Academy of Freelance Makeup- A Course Diary

It had been towards the end of last year when I decided that I wanted to take my interest in makeup further and embark on a part time course to develop my skills, learn new techniques and just to see where it takes me. If you want to find out what the Freelance Certificate in Professional Makeup Artistry at the Academy of Freelance Makeup is all about, and a day by day account of what I did and learnt, keep reading!

Day One

Agenda- Natural Makeup Look and Smokey Eye with Red Lips Look

I had been excited all week but on the morning of the first day, I had a sudden bout of nerves. Not sure why but that quickly disappeared as soon as the class started. The class was smaller than expected. 8 of us in total. For me this was a good thing as this would mean that we would get more attention and time with the tutor (this for me was one of the most important criteria when deciding which course and academy to go with).

We met Zana, Head of the Academy, and who was going to be our tutor for the first day. In the morning, she demonstrated a “natural makeup” look and I volunteered to be her model. She talked through each stage of the process, right from cleansing (silly me wore waterproof mascara which she had a tough time taking off. oops) the skin of makeup and following it with a toner and moisturiser, to demonstrating how to colour match to get the right shade of  foundation. It was our first task after lunch to recreate this look with the partners we paired up with. Before this, she went through all the brushes we received in our kit (which was included in the course fee), and what each one can be used for.

Then later on in the afternoon, Zana demonstrated a smokey eye with red lips which again we had to recreate on our partners. This was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. The reason being was that she had chosen to create a smokey eye using Mac’s Blacktrack gel liner. It’s not a product I’ve used before let alone used to create a smokey eye. If any of you have used this product before, you will know that dries up quick. Like seriously super quick. As soon as you apply it, you need to start blending otherwise the product sets and theres no going back. I had to start over 3 times! I was happy with the end result although it could have been tidier. And who knew that getting lip liner to be symmetrical can be so much of a ball-ache especially in an unforgiving shade as bright red.

Day Two

Agenda- Eyebrows and Glamour Eye Makeup with False Lash Application (both strip and individual)

We had the pleasure of having Barbara Carranza, the pro brow designer a.k.a. the eyebrow expert, be our tutor for the day. She is so bubbly, funny and demonstrated a lot of passion for her work and her enthusiasm got everyone eager to start the practical session pronto!

In the morning, Barbara showed us how to create the perfect brows for your face. This can be achieved by taking just three measurements from a certain point on your face and that should allow you to establish the brow shape that suits your face. Once you have the shape, you remove any hairs that falls outside of this remit and fill in any gaps within it. We were all lucky enough to have Barbara demonstrate her skills on us (on one brow) and although we all dream of fuller brows, seeing my face with a thicker set of hairs took some adjusting to. If ever I was able to recreate the look at home (and with the right products), I can see it being gradual process. Going from barely any hairs to a full set of power brows may scare a few people, not to mention myself.

She then went onto show us how to create a “glamour” look a la Dita Von Teese using 5 different eyeshadow colours, eyeliner complete with flick, and lots and lots of lashes. On one eye, she used individual lashes. I watched eagerly as this is something that I struggled with in the past for a wedding I was attending and after my upteenth attempt, I ended up opting for strip lashes instead. On the other eye, she used strip lashes. To finish off the look, she did a matte red lip using a lip liner and lipstick.

After lunch, we all paired up again (with someone different from the day before allowing us to explore different skin-types/colours and eye shapes) and started working first on the eyebrows before moving onto the eye and finally finishing with the lips. Barbara was attentive to each pair, guiding us each step of the way, and especially at the start where brow plucking was involved (Ouch!).

I was pleased with the overall end result and found inserting individual lashes easier than expected. My sense of symmetry needs to be addressed though. I mean how hard is it to get the eyebrows to look the same on each side? or your lip liner to be symmetrical left to right? Very apparently. Especially as people we are not symmetrical and I guess that’s the whole beauty of makeup, is that you are able to cheat the system and create perfect symmetry.

I think next week we will be learning how to contour and also how to create a bridal makeup look. Bring it on.

Day Three

Agenda- Contouring the face using highlighting and shading techniques

On the third day of the second weekend of our course, we had the lovely Valentina Creti as our tutor. Originally from Italy, Valentina has over twenty years experience within the industry and her work has been published in the likes of i-D Magazine, Esquire and Tatler. Our class for the day revolved around the principles of contouring and how to apply those principles to a glowy skin look.

In the morning she demonstrated contouring techniques, showing us how to emphasise shadow and light to create more definition in the face. We learnt that using shading can sculpt and/or push back areas on the face e.g. under the cheekbone, down the sides of the nose etc, and using highlighting to reflect light and can therefore emphasise/bring forward areas of the face e.g. tops of the cheekbones, down the centre of the nose, above the cupids bow etc. All these techniques help to create the illusion of a more defined and sometimes slimming face. Shading is also used to close/narrow/reduce space whereas highlighting is used to open up and create more space on the face.

