How to Communicate with Your On-Set Makeup Artist

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Photo Source: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Courtesy HBO

As a professional makeup artist with 20 years of experience, Mathias Alan (most recently of HBO’s “Big Little Lies”) knows how to make actors look their best on camera and beyond.

Clear communication is imperative.
“I always try to have a really good consultation before I work with [talent] for the first time. I’ll say, ‘Can we look at pictures of what you normally look like? Can we look at pictures from appearances you’ve done in the past? What do you like and what don’t you like?’ I like visual consultations using pictures; communication before the makeup actually starts is the best way to do that.”

The makeup must serve the character.
“If it’s a good actor and an experienced actor, they’re into the script, they’re into the character. I’ve worked with personality types who maybe have the chance to play a character, [but] they want the whole beatdown, the full glam, and you have to tone all that down.”

READ: 15 Makeup Tips for the Working Actor

Avoid the Instagram face.
“We’re working with a new generation of young [actors] who were brought up in a world of YouTube and Instagram, so there are a lot of beauty trends that aren’t necessarily going to work for high-definition TV. My one piece of advice is: Don’t show up with your Instagram face on when you sit down in the makeup chair and say, ‘Oh, I already did my makeup. You can just touch up my lip gloss.’ It’s like, ‘No. I am going to wipe all that down because that’s not the look we’re going for.’ ”

Don’t get stuck in old habits.
“I’ve met a lot of actors who are kind of stuck in their ways or get very finicky about what you have in your kit. Being a retail makeup artist when I started, I was trained to make the customer feel warm. I’ve taken that into my career as a professional makeup artist because I work with so many actors who have never worked with me before, so I have to do a little song and dance.”

There’s no shame in knowing what you like.
“[Sometimes,] an actor or host can be really forthright and knowledgeable about what they like and don’t like. I’ll never forget the time Larry King sat down in my chair for the first time and I said, ‘Mr. King, what kind of a look do you want?’ and he said, ‘Mathias, I am 85 years old. I want the full coverage. You gotta take away all these liver spots, and don’t forget the hands!’ I loved that. He’s been in the business; he wasn’t shy about saying, ‘I want it all. I want to look as great as I can look.’ I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’m like, ‘Great. I can do that for you.’ ”

*This post was originally published on Feb. 21, 2017. It has since been updated.

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