Fiona Tanner - On Becoming A Pro

Image: Fiona doing a dancer's makeup
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We caught up with award winning makeup artist Fiona Tanner to find out about working in the industry.

How did you start out as a makeup artist?

I have always been creative; having drawn since I was 8 years old it was the main talent I had at school.  I experimented with many different careers such as Fashion Design and Illustration before trying makeup.  My love of people combined with my artistic talent meant that makeup artistry was the perfect career choice.

Does it take time to get established and find regular work in the industry?

It takes several years and a lot of determination.  There is a lot of competition with many companies willing to exploit new talent. Spring to Autumn are usually the best months with quieter periods around November through to February.  You must learn to be patient and good with money as a freelancer because you never know when a bad month might happen.

In terms of makeup applications, what is your signature style?  

My style is very precise, yet colourful and creative.  I match the makeup to the personality as much as to the outfit. It really depends on the assignment and to asking the right questions; people have different ideas on what is natural and what a smokey look is. Pictures help to ascertain exactly what the client wants.  You are rarely able to be as creative as you would like to be unless you develop a trusting relationship with a photographer who is on the same wave length as yourself.  A good experienced makeup artist realises that less is more and it's important that the client is comfortable with the look.

You do makeup for theatre and TV, on celebrities, for private clients and weddings. What do you love most about your job?

I love all the different aspects of my job. Even if I'm not doing something inspiring or particularly creative there is always the chance to meet interesting people and it beats office work hands down!  Creating something beautiful which someone really loves is the best kind of feeling imaginable.

Which celebrities have you most enjoyed doing makeup for?

I had the chance to do Jedward's makeup earlier this year which was quite an interesting experience and Lloyd from X Factor.  It was interesting to learn about the PR machines behind them and to realise a celebrity's life is not just their own.  Their lives seem to be planned out for them and as wonderful as it may be to get fortune and fame, I believe you do have to give up a certain amount of personal freedom which the rest of us all take for granted.

What is the hardest part of being a makeup artist?

Erratic work schedules, instability and understanding what a client really wants can be tough but the positives far out way the negatives if you are dedicated and realistic to the competition and industry you will become a part of.

What are your favourite tools in your makeup kit?

My airbrush; always a winner with my private clients and usually clinches a makeup trial.  My fluffy eyeshadow brushes too as a great makeup is all about blending.

Which makeup brands do you like best at the moment?

Having worked at MAC Cosmetics I do still have a lot in my kit and the colours still work to impress.  However I'm open to all different brands - the key to being a good makeup artist is to experiment.  Different products work well for different assignments.

You are an award-winning makeup artist. What has been your proudest achievement in your career so far?

When I make someone really happy and exceed their expectations.  I love being creative so when I go beyond my own creative expectations and know I've done work which is exceptional.

What advice would you give someone wanting to become a makeup artist?

On the job experience is the best kind and teaches you far more than at college.  Be realistic and understand you will have to do a lot of work for free, but at the same time, don't allow people to take advantage of you. If you don't have the right connections it can be a long and often disappointing journey. You have to be extremely driven and hard working to succeed.


Fiona Tanner is an award-winning makeup artist, her work includes TV, theatre, celebrities, private clients and weddings. Visit her website for further information about her services: www.ftmakeuplondon.com