Make-Up Artist magazine: More than just a pretty face

Publication focuses on magic of Hollywood from new offices in Vancouver

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Did you know ?

• Michael Key won Emmy Awards for makeup in 1993 and 1995 for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” He was nominated three other times.

When it comes to business output, Michael Key doesn’t always try to put a pretty face on things.

Most recently, Key went with the wary face of Capt. Jack Sparrow, who seems to be wondering if his timbers are about to be shivered.

Before that, it was the well-punched face of “The Fighter,” as portrayed by Mark Wahlberg.

And before that, it was the face of a living-dead brain eater on his magazine cover. Well, 90 percent of the face, anyway; most of his left cheek and a portion of his lips were gone.

Key is publisher and editor-in-chief of Make-Up Artist magazine, a Vancouver-based publication that focuses on one segment of the magic of Hollywood.

“The magazine is read in 70 countries,” Key said.

Key Publishing Group celebrated the move into its new headquarters with an open house Tuesday evening. The special guest was Leonard Engelman, governor of the makeup artist and hairstylist branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They’re the people who choose the winner of the “best makeup” Oscar each year.

Despite changing technology in production as well as materials, Engelman said, “a makeup artist works with highlight and shadow.”

It’s the same concept as any artist, Engelman added, except “we just work with a lumpier canvas.”

It all gives Key and his staff material for six magazine editions a year, each selling 16,000 or 17,000 copies.

Of course, Key noted: “Print is, if not an endangered species, then a challenged one.”

That’s why an annual series of International Make-up Artist Trade Shows is responsible for much of the growth represented by the Key Publishing Group’s new headquarters.

“We started in the mid-’90s with just one trade show,” said Heather Wisner, managing editor. “Now that we’re up to six, we needed to expand our staff, and our workspace, to handle the ramped-up production schedule.

“This new office is considerably larger. We went from 2,800 square feet to 4,500 square feet, and we now have a conference room and multimedia center as well as a makeup room where we can do demos and tutorials,” Wisner said.

Now the money generated by the trade shows — including ticket sales and exhibition space rentals — produces the bigger share of the company’s revenue, Key said.

Key and his crew tried expanding the publishing side of things a few years ago, but they got their timbers shivered.

“In 2006, we tried a classic men’s style publication. In a year and a half, it just about tanked my company,” Key said. “We had to strip the company down to the frame, but we came out of the ashes.”

Engelman, whose client list includes Cher, Meg Ryan and Sylvester Stallone, said his craft also is working its way through some interesting transitions.

Much of what we see on the screen is the product of computer-generated imagery, or CGI — not a makeup artist’s brush. But there is room for both, Engelman said … if they’re both done well.

Thirty years ago, Rick Baker created the transformation scenes for “An American Werewolf in London,” Engelman said. When you saw his muzzle elongate, and his legs and paws extend, “it was all done with makeup.”

Baker won an Oscar.

In 2010, “when they filmed ‘The Wolfman,’ they did all the transformation scenes with CGI,” he said. “It was a couple of steps ahead of ‘Godzilla.’”

Engelman then pointed to the age-bending epic “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” in which Brad Pitt’s character got younger during the course of the film.

“When he went from 85 to 65 years old, it was all CGI, and it was masterfully done,” Engelman said. “When he went from 65 to 35, it was makeup.”

Engelman recalled a commercial a few years ago that featured Cher, one of his clients. Somebody noticed a tattoo on her wrist and decided it didn’t fit the shot. The director figured he could clean it up later with technology. Engelman had a counter offer.

“In 3½ minutes, I can get rid of it, for 27 cents” worth of makeup.