Q&A with Master Artist Dick Smith

Photo courtesy of Getty

Last month I was honored to attend a special night honoring the original makeup master, Dick Smith. The event recognized his Honorary Oscar, and incredible body of work.  What impressed me most about Mr. Smith were the stories that spoke of his generosity and encouragement to aspiring artists.  His reputation of mentorship is consistent with his outstanding reputation as the ‘Godfather’ of makeup. Below are some descriptions that praise his achievements.  He is truly a master in his field and an inspiration to makeup artists.

  • “The haunting leer of a demonically possessed girl in “The Exorcist” (1973) is one of the more terrifying examples of the work of makeup artist Dick Smith. Widely considered the 20th century’s maestro of movie makeup and affectionately called the ‘Godfather of Makeup’, Smith has influenced and inspired generations of artists. He has gladly shared his secrets with up-and-comers in the field as well as elevated the standards of the craft, both of which helped to establish makeup as a respected discipline of the cinematic arts.”
  • “Filmmakers have consistently turned to Smith for persuasive renderings of time’s effects on the human body.  For artfully aging F. Murray Abraham from his forties to his eighties in “Amadeus” (1984), Smith shared the Academy Award® for Makeup with Paul LeBlanc. He earned his second Oscar® nomination for making a spry 65-year-old Jack Lemmon a persuasive octogenarian in “Dad” (1989), and created an iconic masterpiece with the jowly look of Marlon Brando in “The Godfather” (1972).
  • “Smith steadfastly believes in making movie magic look natural. His artistry is often unnoticed – and that’s just the way he wants it. “A good makeup doesn’t look like makeup.”

Here are his answers to our Q & A which includes advice that Mr. Smith passed onto us.  I hope all aspiring artists take his advice, and learn from his generosity and grace.

What is your advice to aspiring new makeup artists:  My advice to makeup artist getting started is to practice and practice. Follow your passion for makeup every opportunity you can. Inspire yourself with makeup magazines, books, and films. When possible contact other makeup artists around you and learn from them. Experiment, practice, experiment, practice.

With all the new products out there on the market, what are the top three staples every artist should have in their kit? The top products that makeup artists should carry in their kit today may often depend on the types of makeup application they are usually involved with.  The products that makeup artists involved specifically in editorial, photography, and red-carpet will be different than stage, which will be different than the application of prosthetics, which will be different than labs.  Makeup artistry, as also in years past, covers so many areas that you have to be ready for what is called for on that project.  It is wonderful to see that MAC Cosmetics carries excellent products that cross into all of the vast ranges of the art of makeup.


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