Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jack of all Trades, Master of None?

I was in Alcone the other day buying some post fashion week organization containers when I bumped into Angelina Avalone. In catching up with each other on work we had an in depth conversation that most artists I think would find absolutely fascinating, though to us it's the norm. The conversation was about being "a jack of all trades" in your industry, and how important it is to have a ton of skills underneath your belt, and how if she and I did not, we might be up shits creek with our careers.

Now I know you are probably thinking "but what about the second part to that saying? "Jack of all trades, master of none?" While there is a lot of truth in that statement, there's also some key understandings that make the difference between being an expert in your field, or a wandering nomad with no focus.

Let's examine the intention of that saying, and the truth that lies within it. In this industry people have a mega short attention span, and the ones doing the hiring are looking for someone masterful at developing whatever specific vision they have. If we aren't a specialist, we'll be passed over for someone who is. That's why it's not wise to have too much going on with your website and promotional material, too many genres of makeup. It will seem unfocused, and in a sense that you are a "Master of None".

So why is it still important to be a "Jack of All Trades"?  In mine and Angelina's case, where we do very specific makeup (theater and creative), there may only be a very small pool of demand for what we do. As a result we get some really amazing jobs, but they maybe be few and far between.  Most people think I am a "Body Artist", and an "airbrush artist", or a "creative makeup artist".  I am all of these things of course, but I am so much more. I am an fx artist, a beauty artist, a props and backdrop fabricator and painter, and on the other end I am an educator, mentor, and coach. Right now I am flying to Paris to be a guest instructor at the MUFE Cite du Cinema to teach for a week while also coordinating two MUA Leadership Programs.

My point is in the case where my "creative makeup" jobs are not coming in, I cannot have the excuse that there is not enough work out there for me - that is a small box to live in. I am the master of my domain, and the captain of the ship that is my career. If I do not steer myself into the water to find and conquer new frontiers I'll just get stuck in the harbor, while my ship rots, my booty runs out and frankly I'll just be a cranky old pirate. (No idea where that analogy came from but I just went with it).  So over the years I have made sure I keep learning and developing new and old skill sets. I sit in on colleagues workshops, I assist them on fx and hair jobs, I take classes in photography and pay close attention/ask questions of the photographers I work with.  You just never know what request will come down the pipe. As a result I get to be the fx artist on a WOLVVES music video, AND do a beauty Halloween makeup for Martha Stewart.  I can be the fx artist for a Flaunt Magazine story, but also do a beauty airbrush campaign for Temptu.

So how do you become a Jack of all trades but not appear to be an unfocused "Master of None"? 

Good question! The answer is about staying connected to who you are as a brand. Allow your online presence to be strong in your voice and specialty. If you are an exceptional bridal artist, then let there be no mistaking that in your online message. Same goes for if you are an fx artist, a body painter, a high fashion editorial artist - these are not who you are, this is what you specialize in. The trick is to have a hidden portfolio on line to show your other assets. Consider keeping two separate websites to show certain clients based on request, and be vocal on the job about what you have done and are capable of doing. Keep pictures on your phone/iPad ready to show in case your alternative skill set is exactly what your client is looking for; people see the advantage of working with someone they know already. Also, surprising people with your main portfolio by saying "I also did the hair for this" Or "I also painted the backdrop for that" will astound them and make you a top-of-mind artist.

Just make sure you represent your alternative skill sets well - make sure you seem proficient at it, otherwise it may backfire on you. Joanne Geir is known to be an amazing body painter, but she is also and exceptional beauty artist. Pat McGrath is one if the top makeup artists in the world, but she also is also is amazing at product development. Kabuki can do insane avante garde creative looks but can also do very clean "no makeup" skin looks. My own dear friend James Vincent is known for his mod rocker looks, but he can airbrush, do fx, tattoos and more if he needs to. Or he'll just call me if he doesn't feel like it, lol!  

Joking aside, this is actually another option. If you do not feel comfortable promoting yourself in an alternative skill set, then have someone in your back pocket who can do it well. There is nothing wrong with partnering with another artist so people seek you out as a package, or will constantly come to you because if you cannot do it, they know you can confidently refer someone who can.

So what does all this mean for you? Same thing I always say:

  1. Save up and invest in education to expand your skills.
  2. Keep doing tests that push your comfort zone.
  3. Continue to stay true to your brand but be the person that also gives a little something extra.
  4. Create relationships and partnerships with other talented artists in your community, especially ones who have different skill sets than you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Juggling Many Balls and Dealing with Overwhelm

With Fashion Week starting up - a time where many makeup artists are juggling several balls, and when I personally experience the craziest schedule perhaps all year - I thought that examining how to handle "overwhelm" would be appropriate. You've got juicy goals, a crazy work schedule, friends that are dying to hang out, and it's been way too long since you've seen your mom,...what do you do?! You can't stop time (I've tried), and life will keep throwing you curve balls. If your go to response is "I'm too busy/tired/overwhelmed" it's time to reevaluate! How can you juggle all the pieces without falling apart?

