January 7th, 2016
No-one is better placed to create a make-up artistry book which stands the test of time than Penny Delamar. Penny founded The Delamar Academy in 1986 and since then the company has earned an enviable reputation for producing some of the finest make-up artists. We sat down to talk about how things have changed over her vast career, and what we can expect from her latest edition of The Complete Make-Up Artist.
WP: How have you seen the make-up world change over your years of experience?
PD: When I started working for BBC television in the early 1960s everything was transmitted in black and white, and often put out live, so there were no re-takes. With the advent of colour in 1967 the make-up and hair techniques were changed forever. Digital technology was another major change. Feature films went from 35mm to digital, and television brought in High Definition which demanded more attention to detail. Along with larger television screens this resulted in domestic viewing becoming more similar to the cinema experience.
Another big change was the closing down of the old studio system with fully-employed people working in house. First it was the big film studios and then it was the television studios. Most make-up artists are freelance, with all the uncertainties of the freelance world. At the same time there is more freedom of movement between the various areas of film, television, theatre and fashion. I saw Baroness Margaret Thatcher change the rigid trade union system in which you could not work at all without a union card. I made up Baroness Thatcher several times whilst she was Prime Minister in the 1980s when she assured me she would change the system, and she certainly did.
Right now it is a very exciting time to work in make-up. Technology will keep evolving, but however it leaps ahead there will always be a need for actors, and for make-up artists to transform their appearances.
WP: What made you want to update your book? What did you add to it?
PD: When technology advances so do the materials and techniques used in make-up – particularly in prosthetics and special effects. It is important that students are informed about these changes. Also, since I include fashion inside my book, it is vital to update this area as it changes so rapidly. I have also included a new chapter on getting into the industry, with all that it entails. These are the areas that needed the most changes in the third edition of The Complete Make-up Artist.
WP: Looking back on your career, you’ve seen and done so much – do you have any big ticks you’re still working towards on your career checklist?
PD: Looking back on my career, I feel lucky to have worked on so many interesting projects with talented and creative people. My present ambition is to continue to see students leaving the academy to become successful make-up artists. It has been a surprise that a little textbook published 20 years ago has survived for two decades and is still inspiring students all around the world. I find that very satisfying. So, no more ticks on my career checklist. My personal ambition is to do more portrait painting. Before make-up I went to art school and I am trying to revive that skill. It’s all about skin tones, so it is still face painting!
WP: What should students, or prospective students, look for in a make-up course?
PD: Students or prospective students should look for a make-up course where the teachers are currently working in the industry which means they should be freelancers. Apart from students learning the latest techniques, they may be offered work experience when the tutor goes onto their next job.
Students should also look at what their graduates have achieved having completed the course. It is easy to check their careers online.
WP: How important do you think it is to study a traditional course over hands-on experience only?
A traditional course is the quickest way for students to learn all that they need to know to become a make-up artist. Hands-on experience only was possible years ago, but there is no longer the time for the make-up artist to teach on the job. Work experience is important after the course to provide further training – whilst graduates also making themselves useful to the production. On a traditional course, when the tutor is an Oscar or BAFTA winner, as we have at Delamar, the techniques, experiences and etiquette advice passed on to the students is invaluable.