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—Allan A. Apone

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The Art of Airbrushing Makeup Part Two: “What product line do I use?”

by Bradley M. Look

If you'll recall, in Part One I outlined some of the basic equipment needs for airbrushing makeup--types of airbrushes, compressors, and other basics, such as hoses, cleaning station, etc., all stressing the importance for portability. The makeup artist must be able to, without a moment's notice, grab his or her gear to answer a work call. That call may be a wedding, a photo shoot, a kid's party, or even to day check on a film or television series.

Now that we know what some of our equipment requirements are, we're going to need something to run through the airbrush. That's where we pick up with part two--or what I like to call, "What product line do I use?"

In my first article for AirbrushTalk (Volume 4, Number 2, July 2002), I mentioned that the process of spraying makeup onto a performer goes all the way back to the 1929 feature, NOAH'S ARK. But if I were to ask you to name the very first makeup actually manufactured for the expressed use of being airbrushed and the year, what would you say? I've no doubt that some might say it probably was the Dinair line. Right? Wrong.

A man named Dennis Hoey created the very first makeup line made specifically to be sprayed through an airbrush. His line was called StarMist cosmetics and it debuted in 1984. Dennis' company was StarMist Air Tech Cosmetics, Inc., and with him as its President, he quickly got the word out conducting two-day seminars across the country. He taught not only professional makeup artists, but also licensed cosmetologists as to how to safely use the airbrush to apply a base, blusher, and contouring to a person's face. Well-known makeup artists like Ben Nye, Jr., Ve Neill, Michael Westmore, Dina Ousley, Steve LaPorte, and Leonard Engleman, to name just a few, all passed through his tutelage.

In a 1997 interview I had with Dennis, he told me, "The airbrush allows for greater speed, accuracy and versatility of makeup application while expanding possibilities for new artistic expression. It was my belief that StarMist combined the technical artistry of airbrushing with that of the elegant science of makeup application."

Dennis found his inspiration for the creation of an airbrushing cosmetic line back in 1979 when he worked at airbrush retouching for commercial clients. It soon dawned on Dennis that what he did to color correct a photograph might be able to be done on a person's face if there were the right product available.

After some research, Dennis discovered that around 1960, makeup artists were experimenting at airbrushing people's bodies using watercolor paint as a medium. Not wanting to use paint on the skin, Dennis would eventually seek out a cosmetic chemist in the Los Angeles area to help him develop a product that could be adapted to the specific needs of the airbrush process. Of course, paramount to the very success of such a line was its need not to clog the fine opening of the airbrush.

Using himself as a guinea pig, Dennis finally found the right combination of cosmetic grade pigments, emulsifiers, and vehicle, resulting in a water-based liquid that met with his critical approval. Distilled water was used as a cleaner. Dennis taught that spraying several thin layers (to build up a makeup) was much better than thick opaque ones. And while the airbrush seemed to be a miracle tool, Dennis also stressed that more traditional techniques still had their place with makeup application.

In 1990, Dennis sold the name StarMist to the Kryolan Makeup Corporation, as he had become increasing more involved with the producing of commercials, which he still does to this day. Kryolan for a short while produced the line; eventually, however, they ceased its production of the line owing to manufacturing difficulties.

To be continued in the next (July) issue where we turn our attention back to which airbrush makeup lines are currently available. Products are listed by their brand name, as well as the name of the manufacturer. Additionally, you'll find colors, size amounts, and other pertinent information listed. Don't miss it!

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