Artist Image Is Everything — Here’s How to Build Yours on a Budget

Artist Image, a Blank Slate (photo: Gerd Altmann)
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Artist Image, a Blank Slate (photo: Gerd Altmann)
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photo: Gerd Altmann

In today’s social media-driven entertainment landscape, cultivating an artist image that resonates with fans is a must. Here’s how you can build an appealing look without breaking the bank – according to three industry experts. 

You want to create a killer artist image that defines your expression — but how do you get started? Just recently, three veteran image-builders – photographer Pamela Littky, wardrobe stylist Mark Holmes, and hair and makeup artist Vanessa Price – provided advice on how to craft a world-class artist image during a recent Songtradr Happy Hour livestream event.

Littky has captured one-of-a-kind shots of artists including Billie Joe Armstrong and Dave Grohl, while Mark Holmes has crafted memorable outfits for the likes of Bruno Mars and Nick Jonas. Vanessa Price has worked repeatedly with megastars Justin Bieber and the Foo Fighters, as well as many film and TV mainstays.

 1. Prioritize Hair, Makeup, and Styling — Not Expensive Equipment

According to Littky, high-quality hair, makeup, and on-shoot feedback are musts if you’re trying to create a stellar artist image. Additionally, the Most Likely to Succeed filmmaker emphasized that expensive equipment doesn’t necessarily guarantee results and, to be sure, is of secondary importance.

“I mean, equipment helps, but it’s not everything,” said Littky. “You could take a cardboard disposable camera and have it look like a professional shoot.

“I would never recommend doing a shoot without hair and makeup, though. I just think it’s so important,” continued the renowned photographer. “And styling if you can. If you can get a person to style, even just with the person’s own clothes. … Having just those things, really that’s what makes the difference between professional-looking and maybe not so professional-looking.”

2. Remember That Ideas and Creativity Carry More Weight Than Financial Resources

Expanding upon the idea that expensive equipment and services don’t automatically equal success, Holmes described just how far ideas and creativity will go towards helping you develop worthwhile content and an excellent artist image.

“Never underestimate the brilliance of having a great idea,” said Holmes, who began his wardrobe-stylist career on the set of a music video for “99 Problems” by Jay-Z. “Like that OK Go video from 15 years ago, on the treadmills or whatever. That was a prime example of something that was very inexpensive to make in the time of making very inexpensive videos.

“So when you don’t have the resources, don’t try to outstretch beyond your means. Get the fundamental ingredients to what it is that you have at your availability and make the best use of them,” continued Holmes.

3. Find an Up-and-Coming Stylist, Photographer, or Makeup Artist — You Can Really Help Each Other

Tomorrow’s star stylists, photographers, and other behind-the-scenes assets are always in search of opportunities to gain experience and/or compile portfolios, the Happy Hour guests noted. To be sure, Littky, Holmes, and Price each mentioned that they got their foot in the door by completing jobs for little cash – or no compensation at all.

In this way, if you’re looking to benefit from professional insight without paying professional prices (possibly to capitalize upon a tremendous idea), there’s something to be said for reaching out to individuals who are working to establish their careers.

Littky spearheaded the process (and, in turn, met many artists) by contacting hair, makeup, and stylist agencies, asking, “‘Who’s young and hungry and wanting to build their book too?’

“The agents have a lead, usually, on people who have contacted them that they don’t necessarily rep yet, but they still would recommend,” explained Littky. “And someone that might be right for your shoot could come out of that.”

And as social media profiles and contact information are a click or a tap away, it’s easier than ever to connect with those who could be interested in helping build your artist image (while also aiding their own prospects).

4. Consult Outside Opinions During Shoots to Build an Optimal Artist Image 

In the same vein, Price relayed the importance of outside opinions, including those from hair, makeup, and wardrobe specialists or even individuals who lack formal experience.

“Having someone there to just go, ‘Yes, no, no, yes, yes,” said Price, who’s crafted Justin Bieber’s signature haircuts. “Even if it’s not someone who knows how to do hair and makeup, but someone who has an aesthetic and has a good sense of style and has good taste.

“If you do happen to know someone who is a makeup artist or an aspiring makeup artist or a hair stylist who works in a salon, absolutely bring them on. … It’s really hard to do hair and makeup on yourself. It really is hard. I don’t do my own hair and makeup – hell no! It’s too hard.

“Because we don’t see ourselves in the way that other people see us. So having someone else’s eyes on you, accentuating your assets, then absolutely, you want that,” concluded Price.

This input, along with the first three tips and the initiative that accompanies every successful entertainment industry project, will help you build a winning look. Because at the end of the day, artist image is simply a window into the personalities of those responsible for creating the contemporary soundtrack.