Beauty Without Fuss

Wednesday 21 May 2014

London Muse Make-Up School

By Laurin
So, who likes make-up? Everyone? Excellent, good to know. I’ve always liked make-up, ever since my mother begrudgingly allowed me to start wearing eyeshadow when I was 12 years old because MELINDA’S MOM LETS HER WEAR PINK EYESHADOW AND I’M NOT A BABY ANYMORE *exits stage left slamming door, sobs are heard from offstage for next three hours*.
Like many women my age, I’ve been adorning my face on a near-daily basis for over twenty years. I read about make-up in magazines, talk to other women about it on the Internet and even blog about it. I like make-up pretty well. Or so I thought. Last Monday, for a variety of personal reasons and no reasons whatsoever, I took myself off to the foundation course at London MUSE Make-Up School near Leicester Square.
My main considerations when searching for a course earlier this year were as follows:
  1. Will I have time to do this? I work six days a week, so getting time off to do a month-long course or an entire term was not an option.
  2. Can I afford it? I had been advised that I should expect to pay at least £1,000 for a week of training.
  3. Is it a good school? This should have been my first consideration, but honestly, if I didn’t have the time and couldn’t afford it, it wasn’t happening.
The main courses at London Muse are run as week-long courses, although you can do the Foundation and Advanced certificates in make-up in two weeks back-to-back. I decided to do the Foundation course on its own because I knew I could get a week’s holiday and because I could afford it. The six day foundation course costs £1,200, although there is a 10% discount if you pay the full course fee up front, or you can pay in instalments. Finally (should have been “firstly”), several of the posters on the Sali Hughes Beauty Forum recommended the school, but our very own Luke sealed the deal when he told me that as a working make-up artist, he’s always impressed by the quality of work he sees from graduates of London Muse, even the ones who have only been on short courses. I paid my money, I took my choice.

Before arriving, I knew very little about Nicci Jackson, aside from the fact that she was a make-up artist herself, and she runs the school. I think I assumed that training sessions would be run by course tutors, and we might see Nicci once or twice. I was very wrong about this. Aside from our very last day, Nicci taught every syllabus herself and spent the afternoon sessions monitoring and mentoring our practical sessions with the help of her lovely and kind assistant Josie.

There were six of us on the course initially, five women and two men. We were a more diverse bunch than I expected, from a young South London hairdresser to a youth worker and mother-of-three from West London. We were joined on the Thursday by a woman who’d flown over from Egypt to attend the school. Only one of us had any previous make-up training, and we all had different ideas about how we’d use our knowledge when we’d finished. I thought perhaps I was a bit old to be on the course at thirty-five, but not only was one of my fellow students the same age, but Nicci assured me that she’d had plenty of more mature students on her courses in the past.

My third attempt at smoky eyes. I got told off for my “dolly cheeks”, which I slapped on at the last minute before time ran out. It is better to have no blusher than a sloppy application
Each day had the same structure: in the morning, Nicci took us through theory of a particular topic, demonstrating on Josie or one of us, and after lunch we were let loose to practice on each other, with Nicci and Josie watching and correcting. The six day syllabus touches on everything from facial geometry and contouring to kit hygiene and safe working practices to eyeliner effects, but the topics we spent the most time practising were base application and colour correction and smoky eye effects. As it turned out, everything I’d ever learned about “cool” and “warm” skin tones was completely incorrect, and it took me a couple of days to wrap my head around the correct colour terminologies and how to apply it to various skin tones. We also spent two days working on smoky eyes because as it turned out, not one of us could get it right on the first try.

Above: Nicci’s lip correction demonstration on me.

I’m not telling you much you couldn’t get from reading the syllabus on the website, so if you’re still unsure, here are a few things they don’t tell you:
  1. Nicci Jackson does not bullshit or mollycoddle her students. When you get it wrong, she tells you, immediately. And then she very patiently shows you your mistake and makes you do it again. She absolutely gives praise where it is due, but if you want someone to stroke your ego and coo over the bizarre red and orange colour scheme you chose to deliver for your smoky eye brief because you liked the idea of an “urban acid sunset”, go elsewhere. This is a place to abandon everything you thought you knew and start from the ground up. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s also exhilarating.
  2. On that note, whatever you’ve seen on YouTube is not a substitute for proper instruction from a working professional if you want to call yourself a make-up artist. The best way to learn is from true professionals who practice their craft every day.
  3. The course does not finish after six days unless you want it to. Students are always welcome to come back and re-sit any day if they feel they need more instruction or practice. Free of charge. On the day that we all failed to deliver smoky eyes, we were invited to stay on for the evening foundation course and try again. We all did, and we nailed it the next day. Several of the students on my course are planning to go back this Wednesday evening for additional instruction. Free of charge.
  4. The course runs from 10:30 to 5:30 each day, which doesn’t sound like too much of a stretch if you work regular hours, but you will be exhausted at the end of each day. If you can, don’t plan to go out in the evening while you’re on the course. Go home, have something to eat and go to bed. You will need all your energy and mental reserves for class. By the time I got home on Wednesday night, I was so tired that I forgot how to operate a perfume bottle.
  5. The studio is on the fourth floor of a building with no lift, so you will have nice thighs by the end of the week.
  6. If you thought make-up was a doddle, or had any doubts that it is a serious art and a highly technical craft, you will think differently by the end of the course. I have more respect for true make-up artists now than ever.
  7. Get used to working under pressure. Your practical sessions will be timed from Day 1. I found this frustrating and stressful at times, but this is how real artists have to work in a professional environment.
  8. If you don’t know, ASK. Help is always available during practical sessions, and I learned the best lessons by being told what I was doing was completely wrong and being shown the correct way.
  9. You will want to own ALL the Illamasqua and MAC by Day 3.
  10. You will want to go back. Three of the students from my group had already signed up for the next course when they started, and the rest of us spent the last few days discussing when and how we could get onto the advanced course ourselves.
Above: My final application on my lovely fellow student Krisztina
All in all, it was a brilliant, exhausting, maddening and completely exhilarating week and I’ve never been more in love with make-up artistry than I am at this moment. Do it. You won’t regret it.

The fine print: Laurin Attended Muse at her own expense - this is not a sponsored post.

This post: London Muse Make-Up School originated at: Get Lippie All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post at Get Lippie, then this content has been stolen by a scraper


  1. Could you say more about what you learned concerning cool/warm tones? Thanks

  2. Hi Susan,

    For some reason, I'd always believed that pink undertones meant cool skin tone and yellow meant warm skin tone. We learned skin tones using the Mac Face and Body Foundation system, where pink equals warm (any foundation with a prefix of "N") and yellow equals cool (any foundation with a prefix of "C").


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