doing makeup, and they are standing on our coattails. Coattails that we laid down for them, in an effort to become more visible.
Do I have a solution? No. As the market becomes more saturated we all are striving for more visibility. More hits on our web sites, more followers and “likes”. Artists are trying to work in all mediums and wear as many hats as they can. It isn’t enough to just do bridal, artists want to do commercial work, educate, and get into the consumer market as well. Even selling product is becoming more common. There are now lines created for makeup artists specifically so that they have something to sell to their clients.
This is unchartered territory.
I hope that this article starts a new conversation. I hope that we can find better ways to navigate this phenomenon and our own careers as professional makeup artists. I hope to hear from you on your thoughts.
Thank you for reading.
And BTW, if you do not know who Dick Smith, Rick Baker, and Ve Neil are – find out. NOW! (And I’m serious about this. If you don’t know your history and want to be a professional artist, learn it.)
Until next time, Terri Tomlinson Professional Makeup Artist Dallas.