#1. Just accept you will need to become a superhero.

Someone once told me "If you have a lot on your plate, then switch to a platter". When you are going to be up to a lot in your life, it is not possible for you to handle it all by doing things the way you have always done them.  You will need to approach it with a different way of thinking, a creative way of thinking.  You will need to step into the nearest phone booth (if you can find one that actually exists anymore) and change into your "super suit". As your super self you can handle anything, you will see ways to do things differently, and no matter what it looks like you will be committed to getting it done.  What's the trick to becoming your "super" self? Just keep believing (even if you don't know exactly how, or what it will look like) anything is 100% possible for you to complete, 100% of the time. My favorite quote from Einstein is "you cannot solve a problem with same manner of thinking that created it."

#2.  Take breathing to a level deeper.

Absence of oxygen causes our hearts and blood to pump harder and laboriously. We breath shallow when we are not present and are just trying to make it by the skin of our teeth. Anxiety and stress directly correlates with shortness of breath. If in a moment of stress, stop, become aware of the shallow breath, and consciously take a few minutes to do some deep/slow breathing exercises - you're heart will get the oxygen it needs to pump ample fresh blood to the brain. Your nerves immediately begin to relax, and you start to feel grounded, and are able to critically and creatively think on a vast level. The funny thing is, this could be one of the simplest things for calm our nerves and see things much clearer, yet most of the worlds population doesn't realize it. There is an easy and ancient breathing technique you can use called Pranayama. Follow this link for the very simple steps; it should take you no more than 5 minutes but the results will have you be much more focused and calm to handle your day.

#3. Make your calendar a game of Tetris

When I have a lot going on sometimes I dread looking at my calendar. With so much packed in it just seems I started looking at it as a game. Some of my biggest problems when I'm busy are getting back to people's texts/emails/phone calls, taking care of my well being, and finding time to restructure/clean my tools and supplies. I started looking for all the big chunks in my calendar - the big blocks of commitments like work and important family obligations - and then I find the little empty spaces where I can fit stuff in, and strategically add things in: 45 minutes to answer all correspondence, go get acupuncture, invite an intern over to help restructure my kit, sit down with hubby to watch (fill in the blank) shows on DvR, go to bed early this day.... It's sounds silly, but if you make those things a vital part of your schedule and even book it it with alarms, you feel less anxiety around forgetting something and you don't feel you are being pulled in a hundred different directions. You control your schedule, it doesn't control you.

#4. Be conscious of others who count on you AND who you can count on.

When I get too overwhelmed I trap myself in a little bubble of solitude. I do not consciously do it, it's a matter of habit from being independent. The problem is that when I do this I hinder myself in 2 ways: 
A.) I forget others count on me in big and little ways, so I don't communicate with them. I forget to tell them I will be busy in days/weeks ahead, they will assume things are hunky-dory, and they wonder why I am not responding or doing the things they count on me to do. 
B.) I also forget that 2 or 3 brains/sets of hands could be the magic trick I am looking for that will have me get more done in a shorter amount if time. So by not reaching out to my network for support, I could miss an opportunity to alleviate stress and my work load.
Bottom line, be responsible, communicate, and ask for support from others. That way you should never find yourself on anyone's "shit list", and you may find peace through the help you receive if you have the courage to ask for it.

#5. Do your best and take care of yourself.

Even if you are a superhero, everybody needs to take care of their well being. Even superheroes are vulnerable with kryptonite moments. Often times when people are busy they do nonsensical things like forgetting to eat, hydrate, or sleep enough. I have NO idea what that is like ( ...said no makeup artist ever). Busy people also do ironic things like eat what's convenient, chain smoke, and drink to to let off steam. (Still have no idea who would do that. Just guessing.) Who are we kidding? We all do it... And we wonder why at the end of a nonstop week we want to crawl into bed for 4 days, and feel like our bodies got pummeled by a Mack truck then went in reverse flattening every ounce of energy we have.  So if you want to be more productive during your "cray-time", and not feel like the floor of a taxi cab at the end of it all, it comes down to a few conscious choices. Every moment you come to the precipice of a choice: Do I go to sleep early or go out for a drink? Do I eat bread at every meal or supplement a veggie? Do I drink another cup of coffee or a glass of water? Do I go out and smoke a cigarette while yapping with the crew or take a moment to be quiet and recharge? All of these are vital choices that could make the difference at the end of the day of feeling energized or exhausted.  Now no one is perfect and old habits are not easy to change...But remember to put on your super suit and do your best. 

When the going gets tough, you get going. Acknowledge yourself for the things you do well in the heat of stressful times, practice, and push your tactics further. Don't settle for less, you really can have it all!