Having a passion for special effects artistry and doing the craft well gives an artist one of two things: A career or possibly just an expensive hobby. What separates professionals from amateurs? It can’t be just a stroke of luck. These are the 7 tips I found were closest to a blueprint of makeup greatness.
Tip #1 – Study anatomy.
Knowing how the body moves and why will be the absolute foundation of all your life-like creations. A seasoned artist can recognize mistakes in this area almost immediately, so it is imperative you have basic knowledge in the human body form.
Here is a link to a book called Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth by Andrew Loomis. It’s a perfect guide to the beginning artist on how to draw believable human figures. It’s a great start.
If you need reference pictures, Artist Anatomy.com has tons of free drawings specifically tailored to the budding artist. They have everything from printable ideal proportion charts to gorgeous drawings of eyes and ears and every limb.
The best advice I’ve seen is to do a live body drawing. You know, with a live person. If you’re like me, to get around that you can just stand in a mirror and study yourself.
Tip #2 – Transform ‘talents’ into amazing skills.
Having a talent doesn’t get you into the hall of fame. Wanna know the ingredients to being an incredible artist? It’s simple. Hard work and practice. Most (if not all) of the self-taught pros out there say if you can’t find a mentor, to read books and, by all means, work on your craft as much as you can. The more mistakes you make and the more you research, the better you’ll become.
Tip #3 – Study art.
It’s a great idea to experience art of every type from historic to comic. Take in the differences and similarities, and incorporate what you learn into your own creations. As a special effects artist there’s no telling what type of project you could work on. A period film will require different needs than a science fiction movie. Your basic knowledge will help you tremendously.
I’ve always loved graffiti and had an interest in its history. This short video shows just how important graffiti is.
Here’s a list of the 10 most famous paintings of all time. Good to know for period research.
Art History Resources on the Web has a gazillion reference pictures and articles with art from every era.
Tip #4 – Sculpt, sculpt, sculpt.
A makeup effects artist can’t get anywhere without the ability to sculpt. Familiarize yourself with the different types of clay out there and their properties. Try recreating a familiar character for practice. Try sculpting one of your own sketches. Test out some tools, make your own. Just do what you can to get sculpting.
You should get use to the feel of clay, its properties, and the tools that help you work with clay. Your small sculptures can become learning tools for avoiding future mistakes.
Here’s a short list of sculpting 101 videos on YouTube that can get you started. If you’re willing to shell out 20 bucks, you can get an excellent (I know because I paid for and watched it) video on how to sculpt textures and forms.
Tip #5 – Get good at digital art.
A likeable trait in an effects artist is the ability to sketch their work both physically and digitally. Artists may gravitate to one or the other, but as a professional makeup effects artist chances are extremely high both will be involved. There are many different types of digital art programs used by effects artists. The ones I hear most about are PhotoShop, Zbrush, and Maya.
Tip #6 – Get your worked critiqued.
An honest and good-natured critique is your best friend. Find a professional to look at your work and see what areas you could improve on. You can join the Make-Up FX forum and share your work there. Or, find someone who is completely unrelated to the field and have them critique as well. Having both viewpoints is priceless.
Tip #7 – Take pictures of EVERYTHING.
I never thought this was that important, but I started reading and hearing it said by many makeup artists. Keep a record of both your best and worst work…and everything in between. To me that seems like a lot, but with some organization and planning, I think I can do it. The value here is seeing your progress, as well as keeping yourself ahead of your portfolio.
Do you have any other tips you’d add to this list?
Leave them in the comments.