Friday, 21 December 2012

Mini post- Making a foundation from scratch!

You just need some grease paints and a slight knowledge of colour theory. I used Make Up For Ever Flash Colours for this but Kryolan, Ben Nye and Grimas do brilliant versions.

1. Take small amounts of your primary colours. Red, yellow and blue plus small swatches of white and black.
2. Mix them all together so you get your base. It should look like mud!
3. Add more white or black depending on your skin shade.
4. Adjust with more yellow, blue or red depending on your undertones.

Voila! A custom made perfectly matched foundation or concealer for you or your client.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Tangled Web of Rates and Charging for Your Skills.

I have been contemplating writing a post on rates for a while now but I couldn't find an angle to approach it from. Then I came across a "casting call" on a popular portfolio hosting site. It was posted by a UK based makeup artist working in London and surrounding areas offering her freelance services for £8 per hour. This enraged me to the point that an angle was no longer needed and I just needed to get this post written down and out of my system.

Firstly, £8 an hour is only acceptable in an employed environment such as shops and offices. Secondly, I looked at her work and she is a VERY new artist which is why her rate means she will run her business at a loss and probably starve to death in a doorway using her tattered kit bag as a pillow. Being angry always makes me so dramatic.

The Basics.

All the above aside for a moment...You should not be charging for your services until you deserve to be paid. By this I mean that you need to be able to unequivocally handle anything a client throws at you (metaphorically speaking. I don't want new artists thinking people may actually throw things at them). You need to know your place in the team without questioning yourself. You need to understand how a set works and most importantly you need to know your job inside out and back to front. You need to have worked on every skin type and tone and be able to work as proficiently on every model, actress and person that sits in your chair. You need confidence to make your opinions valid as a client is paying for your knowledge as well as your time, supplies and skills.

"OK smarty pants, how do I support myself?!"

Very simple. You take a different job while you learn your craft. Any job. I worked for a makeup company on counter and LOVED it. Its great experience and the discounts mean your kit will grow to a healthy workable size. You can use your days off and holiday time to assist and build your book. College and school and all these millions of courses only teach you the basics. They don't teach you how to handle a model melt down, an unhappy client, a client who doesn't have the first clue about makeup and therefore cannot tell you what they want, the list is ENDLESS. The only way you can learn these things is by testing and assisting. Assisting experienced working artists allows you to see all these processes in action. It also allows you to see how professional artists handle these things in the context of a professional set. You get to observe and listen and watch and absorb everything without the pressure of a bad decision ruining your career before you have even started.

Life Lessons

I know at least one artist who is phenomenal  They are a far better artist than me. They live in a major market (London) yet their career is stuck in the same place it was 6 years ago because they tried to run before they could walk. A few naive decisions and judgements later, word has spread, they have a reputation as a flake and mud -as they say- sticks. That is quite literally all it takes.

Rates at the moment is such an important issue. Since I started this 10 years ago, I have seen a massive rise in the number of "artists" and a steady decline in rates and its not just because our economy is on its arse. Its because schools/courses/classes are not teaching fundamental business skills or industry standards in pay. These courses happily take your money but they don't comprehensively tell you how to make it back in the future. So what are you actually paying for? You are paying to enhance a skill you already have only to be pushed into a market that is so over saturated with people who don't have a clue that it drives down rates for every single one of us.

How to Starve to Death in London

Back to £8 an hour girl...Lets work this out logically. To start with she does 3 portfolio tests with a net photographer a week (this is me being optimistic)...8 hours per shoot give or take. That's £64 a day. Take off her travel, that cheeky coffee on the way, the lashes she needs, the baby wipes and other disposables and right there you shave off £15. So shes left with £49. Lets round it up to £50 just to throw around yet more optimism, why not? So now as a self employed woman, she wont be paying tax on that income but what about her national insurance contributions? If her income nudges slightly above what I have used as an example a further 9% of her income goes to class 4 NI and regardless of how much she earns she has to pay another £2.65 (as of 2012-2012) a week in class 2 contributions. This will leave her with less than £150 a week to live on. For everything. Rent, bills, food, kit replenishment, travel to jobs etc. All this is based on my eternal optimism that she will do 3 jobs a week with no reputation, no contacts to people who are actually working and no clue of how to run her business. Yes she may make a bit more during wedding season but what about the dry spells? What about for the few weeks over Christmas when everything winds down? The few weeks a year when it dips a little? I am sure you now see my point. 

Industry Standards vs Consumer Perceptions

As a freelancer you never know conclusively how much money you will make from one job to the next. You also never know when that client will action your invoice and actually give you your hard earned cash. In fact, I (and most freelancers I know) spend more time chasing money than they do on set. I wont even get into how they will haggle and try not to pay you at all. Yawn.

