Face Value: Behind-the-Scenes with a Makeup Artist

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've thought to myself, "Well, today blows. At least my makeup looks good." There's no denying that makeup has transformative powers. And not just in a literal sense. Rocking some cat eye liner or bright lipstick, or just knowing your everyday look is on point, is like an instant confidence boost.

But enough about me. Let's talk makeup with someone who's a bit more qualified. My fabulous friend Christine Jurcsisn has been a freelance makeup artist for MAC Cosmetics for 5 years. After attending an open "casting call" for new makeup artists on a whim, and undergoing a series of interviews and makeup tests, she was hired and sent off to Chicago to learn the ins and outs of making people beautiful. I sat down with Christine at my old Tremont stomping ground, Lava Lounge to get a behind-the-scenes peek at being a makeup artist.

A stylist puts the finishing touches on a look by Christine.  All photos courtesy of Christine Jurcsisn .

A stylist puts the finishing touches on a look by Christine. All photos courtesy of Christine Jurcsisn.

How did you become a makeup artist?

It was always sort of a dream of mine, but the way it came about was a happy accident. I was referred last minute to a "casting call" type event at the Radisson in Eastlake. I befriended one of the girls at the MAC counter at Nordstrom and she told me about it the night before, so I really had little time to prepare myself. My sister drove up from Dayton to be my model for the makeup application portion of the interview. I never thought I had a chance, but they were looking for someone who was trainable, good with people, and responded well to feedback. I was hired (in 2010) as a freelance makeup artist, which means you have no set schedule, they simply call you if there is a special event and need extra artists. In 2012, I was hired part-time to work at Nordstrom’s MAC counter, where I worked for 2 years. In June I went back to freelancing because working two jobs for that long was taking a toll on me, even though I loved it.

Christine wields her tools of trade.

Christine wields her tools of trade.

What does a typical day doing makeup consist of?

I do a lot of preparation beforehand. If it is a wedding day, I make sure I review the list of the bride’s products beforehand and make sure it is all in my makeup kit. I ensure all my brushes are clean, and just organize my kit. Sometimes I feel like I bring too much stuff, but it never fails that if I leave something behind, I wish I had it with me when it comes time for makeup. With photoshoots, I will be in contact with the photographer beforehand and we go over looks we want to do. For the wedding day, you show up to the location where the bridal party is getting ready and do all the makeup, one at a time. I absolutely love weddings because everyone is so happy and celebratory; they always are so welcoming and hospitable to you. If it is a photoshoot, you go to the predetermined location, sometimes on set, sometimes on location, sometimes at the photographer's studio. You do the makeup on the models, sometimes as they are getting their hair done. Once they start shooting, you stand by to touch up things like lipstick, powder, etc. Some photographers like to do several different looks on the model in one shoot, so you may need to change the makeup at some point. Once everything is finished, you just clean up all your products, pack it up, and head out.

A photographer shoots a model at one of Christine's makeup gigs.

A photographer shoots a model at one of Christine's makeup gigs.

What do you like most about being a makeup artist?

Meeting new people. Hands down. I have met so many fantastic people in this creative industry. Models who are beautiful inside and out, photographers who have unique creative vision, and of course, each bride has a special story. I meet people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, with so many interesting stories.

What's the most memorable makeup you've done and why?

I did a "Day of the Dead" look on a friend as a fun spur-of-the-moment shoot. I did the sugar skull mask on her and made a floral headpiece for her to wear. We went to the Lakeview Cemetery to shoot and it was just so much fun.

Dia de los Muertos! The Day-of-the-Dead shoot at Lakeview Cemetery.

Dia de los Muertos! The Day-of-the-Dead shoot at Lakeview Cemetery.

I hear women say, "I have no idea how to do makeup" all the time. What advice would you give them?

Don't worry about "rules." Makeup is supposed to be fun and make you feel more self-confident. A little goes a long way. I tell women all the time, if you do nothing else, apply some under eye concealer and mascara and you are good to go: awake and fresh. Don't be scared to approach a makeup counter and ask for help. It can be intimidating because you assume they just want to sell you products, but a good salesperson will be happy to try products on you to find the correct formulation and color. Take a friend with you for a second opinion. The nice thing about buying from a department store (like Nordstrom) is that you can return products if you don’t like them and try something different, that way there is no risk of getting stuck with something that is not right for you.

One beauty-related (non-makeup) tip I can give women is to take care of your skin. Do NOT smoke; do NOT tan. More than anything, women are most conscientious of their skin. It's really hard and expensive to reverse skin damage, so prevention is the best medicine. Another tip is to stop over-plucking your eyebrows. Most of us did it at one time or another, and believe me, I am just as guilty. Let them grow out and get them professionally waxed or threaded. If they don’t grow back very full, you can go to a makeup counter and ask for someone to show you how to fill them in. This makes such a huge difference, it was a life-changer for me. Fuller brows give you a more youthful look and really frame your eyes.

A photographer shoots a model in another of Christine's makeup gigs.

A photographer shoots a model in another of Christine's makeup gigs.

What are your personal favorite makeup products?

I am sort of biased towards MAC since I know their products, but I just bought Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara and I absolutely love it. It is definitely the best mascara I’ve ever tried. I love MAC's BB cream, which is my everyday foundation. I also recently discovered Kat Von D's tattoo eyeliner. It is a marker, so it is quick and precise and gives you a perfect cat eye, and it is waterproof. I have been using Bare Minerals powder foundation as well, because I get very oily and I was pleasantly surprised at how much coverage it has. And I have to use Nars Pro-Prime to prime my eyelids or else my eyeshadow will crease. It is by far the best eye primer I have found out there. On my brows, I either use MAC brow pencil or Anastasia Dip Brow pomade. I pretty much don’t leave the house without a light foundation, mascara, and brows.