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Inspired Thinking: A Makeup Artist’s Journey

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I was born in 1968 in a small rural village in North Devon. I grew up in a family of creative women and can’t remember a time where I didn’t love drawing and painting as a way of expressing myself. It was clear to me that being creative made me happy and honestly, at school, I wasn’t really very engaged with anything else.

After leaving school in 1984, I did a two year Art and Design foundation course at North Devon College. I then followed that with a higher national Diploma in Visual Communication and Graphic Design at Suffolk College. My first job was a graphic design position at Osborne and Little in London. I went from there to a design agency in Newmarket, again working as a graphic designer, but I felt disenchanted. It wasn’t what I had imagined and didn’t give me the creative freedom I longed for.

When my youngest daughter left primary school, it became clear that my role as a mum wasn’t needed in quite the same way as when the children were little.  I wanted my children to see me doing something positive with my life. I wanted to show them that if you really want something and are prepared to work hard, you can realize your dreams. That is when I decided to go back to college.

I pursued a diploma in Beauty Therapy followed by another in Theatrical Special Effects, Media Hair and Makeup. I enjoyed every minute, finally feeling I was where I was meant to be. And I relished every new project and fully embraced coming up with new ideas. Having something creative to focus on made me happy again. I went on to win a national award for my hair and makeup design for the Royal Opera House Design Challenge competition. I also achieved the Student Of The Year award at college. 

After successfully completing my diplomas, I started to focus on building my portfolio and posting the latest looks on Instagram. When I’m creating looks for my own posts, I am constantly dreaming up something fresh and different to try. Repetition kills creativity. Instagram is saturated with artists creating cut creases, and I’m not interested in being one in the same. I get bored easily and am more interested in experimenting, pushing boundaries and breaking the norm. It’s more exciting to surprise people sometimes. 

I don’t believe in one singular style or one area to focus on, because makeup is very much felt and instinctive. Inspiration can be found everywhere: fashion, art, history, nature and my mood can all dictate how a look evolves. I see myself as an ‘artsy’ artist. I love color, texture and embellishments, so I collect constantly and look out for things that might be useful for a future look, a true Magpie. As someone who loves learning new techniques and new ways of creating texture, I find that social media is a very useful platform for learning.

Meeting a new face and making decisions about a model is a very instinctive process. Everyone has something beautiful about them, and I get to bring that beauty to the forefront. It may be beautiful eyes, full lips, great skin, or their personality. Everyone I meet is a blank canvas with endless possibilities. Preparation is an important first step to every look. As tempting as it may be to jump right in, the final look will never be polished if the skin hasn’t had attention first. 

Therefore, I start every face with a good cleanser, then determine whether or not the skin and lips need a gentle exfoliation. I follow by prepping with a good moisturizer and clear lip balm to soften and smooth the lips for later. I love when the skin looks natural and glowing. It’s important not to over-apply any of the products, so I start with just enough concealer, bb cream or foundation because it’s easier to add and build coverage where needed rather than laying it on too thick. 

I have noticed during the pandemic, people have pared down their makeup and are more interested in skincare. The natural look that I have always appreciated is becoming increasingly popular. More people are caring about sustainability, waste, air-miles and being mindful of their environmental impact. This strange year has given us all time to reflect on our lives and brainstorm how we can move forward and be better. There aren’t many positives to come from a pandemic, but I think the focus on how Beauty can impact our work with nature is a good start.

Martha Butterworth
Martha Butterworth
Martha Butterworth is a fashion and beauty makeup artist based in the U.K. She has studied graphic design, beauty therapy, and theatrical special effects, media hair and makeup. Martha’s ideas and approach to makeup is constantly evolving, and is very much a journey rather than a destination