Survival and living reasons aside, there is another very important reason why £8 per hour is a completely unacceptable rate (hourly rates like that are not industry standard in print and commercial work regardless of how high you set it but I will address this later). Undercutting your fellow artist will make you very unpopular very quickly. Alienating your peers in this industry is a bad idea for a whole host of reasons that I am sure you can work out for yourself. Undercutting is a sign of desperation and clearly points to someone who isn't ready to be working. This in turn drives down rates and maybe more importantly confidence in our profession. Someone who isn't ready to be working charges this ridiculously cheap rate, does a bad job, client gets what they paid for....I mean client loses confidence. Some are often left with the opinion "We will just have the model do it next time and the photographer can fix things in post..." Wonderful, hey?

This is also about WORTH. Good makeup artists are worth their weight in gold (har har har). Our main job on a working set is to save the photographer hours of retouch. We came into fruition for this very purpose. To make people look amazing on camera before photoshop when it would take lab techs and photographers days and days to repaint negatives. "How about we get someone to just paint it out on the person?" I am sure some very clever person said one day. For the record I don't think this is how we came into being but poetic licence seems to have gotten the better of me. Still, you get my point right? If you can see it in the flesh the photographer has to retouch it. Simple as that. Undercutting other artists damages your worth then filters down to the rest of us. Not cool. For example, I had this conversation a few weeks ago:

Lady: Oh the girl doing our wedding party is only charging £10 a face! You should so do that Lucy! I mean shes getting £70 just for a mornings work...
Me: Nah, I don't really do weddings and when I do its at least £70 just for the brides trial and I am not considered expensive...
Lady: SEVENTY POUNDS?! Seventy whole pounds just to SLAP ON A BIT OF MAKEUP?! wonder you don't do weddings. It only took that girl 5 minutes.
Me in my head: No, YOU are exactly the reason I don't do weddings. *RAGE*

You see? A shoddy artist literally "slaps on a bit of makeup" while charging silly prices and automatically people associate this with every one of us. They don't take into account the length of time you've been working, your skill level, the service you give and the time you take they just think you are the same because that's all they have experienced. In one morning Little Miss £10 A Face devalued us to at least 7 potential clients.

How do we charge?

One major problem in this industry is that we are cagey about how much we charge. If we don't share, how will others actually learn? You can walk into shops and find the prices right there on the shelf and as freelancers we are a product. Its a shame we don't come in a box to be honest as we wouldn't have a lot of these issues if people had to pluck us from a shelf and pay for us at a till....but I digress. I learnt how to price and charge through mentors when I just started out telling me their rates and helping me understand. So I am going to be honest with you lovely readers. Generally its a flat half and full day rate. For big commercial gigs my personal day rate is fixed at £350 for a full day (8 hours) and £200 for half day (4 hours). Editorial doesn't usually pay much and many magazines just offer you the pages, credit and cover expenses. Its up to you to decide if the tear sheets will add value to your book and so increase your work flow. Look books, catalogues, shows etc. I personally don't have set rate. Its a case by case basis and I try to offer a little flexibility for the client (especially if they are a new designer) without pricing myself too low. Rates also differ by area. I am in Liverpool at the moment so my rate will be lower than London or NYC for example.

Find a senior artist in your area who needs an assistant and will mentor you. Good, confident artists wont mind sharing their skills and knowledge with you because they are secure in their own ability. They wont fear you as competition and in turn they wont mind you knowing how much they make.

So get out there, assist your fabulous butts off then go and make some money! Secure your worth and believe that you are worth paying. Every time you turn away a job that wants to pay you pennies because you're "new" and every time you refuse to work for no money (not tests) you are increasing not only the respect you have for your talent but the respect everyone has for our profession. We need to stick together to keep our beautiful, beloved industry valuable!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

How I Started Out in the Wonderful World of Makeup

Growing up makeup had never been a career I had considered. It had never come up in those weird job match/career match software programmes in school and even though from a young age I had been competent with makeup, I just didnt think about it.

So how did I end up here? At 16 I stayed on at 6th form and did an Advanced GNVQ in Health and Social Care. From there I went to university and studied a BA in Childhood Studies. I lasted a year and a half before it became very, very apparent that this wasn't the way I wanted my life to go.

College work still inspires me now.
So I left. I took a year out and worked in a video rental store (which to this day aside from makeup is my favourite job of all time!) while I tried to figure a few things out. I went through all my interests and things I excelled in at school and started to narrow things down. I made a list and crossed things off and in the end I had two things left on there. Movies and fashion/clothing. I was (and still am) a very good sewer and I got consistently good results in textiles during school. So I set about gathering prospectus's of colleges offering a costume design course. It was during this research that I found a course at Hugh Baird College for Media and Special Effects Makeup. On the list of course objectives was a section about putting together a complete character including costume. When I mentioned it to Mum she became more excited than I had ever seen her and said she just "knew" that was the way I should go. Which was perfect because for some reason, so did I. 

I applied for the level 2 (and went on to do 3) a little later than everyone else, as I was still desperately searching for the right path but the course adviser (Sara) was utterly fabulous, interviewed me and let me start asap. It worked out about 2 weeks after everyone else. From the word go, I knew I had made the right decision. Makeup just came naturally to me and I found it was a skill that must have been running through my blood without me ever knowing. I had always been able to do my own makeup nicely, but pro artists know that's not always an indication of anything. My mum told me during this time that I was always good with makeup when I was little,  and she would often let me do her lipstick and eye makeup before she went out!

