The New Normal – How Our Production Community Is Adapting to Covid-19 – The Art of Makeup School

Rachael Wagner (instructor) & Ciera Cannon

In our series of blog posts – the “New Normal” – we are looking at what creative options have been put in place to offset the disruption that Covid-19 has caused for production businesses here in Oregon.  This month we caught up with Art of Makeup School – an independently owned boutique school dedicated to education in the art, business, and techniques of professional makeup artistry.

The Art of Makeup’s training and education environment provides the necessary foundation to learn makeup artistry skills from successful working makeup artists current in fashion and makeup trends, film, television, stage, special effects, and HD makeup. The Art of Makeup is located in the Southwest area of Portland, OR, and is licensed with the Oregon Department of HECC (Higher Education Coordinating Commission).

Oregon Film (OF): Assuming the Covid-19 pandemic

has disrupted your business, like so many others, what aspect would you say has been the most surprising?

Art of Makeup School (AoM): I am very grateful that we have managed to stay in business during the pandemic and it also surprises me that we have had as many students at this time.  Not everyone has put their lives and futures on hold waiting for a vaccine or waiting for the pandemic to be over. We still have students that are optimistic about their future careers in makeup artistry and are preparing for it despite production holds or the lull in the film industry.  It might seem scary to leave the house and be around other people every day, but our students trust our safety guidance which we follow vehemently. I also think it’s important for everyone to find the right balance to stay mentally healthy, and for our students that might mean potentially risking exposure to focus on the future. For us it also means going to work to save our business, so we can pay our bills while keeping our commitment to enrolled students who have been looking forward to attending our school. We keep a very safe environment where we all feel comfortable being at the school together. It is our safe space.

OF: What are the main modifications you have had to make to accommodate this new normal? (Which ideas have worked/been successful, which ones not so much…)

AoM: When the pandemic first started there was no break for us.  We were forced to close like everybody else, but we immediately kicked it into high gear utilizing the time to reinvent ourselves temporarily, so we could continue classes online.  To stay connected and find something to give our homebound social media audience, we offered free streaming makeup tutorials and lectures on Instagram Live, and created videos for YouTube and IGTV. I rewrote the syllabus and schedule to create an online curriculum and schedule where students could practice on themselves from home, and instructors could teach over Zoom. I brainstormed to figure out what perks I could offer in this new situation that I hadn’t offered in an in-person classroom setting. It resulted in scheduling out of state guest artists that brought us into their home where they could show us their supplies and makeup organization.   I lost some students and even a teacher who didn’t want to go online, but those who stuck it out were flexible and happy to make it work, and eager to get started. We all learned the new technology of using Zoom, we learned lighting techniques to be seen well online, and some of us purchased Web Cams to sharpen our images.  Zoom and You

Tube offered many instructional videos to help create a well-lit and functioning in-home classroom space. We postponed our new session for a few weeks, but when it appeared there was no end in sight, we gathered all of our new tools and started our program.

I was happy to see the transition went very smoothly.  Students were able to see the instructor demonstrations up close, however, not all of the students had good lighting and it was difficult for instructors to see what students were doing.  We quickly figured out that when students finished their looks they could take a selfie and upload it to our communication app, GroupMe where we could see the makeup clearly.  We were also able to bring students into Zoom break out rooms where we could discuss progress and critique in a private one on one online setting. The students shared all kinds of makeup tips and images through GroupMe. It was very helpful. However, after a few weeks of being online, the students grew frustrated with being stuck at home and only getting to practice on themselves.  When we were finally able to get together they were very excited to meet in person and practice “from” each other.  Learning “on” other faces is so important to be a good makeup artist.

OF: Are there any surprising areas of growth in your business since the pandemic started?

AoM: We are currently planning an online program for students who are not able to come to our school in person.  We get a lot of out of state interest, and not everyone can travel, especially now.  The pandemic has forced us to create an online program that we can continue to use to grow that part of our business.  We have also learned new social media tools to strengthen our outreach that we will continue to use as well. I think the most noticeable difference in our in-person classes will be our safety and sanitation practices.  I can’t imagine applying makeup again without a mask.  Since students have been wearing masks, the usual colds and flu have not been passed around the classroom which has made a big difference in health and attendance.

Art of Makeup class underway on Zoom

OF: Have you had to implement new training for your staff?

AoM: Besides teaching instructors how to prepare to conduct class online, when we came back to the classroom we had to implement a new safety protocol that teachers needed to get used to.  It was quite the adjustment to have to wear both masks and face shields to apply makeup.  The face shields constantly fog up which makes it very difficult to see and having 2 layers in front of the face makes it hard to breathe.  We transitioned to goggles and learned to tuck the masks or tape them under the goggles to prevent fogging which helps a lot.

OF: If there has been any impact on staff morale, how have you successfully been able to mitigate this?

AoM: Unfortunately, we’ve had to make some adjustments to make up for some of our instructors’ life changes.  I think the pandemic has made all of us look at our lives differently and has made us more aware of our mortality.  This acute awareness has inspired some changes.  I’m used to my instructors sticking with me for many years, so I’ve rarely had to hire new ones.  This year 3 of my instructors had to reduce their availability due to various reasons caused by the pandemic, but fortunately, none of them have wanted to leave permanently.  I am patient and flexible with schedules and availability which makes it easy for them.  They only teach for my school because they want to and there is never any pressure for them to work on days they didn’t choose.  If a big makeup job comes up, I will do my best to cover for them, so they can take it.  I think that helps keep it enjoyable.  We have become a family and a team and we all enjoy supporting each other and meeting new students.

Laura Hankins, Esmee Brown, John Thomas Hernandez

OF: What are you most proud of doing well during this challenging time?

AoM: I am proud of our adaptability, strength, and survivability through all of this.  We’ve had many challenges this year that have gone beyond our business, and every time something else happened, we’ve been able to roll with the punches.  We managed to keep looking forward and we focused on what we could do to overcome every obstacle this year brought. It has been a very stressful year, but I am proud of our selves for hanging in there and staying strong.

To learn more about the Art of Makeup  School please visit the website:

John Thomas Hernandez & Isabelle Contreras



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