We practised the techniques on each other ( I worked in a group of three as we were down one person and now only 7 in a class) making sure we remembered the reference points on our face to know where to start and stop our contouring and highlights e.g. when contouring under the cheekbone we would physically feel for it and apply the shadow directly beneath it but in straight line from the ear (the part called the “tragus”-I had to look this up on google to see what this part of the ear is called) to the corner of the mouth but stopping behind the outside corner of your eye ( if you imagine a line running downwards from the outer corner of the eye- you want to stay behind this line as this is where the blush goes)

In the afternoon, Valentina went on to demonstrate how you would use the contouring techniques to create a glowy skin look. She used a mix of cream products on one side of the face and powder products on the other so that we would be able to see the different effects that each type of product can give.

A model (a former graduate of the academy) was brought in for the afternoon so that we could all work in pairs and I was lucky enough to work with her meaning that would have more time to practice extra things on her when it was time to change over. It was planned that we were to be using Armani Luminous Silk foundation but due to the lack of colour range they had (as a lot of the bottles were pretty much empty of product), most of us ended up using a different foundation which was a shame as I’ve never tried it before and really wanted to see what it was like to work with and what it looked like on the skin). Instead I worked with Chanel Lift Lumiere which is not one I’ve used either so that was fine.  I also got to work with Mac Strobe cream, mixing it in with a moisturiser to give of a beautifully luminous glow. Also because I had the extra time to play with, I chose to practice a neural tone smokey eye with a bright red lip.

Day Four

Agenda- Understanding Photography Lighting. 

The next day, we had German-born Barbara Braeunlich as our tutor to teach us about the effects that photography lighting can have on makeup (not bridal as I thought last weekend). What was particularly interesting about this day was understanding how colour translates in black and white photography so what could be a bold and vibrant look in colour, could actually appear to be very faded or even completely disappear in black and white photography.

We were tasked with finding an image during our lunch break that we think would translate well in black and white photography. After much deliberation, I opted for a Geisha look taking aspects from two images. We were given an array of colourful products to play with in the afternoon; a mix of powder, pigments and greasepaints. We were also given the chance to work with MakeUp Forever foundation but because of the look I chose, I opted for a heavier, full coverage, pure white foundation ( I think it was Mac Studio Tech).

Trying to recreate a look from an image is a lot harder than I thought. I chose red for the eyes ( as opposed to the yellow in the image, as it wouldn’t show up against the white in black and white photography) and to tie in with the lips. The foundation creased badly especially around the eyes but applying a bit of translucent powder help a bit to cease the creasing. Trying to get the eyebrows symmetrical with sharp, straight lines was a ball-ache and a half so I ended up improvising and purposely making them different on each side.  I decided then that I had gone for the wrong image to try to recreate but I wanted to go outside of my comfort zone ( a step too far perhaps) and really experiment.

The end result was striking in black and white (taken and edited on my iPhone) with the red and black in huge contrast against the white face, although the pink cheeks didn’t show up so well. Although this was a useful class to understand the effects that lighting can have on makeup, I felt this was more beneficial to those who wanted to go into either fashion or film, neither of which applies to me.

My body is aching from the past two days and I am dying to climb into bed by the end of it. Next weekend will be the last two days of the course (it’s gone by so quick!) and I cant wait to make the most of it.

Day Five

So today we had the pleasure of having Louise Dartford as our tutor to teach us the skills along with tips and advice needed to do bridal makeup. This is the class I’ve been looking forward to the most because if I am going to pursue this professionally, this is the road I am likely to go down along with special occasion.

Louise kicked off the session with important  questions to ask the bride as well as things to consider when it comes to bridal makeup such as where is the wedding venue? Time of day? Season? How many people will need their makeup done aside from the bride? Theme/colours? Is there a style or anyone she would like to look like? Then she gave us some all important advice with regards to the wedding trial and on the actual wedding day itself. Louise then went onto demonstrate a typical bridal makeup look but doing a different makeup look on each eye.

In the afternoon, we got to put our skills to the test and create our own bridal looks. For the base, I mixed some Lancome Tient Renergie Lift R.A.R.E and Mac Face and Body to get the right shade. For the eyes, I chose the Dessert Heat palette from Estee Lauder which is neutral toned palette. I combined the golden bronze shade (all over the lid) with the warm chocolate brown (in the crease) on my model bride which really made her blue eyes really stand out. To add a bit of gentle contouring, I used a Mac Sculpt with the fan brush from my kit. It was the first time I’d used the brush and is ideal for adding subtle colour which I did (in a faint line) just under the cheekbone and then blended out with a powder brush. For the cheeks I used a pink blush from Estee Lauder to add a rosy glow to the face and dabbed a little of Mac Cream Colour Base in Pearl to the tops of the cheek bone which caught and reflected the light beautifully. This is definitely going onto my shopping list. For lips, I wanted to go for a natural shade that was slightly darker than her own but didn’t go accordingly as the colour turned out more brown so I topped it up with a pink to give off a more of a rosy lip colour. Much better.

