For as long as I can remember, I had an obsession with makeup and fashion. I grew up in the 80′s which meant a steady diet of Madonna,Prince, Duran Duran and Dynasty. My Mom was (and still is) very adept with makeup and fashion as well, so I voraciously read her fashion magazines and studied her every move as she applied her own makeup every morning. Even as a child I knew I wanted to be a makeup artist. Fast forward many years and after completing other goals I set for myself such as earning a university degree from UBC, I began working in various full-time jobs. The desire to become a makeup artist never went away. In fact, it only grew stronger.
I felt that earning a diploma from such a well reputed school would enhance my marketability as a makeup artist.
When I finally decided to pursue formal training, my choice was easy. I knew that Vancouver was home to the Blanche Macdonald Centre, one of the most well regarded makeup schools in the country. Various aspects of the curriculum were designed by industry leaders such as Todd McIntosh, Michelle Pedersen and Jon Hennessey. I regularly received success stories and updates from the school mailing list about its grads, many of whom went on to work with some of the most highly regarded names in fashion, TV and film. I felt that earning a diploma from such a well reputed school would enhance my marketability as a makeup artist.
I already had a natural love and aptitude for beauty makeup, but the curriculum of the Makeup Artistry Diploma Program showed that there was much more that I needed to learn such as makeup for TV/Film and Special Effects in order to make myself as well rounded and credible as possible after graduation.
Blanche Macdonald was my choice for formal training for logistical reasons as well. I could take the option of completing the entire Makeup Artistry Diploma Program on a part-time basis (Monday nights from 6pm-10pm, Sundays from 10am-6pm) over the course of one year; furthermore, the City Square Campus at Cambie Street and West 12th Avenue was conveniently located along a public transit route between my full-time job and home.
Tuition & Other Costs
The approximate tuition for the session starting in November 2006 was about $9,000. I purchased my kit through the school for about $1,100. Fortunately, this also included the airbrush and compressor which I understand would have been much more expensive had I been required to purchase those items independently.
There are also mandatory supplies that almost every module requires you purchase so it is important prepare your finances accordingly. For example, when I took the program there were no hairstyling supplies included in the kit so on the first day of the hair seminars, the students were given a list of products, brushes, combs and appliances to purchase. The TV & Film and Special Effects modules also require the purchase of specialized products that are not included in the kit. Fortunately in the case of some of the Special Effects products, students are often able to purchase large quantities thus sharing the cost. These additional financial costs can run from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars depending on how elaborate or in-depth you wish to go in your training.
There may be additional costs incurred when building your looks for some of your final exams. For the TV & Film and Special Effects modules, you are required to create full camera ready characters so depending on your design and what you have available to you already, you may have to purchase props, costumes, or additional wardrobe items.
The program is broken down into several modules, each of which require written and practical exams as well as projects and assignments to reinforce the material covered in class.
- Makeup Fundamentals: tools, brushes, sanitation practices, skin structure, face shapes, commercial versus professional makeup lines, skin tones, colour corrections, highlighting & contouring, colour theory, sequence of makeup application, daytime versus evening makeup, makeup for weddings, makeup for mature women, and fantasy makeup.
- Cosmetic Retailing: introduction to the cosmetics and fragrance industries, customer service skills, field trip to various cosmetics counters, seasonal promotions, and suggested terminology for interacting with customers.
- Resume Preparation & Job Search Skills
- Hairstyling Seminars: blowdrying techniques, various roller setting and curling techniques, high fashion hairstyles, bridal hairstyles.
- Makeup for Fashion: makeup styles through the decades, designing a makeup croquis (facechart) for a fashion show and execute it in class, makeup for color photography, makeup for black and white photography, body makeup, tattoo coverage.
- Set Orientation & WHMIS Certification: on set hazards and how to protect yourself, safe workplace procedures, film set etiquette and terminology, the role of the various people on set, stages of film production.
- Makeup for Stage, TV & Film: the professional makeup kit as per IATSE union and industry standards, lighting and film stocks and their effects on makeup, daily call sheets, script breakdown and continuity techniques, character breakdowns, newscaster makeup, character makeup, makeup for men, “drag” makeup, structural aging with paint, applying beard shadow and beard stipple.
- Airbrushing: airbrush assembly and maintenance; freehand techniques; how to use stencils, masks, shields; foundation, eyebrow, eye, cheek color application; tattoo cover; body painting.
- Special Effects: bones/muscles of the face; textural aging using liquid latex; wax wounds, bullet holes, and broken noses; blisters; beard laying and trimming; moustaches; bald cap application.
- Art & Technology: using Photoshop to design a business card, create a basic website and retouch photos.
Portfolio Images & Photoshop Training:
One of the great things about the program is that before you graduate, you will have images for your portfolio. As the program advances to the Fashion, TV & Film, and Special Effects modules, the final exams require you to create a series of looks on a model for a photo shoot by a professional photographer.
