Journey behind the brushes

Nicole Saxton found happiness and a career in the makeup industry

MIRROR IMAGE: Nicole Saxton works magic with her brush at her studio in Calgary. (Photo by Valentina Franco/SAIT)

An empty chair waiting to be occupied. In front, a reflector with white lights sets the space to give good clarity to the process that will begin soon. A table full of brushes with different finishes, some very thin and some quite thick. Products in all shades, palettes full of colors and an atmosphere that expresses creativity and pressure at the same time. It’s time to start applying makeup.

Nicole Saxton is a professional makeup artist who, since 2009, has enchanted numerous individuals with her incredible talents. She has dedicated herself to growing as a professional focusing on wedding, commercial and editorial makeup.

“I’m starting every single day in my chair with somebody who might be nervous to get married, (or is) going to a party or to go on set in front of a camera,” she said. “And I’m the first one that’s pumping them up that day.”

Working with confidence and professionalism are attributes that has taken her forward with her goals and successes during this journey of learning and exploring the makeup industry.

“You have to be consistently on time and respectful,” she said. “You just have to realize that someone’s always kind of watching when you’re there and you always have to behave.”

Her career didn’t start off as a makeup artist from the beginning. With a background in public relations, her initial professional role was in that field. However, her fascination with the beauty industry was a constant, as she always had a desire to explore more.

“I eventually realized I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing,” she said. “And I said to myself, ‘If I get laid off, I am going to do makeup full-time.’ And two weeks later, I got laid off.”

Destiny intervened, compelling her to chase her aspirations. Following a two-month makeup course, the artist who taught her recommended she look for a job with the Mac company, which at the time was the largest in Canada.

She applied many times, but no one called her.

“I was a little dejected about it,” she said. “And I ended up working at a hair salon just at the front desk, and they sold a couple of makeup products.”

MAKEUP STUDIO: Nicole Saxton started doing makeup in 2009. (Photo by Valentina Franco/SAIT)

One day, while she was at Chinook Centre, she ended up going to the Mac store, which was holding a hiring fair at the time. Ten days later, they hired her, and she worked there for almost five years.

Getting certified at Mac was “quite a bit of a process,” she said.

“But eventually, I did,” she said. “And then a lot of people started requesting me to do their makeup, which was really flattering.”

She also took a bit of a leap to get herself established. A customer came to the store in search of a professional makeup artist and in a daring move, she nominated herself. The woman gave her number and instructed her to be contacted.

“I called her, and she asked me about my rates,” said Saxton. “I didn’t even know what to say because I wasn’t sure what to charge.”

Nevertheless, she gathered the courage to accept the opportunity. This marked the beginning of her journey into freelance work as a makeup artist.

“I haven’t applied for a job since, so I just started doing makeup,” she said.

Along with growing her client base, Saxton focused on building a professional following on Instagram with her most relevant and important jobs. She can be found as @nicoledoesmakeup.

Most of her work now comes from social media and word of mouth.

Thanks to her incredible talent, precision, and perfectionism, she has had the opportunity to collaborate with various companies and renowned artists, including the likes of the famous actor Craig Robinson, known for his roles in The Office, and Raghav, the global artist recognized for his singles in the Indian pop genre. She has also worked with several esteemed members of the National Hockey League (NHL).

“I’ve worked on commercial shoots for tons of major brands like WestJet, Sport Chek, Canadian Tire, Edo Japan and much more, we keep doing cool things every year,” she said. “Kind of every year something bigger and bigger keeps happening.”

Her unwavering commitment and deep passion for makeup has garnered her clients’ admiration and gratitude.

“Nicole was amazing and went absolutely above and beyond to make us feel gorgeous on my wedding day,” wrote one of her clients, Eriel S. in an online review posted to Saxton’s website. “She was patient, listened to exactly what each girl wanted, and we all felt amazing with the results. She is a true professional and such a sweet person. A real pleasure to work with.”

Being a makeup artist is something many people are interested in. Some of Nicole’s recommendations are being connected with the industry all the time, following trends and also focusing, if possible, on working in an environment with makeup products such as Mac or Sephora.

“Getting your feet kind of wet, that way is the best to really amp up your skill,” she said.

Engaging in free work can eventually prove to be beneficial for skill development through gaining experience. Additionally, embracing creative ideas and turning them into reality can be rewarding. This process facilitates networking with new individuals and often paves the way for future paid opportunities.

Inspiration can manifest for artists in various ways. For a makeup artist, the realm of social networks offers a continuous stream of learning, introducing novel techniques and products that emerge within the industry.

“I remember this lady came into Mac one time and she was just a makeup wearer, and she had the coolest blue eyeliner on,” said Saxton. “And she told me what product it was. and I still use it on set today. And that was because it just looks so good on her. But she wasn’t a professional. She just wiped this blue eyeliner on.”

Her adeptness at putting clients at ease, crafting a welcoming ambiance, utilizing premium products for enduring makeup, and ultimately sending them off with both a smile and a sense of empowerment showcases her mastery. Her work serves as its own testament, and she can be reached via her website.


About Valentina Franco Castelblanco 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Valentina Franco Castelblanco is working as a writer for The Press in 2023.