Our Neighbor: Valerie Vanderkolk, MUA
“It's about understanding color theory and how the products work..”
In this interview, I spoke with Valerie Vanderkolk, a local freelance makeup artist (MUA).
MARGARET: Why/how did you get involved in the professional makeup industry?
VALERIE: I went to college and studied costume design and in college we learned makeup as part of the costume process in theatre. After I graduated I came to Chicago and designed costumes and makeup for a show for a tiny storefront that doesn’t exist anymore. I designed clown makeup that the actors scratched off during the performance. The whole setting of the show took place in a creepy circus—it’s such an obscure play, J.B. It’s based off the story of Job from the Bible.
I got smitten with makeup and I worked as a key makeup artist on an independent film 6 months after that and I did some theatre makeup for a show at Gorilla Tango. I work in theatre so I’ve been doing it [makeup] on the side [ever since].
What was it about that show?
It was interesting to me because it was about testing your faith and how sometimes it’s easier to get sidetracked by the flashy parts of life and for some reason the main character, J.B., never really falters.
But I think really it was the clown makeup—I really like clown makeup for some reason.
How did you end up doing makeup for that show?
I responded to a job posting, which was originally a costuming position. Eventually the director said, “We should have clown makeup”, so I researched and designed clown makeup for almost everyone in the show. I think out of 14 people in the cast, 10 had clown makeup and only 4 didn’t.
What are you working on currently?
I’m currently in pre-production for a photo shoot that should shoot in the next month or so. I also freelance and work in theatre doing wardrobe. Sometimes helping the actors apply makeup is part of your job in wardrobe.
What different types of makeup application can you do?
I do everything from SFX to beauty and theatre and face painting. I’ve done industrial shoots for a company making educational materials and independent films and short films and editorial fashion shoots and headshots. And I’ve also worked at a haunted house and worked in theatre. I’d done a couple of runway shows too.
What is your favorite type of makeup application?
Definitely working at the haunted house was probably my favorite job. It was one of the few times [I] had creative freedom you don’t normally have. Normally [on a job you ask a client], “What do you want?” or it’s very specific [makeup] for a character in a film—or for photo shoots you want the person to look like themselves or a little better. At the haunted house there were four makeup artists and one hundred people that needed makeup in two hours, so you needed to work really fast. Sometimes people would have specific things they wanted, and other times people would sit down and say, “Oh, you know, whatever you think,” so you would have to come up with something on the fly. Towards the end of the season, someone would sit down and you’d ask what they need for their character and they would say, “What you did for my character last time.” Sometimes they would take a picture of their makeup from the day before because they really liked it and it would be something you’d done, which was really fulfilling.
What’s the biggest application mistake you see people make?
The biggest one is people wear bronzer as a contour in the hollows of their cheeks. Bronzer is a warm brown with shimmer in it and when you’re trying to sculpt a shadow in your face—shadows are never shimmery.
What advice do you have?
I think the biggest thing people underestimate is how important skin care is. It isn’t just using a moisturizer, but having the right total skin care for your skin. Sometimes people don’t exfoliate and it makes skin look dull because of the dead skin buildup. It’s like a layer of dust on your skin.
If you have dry skin, make sure you’re being thorough about moisturizing because it can cause premature aging too.
Do you wear makeup on a daily basis?
I do not. When I go on a job, I always wear naturalistic makeup because I don’t like to wear a lot of makeup [in general]. When I’m set for 12 hours...you just don’t want to put too much on.
What are your favorite products?
There are two answers for this: for my personal use I use Benefit Gimme Brow every day even when I’m not wearing anything else. I have blonde eyebrows so I use it to color in the parts I want people to see.
To use on other people as a makeup artist I love gel eyeliner, with a close second place going to cake liner. It comes in a small dry cake and you spray a little bit of water in it. It’s just like painting with watercolors.
My third favorite makeup product is cream foundation. It has a very matte finish to it and...it gives better coverage than a liquid foundation. It can cover up any trouble spots very easily and it stays true to its color. What a lot of people don’t know when they’re trying to color match with liquid foundation is that [liquid foundation] oxidizes and turns a shade darker, so if you don’t let it dry on the skin [before you purchase it] you can end up with the wrong color foundation.
What are the best drugstore products?
I’ll tell you what I actually have in my kit. One of the big secrets makeup artists don’t necessarily want to tell you is Wet N Wild eyeliner and lip pencils are a staple because if you’re deciding what to spend money on it isn’t a lip liner pencil (you’re just going to put lipstick over it anyways).
NYX: they have a couple of really good primers. They have a pore filler primer that is really good.
I have a moisturizing lip balm from Vaseline.
I have a Maybelline mascara. Mascara is something you can get really expensive but honestly a $10 tube versus a $30 tube isn’t a huge difference. The difference is in the brush.
James Vincent, celeb makeup artist who works with Rihanna, says you don’t need to spend a lot of money on lipsticks and lip liners. As a makeup artist it isn’t something you should invest a lot of money in because you can mix any color lipstick you want with a palette of primary colors.
One other thing a lot of makeup artists do is layer a couple of different lipsticks on each other to create an ombre effect. Sometimes I like to put a base layer of a red and then a layer of a pinker red and then to get it a little darker I’ll put a darker lip gloss over it.
I also like to make lip glosses by mixing Vaseline or clear lip gloss with lipstick.
What are your thoughts on seasonal makeup trends?
Right now I really like them. Right now what’s really big—London Fashion Week is going on right now—is red lips…During the fall fashion week a darker almost purplier red was trendy, but now it’s a brighter ruby red. Another trend I really like is a glossy eye, which makes the eye shadow look like it’s wet. MAC makes a product called Eye Gloss [for this].
Where would you like to see yourself in a year?
I love working in theatre but I would love to get more private clients and to get back into doing runway shows. I’ve done a couple in the past and I would love to do more.
If potential clients would like to get in touch with you, how should they do so?
You can contact me through my website. If you’re not exactly sure [what you want] I have a form on there you can fill out and email me and it will give me an idea of what you’re looking for. It [the website] will give you a menu of services and a price list.
What types of services should clients contact you regarding?
I do special event makeup where I come into the client’s home and do their makeup for a special event (like Valentine’s day or prom). I also do makeup for weddings (not just brides, but also if you’re a guest). I also do makeup for corporate headshots (realtors, lawyers, doctors). You can even book me for Halloween makeup!