I was pretty pleased with the end result and it really boosted my confidence and got me all enthusiastic about doing it as a real job. What could be better than making someone look and feel more beautiful on one of the most important day of their lives?

Louise was brilliant, the best tutor so far as she was so friendly and down to earth and really made it feel like a class as she would ask us for our thoughts and opinions and she gave some great advice on how to get started as a bridal makeup artist.

Day Six

Alas, the final day has arrived.  We finished the course with experiencing what it is like working in fashion and recreating a look for the catwalk. Our tutor for the day was the quirky and slightly eccentric Yin Lee. Yin started off with creating a flawless base starting off with perfecting the skin with Mac Face and Body foundation followed by Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage concealer (over anything that didn’t get covered up by the foundation). She then demonstrated quite a bold eye look using Mac Fluidline in Blacktrack and from using this in a previous class, I knew it was going to be difficult (this stuff dries so quick and can get very messy).  She then finished off the look with a bright red lip using Mac Ruby Woo.

After lunch, it was standard procedure. We all paired up and began working our catwalk look. I was quite impressed at how quickly I was able to match my model up with the correct foundation and concealer shades. I had tried to use the Clinique foundations provided but found it too pink toned, so I reverted back to Mac Face and Body. For concealer I used Mac Mineralize Concealer under the eyes and Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage over any redness and blemishes. What I did struggle with was with some dry patches on the skin particularly around the nose where it began to flake once I had applied product on it. I had to remove the makeup around the area and go with more moisturiser. I used a mix of Dermalogica’s Skin Hydrating Booster to hydrate and their Gentle Soothing Booster to sooth the irritated skin. I left it to do its thing and returned later to finish it off.

For the eyes, after giving them a curl (this was a struggle as my model had stick straight lashes, I thought mine were stubborn!) I went in with a Bobby Brown eyeshadow close to her skintone. Then I lined both the top and bottom waterlines whilst my model struggled to hold in her laughter (If you have never tried this before, it is extremely ticklish). Then with my eyeliner brush in hand, I went in with the much dreaded Mac Fluidline in Blacktrack. This was definitely the most difficult part of the look and what took up most of my time. Once I had more or less got both eyes to look (fairly) symmetrical, I moved onto finishing the lips with only 5 minutes to spare. It could have been neater. Much neater. But in the absence of time, I did what I could.

This class gave us a taste of what can be expected behind the scenes of the big fashion shows. The head makeup artist will typically design the look and as assistants, you have to go away and recreate the look on the models. You also have the added pressure of time to contend with. When the whole class had finished, Yin Lee got us to line up and pulled us up one by one so that we could see for ourselves how each one of us translated her look. We could see clearly that none of the looks were identical. It just goes to show that recreating a look is a lot harder than you might think.

My Overall Thoughts of the Course

I would recommend this course for anyone who is considering a career in makeup.  The course provides tutors who are professional makeup artists and still working within the industry. Each tutor is different in style and technique which I think is so important because it allows you to discover different approaches to applying makeup and for you to decide which technique works best for you. There isn’t really a right or wrong, just different ways of doing things. The course covers a wide range of makeup looks and application techniques from natural makeup to full on glamour and from contouring to smokey eyes.

The course isn’t without it’s flaws. A lot of the time we found that despite offering different brands of foundation to work with, a lot of the bottles were pretty much empty of product (esp. in the more popular lighter shades) so the full range of colours was not available. This meant that we couldn’t test out the products and form an opinion on it which is important for us to decided whether it’s a product that we want to work with in the future. There was also a bit of confusion to certain aspects of the course due to the lack of communication. This was frustrating especially for the students who have to commute into London and book overnight accommodation. That aside I did think the academy did well in providing us with a model when one person dropped out of the course (making us a group of uneven seven). Although there were occasions where we had to work in a group of three which wasn’t ideal.

Overall, I enjoyed the course and it has helped me decide whether makeup can be more than just a hobby. It is a good course for anyone wanting to start off in makeup regardless of which direction you want to go in whether its bridal, fashion or special effects. You get to meet and work with some great makeup artists who are currently working in the industry so they have tonnes of experience and knowledge to share with you.  Even if makeup is just a hobby, if you have a bit of pocket money to spare, this is a great way to spend a few weekends learning new techniques and developing your own current skills.

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  1. I bought some individual lashes around xmas time, as a friend of mine swears by them. I have yet to try and apply them. I have never worn any type of false lash – so as a complete novice, any tips for me? I would probably wear them as a glam evening look and not daytime – do i put my mascara and liquid liner on first? – i know this must sound so dumb, but i really have no idea!

    1. False lashes can be a bit fiddly especially the individual ones. What I would recommend is doing your makeup first, mascara and eyeliner and then applying the false lashes afterwards. Lisa Eldridge has a great video on how to apply individual lashes which you can find here Once the lashes are on you can apply another coating of mascara to mesh your real lashes to the fake ones so that you don’t see the two sets of lashes separately. Hope that helps.

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