The respected beauty expert speaks to us about her new School of Makeup and shares her top career advice for aspiring makeup artists
Ever dreamed of becoming a professional makeup artist? If so, we can’t think of a better mentor than renowned industry expert, Val Garland. Whether backstage at Fashion Week creating next season’s hottest looks, partnering with industry heavyweights such as Mario Testino and the late great Alexander McQueen or her work from her longstanding relationship with MAC , her experience and knowledge is second-to-none and now she’s joined forces with online fashion school Mastered to launch a course specifically created for aspiring makeup artists looking to break into the industry.
Designed and led by Val herself, the course has been devised to equip its pupils with the tools they need to stand out in a highly competitive market. From getting social media savvy to what it takes to translate talent into a lucrative business, it aims to provide an unrivalled insight into the industry to vastly differentiate itself from other more traditional makeup artistry programmes. Only 1000 promising candidates will be accepted onto the 3-month online course and applications are now open for a start date of May 2015.
So what are you waiting for? To provide some insider information, we caught up with the respected makeup artist to ask her about her top tips for success, her career advice, the best guidance she’s ever been given and the worst job she’s ever done...
GTG: What was the inspiration behind the Val Garland School of Makeup?
VG: I think the inspiration was the fact that this type of education or insight had never been done before. We live in a digital social media age and so this was a very new way of looking at a makeup teaching course. When I think about makeup schools that have been around, they’ve all felt a little stayed, for example, “Day 1, we’re going to learn about foundation, day 2, we’re going to learn how to do contouring, this is the cat eye etc.” and I feel you can now get all that information on YouTube very expertly and from various other places in the real world or online.
What’s different about this course is that this isn’t about how to apply makeup, this course is targeted towards makeup artists, very great makeup artists that want to know how to get into the kind of world that I work and move in. You can be an incredible makeup artist, but it’s important to know what makes American Vogue, W, i-D, Glamour etc. want to book you and how.
GTG: What can future pupils expect?
VG: It’s not a makeup school where you go into a classroom every day and you listen to somebody speaking. Why would anyone want to watch me applying makeup? I think watching people doing makeup is really boring because so many people take their time and it’s like watching paint dry. I didn’t think that could be inspirational. So this course is not about watching me do makeup, it’s about hearing my story and how it worked for me. I was that person who hadn’t done a makeup course, I was self-taught, so it looks at how I did it and how I got from there to here. On this course you will hear stories and you will be set tasks that you will have to come back with to share with like-minded people and then be critiqued. You’ll be given briefs and shown how to do one, how to come up with a story, how to improvise and how to work quickly.
It’s about getting a collective of people together so we’re sharing experiences. I think that’s a great way of learning.
GTG: What would be your top tips for aspiring makeup artists?
VG: 1. Self-belief, absolutely.
2. Surround yourself with like-minded people, because you’re working towards the same goal. You should get to know photographers, digital operators and social media techies, hairdressers and stylists because then when anything comes up, you’re there and you have more of a chance or an opportunity to get it. When I started it was different, there weren’t as many like-minded people in the field but nowadays, there are so many people doing makeup, hair and nails. How do you find work for this many people? You need to be ahead of the game - whatever skills you can bring to the table will make you a better choice over another incredible artist, so that’s what you want to be and aspire to be.
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GTG: How can candidates make their applications and portfolios stand out?
VG: This is what they’ll be learning on the course. I think nowadays your first and foremost tool is to be social media savvy. If you have that handle sorted, that is the best way to display your portfolio or provide an idea of your work.
You need to find ways of standing out. In relation to my Instagram , at first it featured mainly pictures of the line-up, the eye makeup etc. however now, people are so fast with regards to their visual stimulation that you better be stimulating! So now we do all sorts of things to make the picture more interesting, for example shooting it through glass, from different angles - be interesting, make people notice you.
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GTG: How did you get your start in your career?
VG: I think I got started by default. I had no interest in being a makeup artist at all. I was a hairdresser and I was good at what I did. But when I started in Australia, you had to do both for session work. It’s different now though.