This was almost 10 years ago now. Not only did I learn the most valuble hair skills I could ever wish for but I made lifelong friends and I still miss my college years. It was quite simply, wonderful. 2 years immersed in makeup and hair and monsters and beauty. Towards the end of the two years, I suddenly realised that come kicking out time, there was going to be 30 or so other newly trained artists all looking for work. So, I hit the internet. I read everything I could get my hands on about what it meant to be a professional artist and how I could get there. Unfortunately, this side of the makeup course was sadly lacking and we really received no guidance in real working world scenarios. It was then that I came across what became my holy grail of information and that is the FAQ section of this forum EmElle's Industry Forums Forums. I read it inside out and back to front. Then over again. I searched and took notes and made a real business plan. It was here I learnt about the importance of networking and building my portfolio BEFORE my course finished. I needed something tangible to hit the ground running. 

My first ever shoot. Shot in my living room
modelled by my best friend.
I searched some more and found some semi pro photographers in my area. I contacted them and explained that I was in college and sent some of my college shots through. I asked if I could meet them and chat about testing with them. For any really new artists reading this a "test" is just that. You, the model, the stylist and photographer all give their time to test out a concept, lighting set up or just the team dynamic. Some photographers will give you images on a CD once they have chosen them others will give you prints and sometimes you will have to pay for the prints yourself either directly from the photographer or from a print lab. Make sure you agree the terms before your shoot so you know where you stand and avoid crossed wires.

I found a photographer who was willing to give me a shot and I worked with him a lot building my book and in turn getting experience and improving my skills. I also started to contact working artists and assisting them. I got the chance to shadow some amazing artists who I learned more from in one day than my whole two years at college, one of which was the off the scale talented Rachel Wood.

Early test shot with a photographer I ended up working (paid)
on multiple jobs and throughout Europe. Shot by Bruce Smith.

Things I learnt During This Time:

1. DO be proactive and contact people whose work catches your eye. If you don't ask you don't get and you have nothing to lose.
2. DON'T work with people that will not benefit your book or your contacts. Concentrate your time on real world, working creative's OR students like yourself with masses of potential.
3. DON'T take paying jobs for free/reduced rates because you are new or a student. You undercut pro artists in your area which will make you very unpopular very quickly and it saturates and dilutes the potential for decent paying work for everyone. You will be in over your head and one mistake on a job could tar your reputation for ever. I am not even being remotely dramatic.
4. DO use your tests to develop the skill of restraint. Crazy, creative makeup is always the most fun but if you're building a book with an aim to work you need clean, wearable, commercial looks. Look at top creative agencies and aim for looks that wont look out of place on their books. (A quick Google search for "makeup artist agent London" will bring up lots of examples).
5. DO "test up"...This phrase was handed to me from an artist I considered to be a "mentor from afar" when I was starting out. The crazy brilliant Tania D Russell. In fact I am probably subconsciously ripping off all of her advice in this blog. Testing up means always go for better models, better photographers, better stylists. Make each shoot better than the last. Its the only way you can progress. 
6. DON'T BE SCARED. You really have nothing to lose by contacting photographers and working artists and everything to gain. Fear of failure will only ever make you fail. Its a vicious cycle.
Another early shoot. This image got me more
work than any other at that time. Shot by
Chris Rout.
7. DO fill your time constructively. If you aren't physically working then work on working. (emails, phone calls, website, blog, youtube etc. )  Make sense? Good.
8. DO get a senior artist to critique your work. It can be hard to open up your work to criticism at first but if you take on board what is said without taking it personally or being defensive, you will grow as an artist. I still have my peers look over shots I am not sure on and always, always take their advice. Never stop learning.
9. DON'T take everything at face value or pit yourself against others. What I mean by this is; just because someone is pumping out behind the scenes tweets of all the fabulous "jobs" they are doing or adds the word "celebrity" in front of makeup artist, the proof is in their work. If their website looks like it was knocked up by a glitter obsessed teenager, they have no celebrities in any of their pictures (and I am not talking about meet and greet style pics either) or they are claiming Estée Lauder campaigns when they can barely manage an eyebrow/hold a camera steady then move on. Focus on you and your career and leave them to it.
10. DO be nice. Its a simple rule. Talent is half the battle but being nice and pleasant to have on set will get you rebooked more than your work. I see artists all the time whose work is lovely but not outstanding and they work 7 days a week, 365 days a year because people like them. They are nice people and deserve that success.

From those first initial tests I was able to approach local agencies who put me in touch with their photographers and allowed me access to their models. I did 6 months on counter with the wonderful Bobbi Brown cosmetics to build my kit and gain invaluable experience, the rest followed. The more I worked the better my book became. I got a great website and had high Google rankings so the work kept coming. The rest as they say is history!

As usual, any questions or comments I love to read them so email me (through my site) or pop them in the comments box or if you fancy it, tweet me @lucyferrr.