Face painting: Makeup artists in the Twin Cities

What do airbrushes, Photoshop and a little fake blood have in common?

University professor and make-up artist Tessie Bundick demonstrates how to apply make-up to imitate a bruise on junior acting BFA student Rebecca Leiner in the Rarig Center on Friday.

Chelsea Gortmaker

University professor and make-up artist Tessie Bundick demonstrates how to apply make-up to imitate a bruise on junior acting BFA student Rebecca Leiner in the Rarig Center on Friday.

Joe Kellen

Tessie Bundick applied a dash of purple to her model’s cheek, dotting right beneath the eye to finish off an enormous bruise.

The model got up, looked in the mirror and put her hand to her face, laughing incredulously at how realistic her shiner was.

“All right,” Bundick said, setting her brush on the table next to an array of products. “What should we do next?”

Bundick has been doing makeup work in theater, film and television for more than 25 years, and she teaches a course on it at the University of Minnesota. This situation isn’t uncommon for her.

In fact, that dazzled model is a perfect example of what the makeup world is all about: transformation.

“I’m shocked as much as anyone else that I make a living doing this,” she said.

There are more makeup jobs available in the Twin Cities than you may imagine. In her lengthy career, Bundick has worked on everyone from Sarah Palin to Tiny Tim.

“I get to meet interesting people who I’d never have access to,” she said. “That’s my favorite part of the job.”

After a good friend left the business when Bundick was starting out, he offered to connect her to all of his contacts. It was a lucky break that altered her life’s trajectory.

“It’s insecure,” she said. “You don’t have any idea that you’re gonna get work. Even if you’re great and everyone loves you — there’s no guarantee.”

This rings particularly true for a newer addition to the Minnesota cosmetic scene, Hayley Sachs.

Primarily focused on bridal and fashion work, Sachs entered the career with a little more competition around her. Makeup wasn’t her full time gig until last year.

“I’m sending emails all the time,” she said. “It just takes time and luck and talk to have people giving you work consistently.”

Sachs’ efforts are beginning to pay off, though — she was asked to work at New York Fashion Week this year.

While the Minnesota native has some apprehensions about the pressure of the city and the high-profile job, Sachs maintains that confidence is the base for success in the industry.

“I think this field has this dumbed-down reputation,” she said. “But you’re working quickly and efficiently on every job. For fashion shows, you don’t breathe.”

Maybe the idea of beauty school and professional makeup application conjures thoughts of superficiality for some, but the art requires staunch patience and pinpoint accuracy. Makeup artists balance the desires of their clients, as well as photographers, to create the perfect image.

“A lot of it is about being able to draw outside the lines,” she said. “You’re drawing on human skin, so you have to be OK dealing with asymmetry. It’s kind of like drawing a straight line on a ball.”

Rachel VonBank, a global business sophomore at the College of Saint Benedict, is still working on perfecting this component of her trade. She’s been interested in skin and cosmetics since age 14 and recently switched her major from nursing to pursue her passion.

“I never seriously considered becoming a makeup artist,” she said. “When I discovered that the job I wanted as a nurse had about the same income as a mid-level makeup artist, I felt so empowered. I had to go for it.”

VonBank is self-taught from YouTube videos and experimenting on friends. Her portfolio grows every day — like Sachs, VonBank is always sending out emails, attending conferences and doing whatever she can to gain an edge.

Perhaps that sounds a bit “Glengarry Glen Ross,” but none of these artists see it that way. If there’s one consistent thing about makeup artistry, it’s that it’s a labor of love.

“I never imagined that I would put so much time and research into ‘just doing makeup,’” VonBank said. “But it is beyond worth it when I hand a mirror to a client and see the look on their face.”