Brushstroke of Genius

July 11th, 2018

July 11th, 2018

Brushstroke make-up training for film, TV, stage and fashion

Brushstroke has been an influential make-up artist training school for nearly 3 decades.  It has a reputation for providing proper training – varied, relevant and excellent preparation for people wishing to work in film, TV, stage and fashion.  The first make-up school to work out of a film studio, it remains based in Shepperton Studios with facilities at Pinewood too.

Brushstroke logo

Brushstroke places great importance on being able to respond to the ever-changing needs of both its students and the industry it serves.  According to its founder, Cheraine Bell, certain attributes will mark you out as an employable make-up artist today: “You need to be multi-skilled (in hair and wigs, sfx/prosthetics, period make-up) resourceful and have an unflappable personality with top class people skills”.

As Cheraine points out, keeping up with new techniques and products has always been necessary.  But also being agile and able to perform the wide variety of tasks expected by production companies really tests the skills of today’s make-up artists.

“The world of entertainment is no different from other industry and business sectors in that it needs properly trained people to hit the ground running.  Even on big budget films, time and resources are always tight so the last thing they need on a production is a trainee who isn’t prepared and resourceful.

“Right from day one our intention has been to train people, of all ages, to be employable make-up artists in the entertainment industry.  The emphasis is upon ’employable’ – as in really ready to get to working.”

A student working

Professional make-up training for professional people

Make-up artist might not be a profession in the traditional sense of the word (as in doctor, teacher, solicitor, accountant) but the properly trained are professionals all the same.  There are no short cuts to learning the necessary skills.  If you want to work in film, TV, stage or fashion, you need to be prepared – for period looks, casualty effects, hairstyling, working with wigs, etc.

Student work


The desire to start work and earn money, though understandable, can mean some students just aren’t trained properly to take on the demanding role of trainee make-up artist.  Without the right training it will be hard to work on a gritty, contemporary crime drama one month, then a highly detail period production the next.

The reason for Brushstroke’s training success is simple: the flexible nature of its courses and its network of skilled tutors, all specialist make-up artists in their own right.  This structure enables them to introduce different content and tutors as required thereby ensuring the relevance and high standard of both the syllabus and teaching levels are maintained.

Students working

BTEC and ITEC qualification courses are an important part of Brushstroke’s prospectus.  First, they instil confidence, in the student and their families, that the training is accredited and recognised.  Secondly, they reassure those people seeking to fill trainee posts that Brushstroke training is structured round their essential needs.

As Louise White, general manager of Brushstroke says, fast track courses, which last only a matter of weeks, are not good enough to prepare someone from scratch to work in the industry: “Like any profession, it takes time to learn a skill and your training should include enough time to let you practice your newly-learnt techniques.”

Brushstroke’s own shorter courses are aimed at those already working in the profession needing to top up or refresh their skills.

A student working 

Make-Up Artists are Hair Stylists too

Brushstroke’s make-up artist training includes hair styling as standard.  Its students spend at least 50% of their time working on hair including barbering – from basic trims and continuity cuts to full blown styling and wig fitting.  Big budget films might be able to afford dedicated hair artists, but the majority of productions want fully-skilled all-rounders.

Says head of make-up for Coronation Street, Elizabeth Armistead: “My team are make-up artists, barbers and hair stylists all rolled into one.  Tight timescales and being able to work with different story lines drives this need as much as budget – it’s all about smart working.”

Ensuring their students gain a significant level of skill with hair is important for Brushstroke which is why they teach the subject on all their courses.  They also run ITEC qualification courses: diploma in hairdressing and barbering, and certificate for barbering on its own. There are 4 specialist hair and barbering tutors working at Brushstroke – Rachel Bartlett, Richard Jones, Michela Olivieri and Milo Sabariz.

A student working

The Best Tutors are Make-Up Artists

Brushstroke tutors are working make-up and hair artists – all specialists in their own field of work.  They teach the students the very precise skills they need as well as sharing tips, knowledge and experience.  They introduce the students to being creative and resourceful, as well as how to be indispensible members of the wider production team.  In addition to formal ‘business studies’ as preparation for self-employment, the students benefit from tutors’ advice for starting out as make-up artists – from excelling with continuity to the vital contribution they can make to helping an actor prepare.

All the tutors alternate their teaching roles at Brushstroke with working as make-up and hair artists on productions in film, TV, stage and fashion.  They properly represent the many facets of being a make-up artist today and between them they are responsible for the make-up on an impressive role-call of high profile productions – sfx on Harry Potter (Barney Nikolic), regulars on continuous drama (Paula Cahill, Eastenders), casualty sfx specialists (Catrin Thomas), Ridley Scott films (Tina Earnshaw), TV dramas such as Silk, Whitechapel, and The Honourable Woman (Marella Shearer), Mr Selfridge and Drunk History (Juliette Tomes), fashion focused work (Carla Viljoen and James Anda) and all types of TV presenters, including Sky News, Sports and Arts (Anita Perrett).

Many of the tutors regularly recruit their trainees through Brushstroke.  Indeed, they could fill their own IMDb directory with credits for work by tutors and students alike.

Make-up artist is a great career choice

Make-up artistry is an excellent career choice for school leavers and career changers alike.  Brushstroke takes youngsters from age 16 and those graduating from its 2 Year Make-Up and Hair course not only have a valuable qualification but also the training behind them to make a real go of their chosen career.  Make-up is also a great choice for those wishing to change career because they usually have useful life skills and experience to call upon: an understanding of the work environment including self-employment, for example.  They also appreciate the role the make-up artist has to play in putting actors at their ease and helping them get ready to perform.

You never stop learning as a make-up artist so it’s important to keep seeking new skills, refreshing those that are bit rusty and updating your knowledge of products and different techniques.  For this reason, Brushstroke offers its students life-long support – in terms of work opportunities, complimentary training and general promotion of their work.

Being multi-skilled as a make-up artist has always been important.  Even if you specialise, you need to be prepared for anything.  Think about the range of films, plays, musicals, events and TV shows available at any one time.  Then think about the make-up required by the performers: injured, beautiful, aged, stressed, ill, drugged, Roman, Elizabethan, androgynous, in drag, as monsters, futuristic…

All make-up artist training and experience is valuable but, the more professional and relevant it is, the better your chances of getting employment.  This is true of all professions, and make-up artistry is no different.

Make-up artist training should do more than teach you skills; it must motivate and share real work experiences.  As a parent of a Brushstroke student put it: “Many thanks for setting her on her way with the most brilliant team of Brushstroke hair and make-up tutors who inspired her to follow her dream”.



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By Warpaint Magazine

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