I quickly learned that contrary to popular belief, Photoshop cannot fix everything!
The final module of the program is called Art & Technology, during which you learn how to design business cards, a basic website, and basic Photoshop techniques to get your images looking their best. Oddly enough, this module helped me develop a very discerning eye when I’m working, even more than any of the hands-on makeup modules because I quickly learned that contrary to popular belief, Photoshop cannot fix everything!
When I attended the program, Blanche Macdonald employed a full-time Career Coordinator, solely dedicated to helping students find volunteer positions and employment positions. Since I graduated in November 2007, Blanche Macdonald has hired a second Career Coordinator.
The Career Coordinators run a Job Board located at the school that is constantly updated with postings for volunteer and paid positions available to makeup artists in the Lower Mainland. They also operate a virtual Job Board to their approved Facebook Group Members. While still a student, I volunteered at some great events such as Vancouver Fashion Week, the Leo Awards, the Lululemon Annual Flip-Flop Soiree, and retail gala events for Make Up For Ever at The Bay Downtown.
The Career Coordinators also organize Job Fairs to give students the opportunity to interview with major cosmetics retailers such as The Bay and MAC. While the school does not guarantee employment upon graduation, connecting with the Career Coordinators is a worthwhile step toward working in the industry and if you prove yourself to be a responsible professional, the Career Coordinators may continue to contact you with opportunities after you graduate.
Through the duration of the program, there are many opportunities for making relevant contacts in the industry. Blanche Macdonald instructors are all working makeup artists in fashion, TV and film. Prove yourself to be dedicated and hard working and you just may find an opportunity to assist them on an upcoming project.
As previously mentioned, your final exams for the Fashion, TV & Film, and Special Effects modules are all photo shoots, meaning you are guaranteed to meet photographers working in the industry. Be polite, create an impressive look for your final, and once again your work will be put right in front of the eyes of another industry professional.
Other opportunities for networking that arise are when your instructors are able to arrange guest speakers or field trips. Be respectful, politely introduce yourself and always remember to send a personal thank you.
No matter how thorough, no program is perfect. Based on my experience, there are two areas that would benefit from improvement in the Blanche Macdonald Makeup Artistry Diploma Program.
First, the makeup colors provided in the kit purchased through the school are nowhere near capable of covering the diverse range of skin tones in the real world. A makeup artist has to be prepared to work on any face so prepare to purchase a wider range of foundations, concealers, cheek colors and eyeshadows that will work on deeper skin tones before setting out on any volunteer or paid jobs.
Additional discussion of how to operate as a freelance makeup artist from a business standpoint would be beneficial.
Second, additional discussion of how to operate as a freelance makeup artist from a business standpoint would be beneficial. Some information on quotations and invoicing was provided during the bridal segment of Makeup Fundamentals, but very little information or resources were provided in general about how to keep financial records for tax purposes. Even if time constraints were an issue I think even providing a list of websites and recommended reading on the subject would have been helpful. This is definitely an area in which I am constantly working on educating myself and unless this has been added to the curriculum since I graduated, prepare for some self-motivated learning on this subject.
Is This Program For You?
Unless you are investing in this program to work for a major special effects lab or to work for a cosmetics company or retailer, you are most likely enrolling in this program to become a freelance makeup artist. This means that you are your business. To succeed you must be self-motivated, confident when working with your clients, and able to stay professional amid the social dramas that are sure to ensue in any educational environment. Needless to say, an inherent flair for how colors work together will help you as you develop your craft. A strong desire to work in the fashion or film industries will keep you motivated when you’re still at school at 10pm and you haven’t had dinner yet.
This program is expensive and the calendar can be demanding. Those with weak time management skills are likely to be overwhelmed with balancing attendance in class, assignments, volunteer jobs (optional, but absolutely necessary in my opinion), work, family, and other life commitments. There are written exams, practical exams, projects and assignments on a regular basis. This program is not about the pink powder puffs and makeup discounts. Every instructor I’ve had during the program has said that in every class there are students who are shocked at the amount of work that is required of them and drop out because they are not prepared to handle the challenge. My class started with 13 students and only six graduated. The benefits you stand to gain from this program are directly proportional to the effort you put into it. If you are not passionate about pursuing a career in makeup, this may not be the program for you.
My drive to succeed and make a credible name for myself as a makeup artist has made every hour and every dollar worthwhile.
The Bottom Line
Blanche Macdonald offers quality instruction from industry professionals. I inevitably use some aspect of what I learned in my year of training there on every job that I book, be it a commercial event, wedding, fashion show or photo shoot. It was a huge investment of time and money, but my drive to succeed and make a credible name for myself as a makeup artist has made every hour and every dollar worthwhile.