Artist Review

“I want to thank Brad for creating these amazing Zazzo® Template designs. I have used them on makeup applications from old-age to beauty and effects related to prosthetic work. The versatility of the shapes and designs make the Makeup FX™ an essential tool in my makeup kit!”

—Allan A. Apone

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The Art of Airbrushing Makeup

By Bradley M. Look

The use of the airbrush in the application of cosmetics in the film industry is becoming more commonplace then ever before. Television series such as PROVIDENCE, ANGEL, ENTERPRISE, FRIENDS, ACCORDING TO JIM, and PASSIONS, as well as features such as ALI, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, ZOOLANDER, STAR TREK FIRST CONTACT, and FLINTSTONES VIVA ROCK VEGAS, have all used the airbrush to further the craft of makeup artistry.

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Makeup manufacturers, noticing the trend in airbrushing cosmetics, have followed the lead, developing products to be sprayed especially at low pressures. To date, there are currently 14 different lines of airbrushable makeup on the market. And there seems to be no end in sight. Even cosmetic giant Estee Lauder currently is having its liquid foundation line tested on customers in London using modified Iwata Eclipse gravity feed airbrushes.

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As a staff makeup artist on the series ENTERPRISE (UPN's most current series based on Gene Roddenberry's STAR TREK), the makeup department uses the airbrush extensively to apply everything from a corrective female/male makeup to creating exotic aliens of the week. In addition to my regular work schedule on the show, I also teach airbrush workshops.

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Recently, I was contacted by AirbrushTalk and asked to contribute my insight as a working airbrush makeup artist in the entertainment field. I was told that regular readers of this web publication had expressed an interest in this relatively new area of airbrushing.

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But if the truth were known, the technique (or process) of spraying makeup on a performer's body is not at all new. One of the first features to apply liquid foundation using a spraying apparatus was the silent film, NOAH'S ARK, which was produced in 1929! The film featured a lengthy flashback sequence of the biblical Noah's Ark. For that spectacular flashback, Max Factor was called upon to apply body makeup to over 2,000 extras!! With not much time to apply the makeup, Max and his son got the bright idea of adding a liquid solvent to their regular cream makeup. Now with the makeup liquefied, it could be easily sprayed on the actors' bodies and faces.

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Another early film to use the idea of spraying on the makeup was the 1938 feature, BOY MEETS GIRL. This was a screwball spoof about Hollywood, which starred James Cagney, Pat O'Brien and Ronald Reagan. Contained within the film is a scene in which Cagney played an extra in a Western as an American Indian who was sprayed down by the makeup artist with body makeup.

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Within the motion picture union for makeup artists (Local 706 on the west coast), the ability to airbrush is now a part of the job classification. For job opportunities, it has become a necessary skill to possess, and not having it can keep you from securing work in this business.

While learning to airbrush makeup, it's important to take a class with a teacher who has a working knowledge of both makeup application and airbrushing. The contours, colors and movement of a face are very different from that of a flat canvas or T-shirt. Makeup artists have to be concerned with the hours the makeup will need to work.circles For example, the average time an actor will work on set is 12 hours! Additionally, it's not uncommon for the airbrushing on the talent's face to be sprayed onto prosthetics and around lace-fronted wigs. So you can see there are many considerations that have to be taken into account that a person who just airbrushes flat artwork would have no understanding or knowledge of. But, at the same time, that's not to say that a person who airbrushes 2-D can't work in 3-D on a human face or body. They can after they get additional training in makeup work.

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In future issues I'll cover many topics, including a breakdown of product lines, safety issues, creating a mixed media airbrush makeup, airbrushing, pro's ethics, and beauty application, etc. If you should have questions along the way, please send them in, and I'll address them so that others can benefit from the answers: arttalk3@aol.com - Attention: Bradley Look.

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