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Meet East Hollywood Makeup Artist: Erin Walters

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erin Walters.

Erin, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I got my start in Portland, Oregon. I was a freelance retail makeup artist for several makeup lines, bouncing around to different stores like Nordstrom, Sephora, and Saks while completing my BFA in Sculpture at Pacific Northwest College of Art. A friend of mine was a production assistant on an indie film and gave my name to the makeup department who hired me on. That friend gave me some great advice before I started the film, he said “You could be the best makeup artist in the world, but if you’re a bitch and difficult to work with, you won’t be remembered for beautiful makeup. If you’re pretty good at what you do and can work a 12 hour day with a smile on your face, and say Thank You at the end of the day, you’ll work all the time.” I love being a part of a crew. Studio art can be so formal and solitary; I enjoy the collaboration of being on set. I like being an expert in my field and bringing that knowledge to the table to get the look right. I also worked at an art gallery while starting my makeup career, that experience has definitely lent itself to juggling eccentric personality types. I grinded away on indie movies in Portland for a few years, eventually working on a film with a makeup artist from LA who encouraged me to take my chances out here. She has been an invaluable mentor to me and we are still friends to this day! I moved to LA and said ‘yes’ to every job, so much of freelance is networking, you never know who you’ll meet. I’ve built my business from there and worked on all kinds of jobs – commercials, music videos, film, TV, fashion, art, a music tour, the list goes on. I joined the makeup union in 2013. I’m very lucky, most days I’m working on fun projects with close friends.

Has it been a smooth road?
It was a challenge moving to a new city with very few connections, or friends for that matter. There were some really lonely months and times when my kitchen cabinets were completely bare. I keep a sketchbook and like to look over what was on my mind during those times to keep things in perspective – There are to-do lists, stress dream drawings, and questions like “what is success to me?” and “what would have to happen for me to give up and move back to Oregon?” A friend once gave me a hard time for not celebrating my success more often, but my mind is already on to the next project. I remind myself that for any job I book there are ten people behind me wanting to do what I do, it’s important to be competitive and humble. It hasn’t been easy, and I wouldn’t have learned anything if it had been. Each job presents its own challenges, I’m constantly problem-solving and thinking on my feet. Whether it’s figuring out how to have 90 models body painted assembly line style for a live performance, working closely with actors and directors to design a character’s makeup on a film, or being handed a Ziploc bag of glitter and having the photographer ask “Can you paint a model with this?” for a fashion shoot, it’s all mental gymnastics and I love it. This business is full of highly creative directors and photographers with incredible visions, it’s my job to figure out how to bring their visions to life.

What are some of the influences that have played the biggest role in your journey so far?
My mom put me in every art class as a kid, mostly to keep me out of trouble. This, of course, took on a life of its own & I ended up at an arts magnet school from 8th to 12th grade, which was hands down the best place for me. She always encouraged my artistic side, whether it was how I dressed, how I decorated my room or taking over the garage for my plaster sculpture work in high school & college (my dad was NOT as fond of this!). She was an older mom, very common now but not as much when & where I grew up. I loved looking over her high school yearbooks from the late 50’s & wedding album from 1960. It gave me an appreciation of vintage fashion and an understanding of how trends evolve. She was a big influence on my sense of sophistication and definition of chic.

My thesis advisor in college, Morgan Walker, has the patience of a saint. Admittedly I was a difficult student & he got me through my senior year at PNCA, despite my kicking and screaming. I still check in with him & try to grab coffee when I’m back in Portland. He’s seen me at my worst, a complete stressed out mess, and still manages to paint a silver lining for me. He’s advised me via email during my LA journey, kept me grounded & humble, he keeps me in check! Always encouraging and reminds me of the bigger picture. Morgan is my Artist Coach.

Jenn Hanching is the LA makeup artist I met on an indie film in Portland Oregon that encouraged me to move to LA. Prior to meeting her, LA was not even an option for me. She saw some potential in me, & her generosity from that moment to today I will never be able to repay. She let me visit her to “try out LA”, introduced me to other makeup artists, & brought me on every job she could to assist her. We’ve been friends and coworkers now for nearly ten years. I hope to give back the mentorship she gave me to another artist someday.

What kind of work do you look forward to most?
Right now I’m in the middle of shooting a film called Lady Bird. My friend Jackie Knowlton is the makeup department head and I’m the key makeup artist, the film is written and directed by Greta Gerwig. This set is really special, it’s been such a great place to go to work each day. I’m having fun getting back to my indie film roots. I enjoy the use of makeup adding to character development and complexity on a film, I don’t get that chance on shorter shoots like commercials or music videos. We work long hours together & see cast and crew members more often than friends & family so it really bonds us together.

To feed my creativity I love working with musicians on music videos and photo shoots. Music tends to be more fashion forward. There’s so much freedom in collaborating on a wild look, there’s an opportunity to start a trend which is exciting. The new Kings of Leon album art is starting to come out that I just worked on with photographer Jimmy Marble, they’re using the images in their live shows as well. I’m so proud of the work that we did, it’s turning out so beautiful and fun. I hear our images will be used on T-shirts, posters, & the EP’s, it’s just nuts.

There’s a circle of photographers that I’ve worked with regularly for years and we always have the best time. I love swapping ideas with them, we have complete trust in each other so it’s fun to go back and forth saying “let’s try this!” playing around dialing in the composition of the photo. Sometimes we’re on higher end jobs like Adidas or Toyota, other days we shoot for fun on our own time just to make dope work. They spoil me, we’re a fun little artistic family.

Contact Info:

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Image Credit:
Michael Zavros, Derek Wood, Krista Schlueter, Jimmy Marble

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