I used to wear a tonne of makeup and was inspired by people like Steve Strange and Blitz magazine - I was New Romantic and I used to paint, so people assumed that I would do makeup. I was quite happy where I was. I did a couple of test shoots as a makeup artist and the photographer, stylist and hairdresser were so vile - it was like a slapstick satire of what it’s like working in fashion. After that, there was no way that I wanted to work in fashion. However, people kept pushing me because I was surrounding myself with like-minded people and one day, (I think they must have done this on purpose!) the makeup artist didn’t turn up (I don’t think they even booked one), and I was told that I had to do the makeup. I only had the makeup that was in my bag - lots of black, definitely lots of red as I used to wear lots of red lipstick and what was in the model’s bag. So I did her makeup and that went into a magazine and then the magazine called again and asked whether they could book that funny girl with the funny hair again. So I started getting work.
Back in those days, I had so much self-belief - it was shocking! I remember walking into an agency in Sydney and saying, “I want to be part of your agency and to be one of your session people.” I was asked what I did and I just said, “My name’s Val Garland and I do hair, makeup and styling.”
I was doing hair and makeup in Australia for about 5 years and then I came to the UK in 1994 and I didn’t know which way to go - whether I wanted to be hairdresser or makeup artist. I thought I’d see how it went. Gradually after a time, the hair just fell away and then I became really passionate about makeup.
GTG: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever been given and from whom? Did you have any mentors?
VG: Just be yourself because you can’t be anybody else. It was funny, earlier on someone asked me, “Are you a different person on camera than you are in real life?” And I said, “No, I can’t be, I can only be myself - I can’t have airs and graces.”
GTG: Did you have any mentors?
VG: There was a great guy who was a makeup artist but is sadly no longer with us called Stephen Price. Unfortunately in the 80s, so many people were dying from AIDS and so there were a lot of funerals to go to. I remember going to one particular funeral and Stephen offered me a lift back into town. We got chatting and he said that he was fed up of makeup and was going to start taking photographs instead. I said I was fed up of hair and wanted to do makeup and suggested we worked together. He was my mentor - we started testing together. I was testing anything and everything with makeup as he was with photography. He was the person who pushed me to leave Australia and come back to England. He said, “You can be a big fish in a little pond, but you need to go to the ocean and just try.”
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GTG: What was the worst job that you ever did?
VG: I remember being asked to do a shoot for a leading men’s fashion magazine where we would be doing eight single shots of a supermodel. This was around the time of Linda, Helena and all those girls. I had only recently come to London so those eight pictures in my book would have been really important. I only had a couple of models in my book when I arrived. I went along to the shoot with the hair stylist Kevin Ford and the models started arriving. Only they weren't supermodels, they were Page 3 models.
Myself and the hair stylist couldn’t believe it and went to the makeup room to talk about it. Meanwhile, another hair and makeup team arrived who were from the Tabloids. We spent so long deliberating over whether we were going to do this job or not that the other hair and makeup artists left. So me being me, I had to be professional and just do it! We got on set and these 8 girls were naked, apart from their G-strings and I had been asked by the stylist to pick up the ice cubes from the bucket and rub them on the girls’ nipples so they were pert for the shot!
At the end of the shoot I remember thinking, “Never again.” Looking back on it now though, it was hilarious. Never before had I been employed as a professional fluffer. Or since...
GTG: Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
VG: Firstly I would say no, because I think it’s been a great experience so far. I would have loved though to have learned some languages because I travel all over the world but can’t speak Italian, German, Japanese...it would have been great to speak another language.
I would have also liked to have done some different courses and to have assisted as I didn’t really do that as it wasn’t available then. I went straight in, made all of the mistakes and never got booked. To assist a range of people is a great way of learning all of their crafts.
I also wished I had done a beauty therapy course because when it comes to my team, I like them to be able to give a jolly good massage to my model. I think that’s really important because that puts the model/celebrity into a great moment.
Lymphatic drainage is great. My girls do that and it’s amazing for de-puffing, say if the model has just come off a flight or if they’ve worked really late the night before.
GTG: And finally, your definitive kit bag essential?
My hands. If you don’t have your brushes, you still have your hands.
Apply to the Val Garland School of Makeup at www.mastered.com . The online course is 3 months long and is priced at £995.
Follow us @getthegloss and Ayesha @ayesha_muttu .