Students in Liz Robertson’s class receive foundations in Hair (and Fashion) that stay with them for the rest of their professional careers. Liz is a seasoned professional makeup artist with over 20 years of experience, working with brands like Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier and NARS to celebrities like James McAvoy, Bryan Cranston and Stephan Mocchio, to name a few. As a Department Head for Hair and a Fashion instructor, Liz trains and inspires budding artists to hone their skills and thrive in their creative careers. Continue reading to learn more about Liz as she shares her advice on how you can become a better makeup artist and reflects on her long and exciting career.
When did you first become interested in doing makeup? Who or what were your first inspirations?
I wasn’t necessarily interested in makeup right away. I was most interested in magazines; from the images, the models, the clothing and how it all created a beautiful image. In my early teens, I would pour over Vogue, Elle, Seventeen, Glamour, Sassy Magazine just to name a few and I would watch Fashion Television at 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday and Fashion File at 6:30 pm or 11:30 pm those same days. I was so enamoured by the glamour of it all. But I didn’t really know that a job as a makeup artist existed until I found a little makeup school at the corner of Church and Gerrard street. A light went off and I was like, yes, this is exactly right!
What’s your educational background/experience in the industry?
I went to school for makeup at The School of Makeup Art. I took a 3 month makeup course that focused on beauty, bridal and fashion. I wasn’t really interested in SFX or cuts and wounds – I wanted beauty! One of my first jobs was at Civello Salon Spa in Toronto. I also did bridal clients and shaped brows, I was able to learn a lot about hair from some great stylists from working with them. I worked a lot in retail which was great to learn about products and brands. You really have to listen to the client’s wants and needs.
After a few years I started developing my portfolio and shooting with photographers in the city, building my portfolio and relationships with agencies. I then was able to be represented by makeup agencies. First I was with Plutino Group and then at Ford. I did a lot of editorial, advertising and commercial work.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working on a project?
That you can be a team player but also be confident in your decisions.
What’s your favourite thing about working in fashion and hair?
The creativity. The people who are on set come together to exchange ideas and create beautiful images.
What kind of changes have you seen over the past years of working in the fashion industry?
Lots of self taught artists. A lot of social media makeup and influencers. I think there’s a place for everyone to create. What I find frustrating is that people don’t bother to dig deep and research. There is a lack of curiosity- which is funny because social media moves so fast but the looks all stay the same.
Do you have any favourite trends that you’ve seen? What has been your least favourite?
I’m not sure that it’s a trend, per se but I think a great skin is key for any look.
What’s the most important quality a makeup artist should have?
A willingness to learn. Say yes to everything.
When did you first join CMU and why did you want to teach?
I joined CMU about 10 years ago as a sessional instructor. I was nervous about teaching my first class, teaching wasn’t something I had thought about doing. But I really enjoy connecting with students and watching them grasp ideas and concepts.
As the department head of hair and as a fashion instructor, what is your advice for prospective students who are preparing for their time at CMU?
I would advise any student coming to CMU to be open to learning. I know that seems like a given, you are going to college. But be open, try new things. Discover. This is the place to do it.
What’s your favourite thing about teaching at CMU?
The teachers have great passion and pride in the work they do and it’s great to share this with the next generation of artists.
What advice would you give to CMU students and aspiring makeup artists?
Read magazines, books in your area of interest and beyond. Watch movies old and new. Research about makeup artists, not just influencers but real professionals, trained artists who are working on set, in the theatre, at fashion week. Walk around a museum or art gallery or the city. It’s amazing the ideas and inspiration you can capture if you are open to it.