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Career Path

Artistic talent that makes others look good

By Ada Ng

Makeup artist, Zing
Photo: Johnny Kwok

Actress and singer Sammi Cheng certainly knows how to attract attention. People still remember when, a few years ago, her eyebrows were shaped to resemble Nike's "swoosh" logo and then to look like feathers. Such signature makeup styles definitely create an impact but, for the stars of the local entertainment industry, it is just as important to look a million dollars for every single photo session, movie premiere or public appearance. For that, they rely on the creative talents of makeup artists like Zing. As someone at the top of his profession, he has been responsible for many a "masterpiece" and has used the tools of his trade -Foundation, blusher and lipstick - to fashion a colourful and highly successful career.

"I am a makeup artist for 25 hours every day," he says. "The work is something I am passionate about and can never switch off." He believes, though, that while his work always catches the eye, it should be seen as part of a much larger creative process. The colours used must not only be right for a person's skin tone, but must also match faultlessly the fashions, hairstyle, lighting and precise requirements of the occasion. Only then can the makeup artist claim to have created a look that really works.


Always remain aware of new trends in fashion and art

Different influences
Finding new sources of inspiration can be a constant challenge. "You need to be receptive to different influences and always remain aware of new trends in fashion and art," says Zing. "You never know where you may spot a colour to use or an idea to adapt."

His success in the field, however, has been built largely on respect for old-fashioned virtues. Dedication, preparation and being open-minded are mentioned as key qualities, along with the importance of learning the necessary skills and techniques from experienced professionals. Zing also stresses that, whenever possible, advice should be taken from experts in fashion, image styling and art direction to give a broader perspective. "I never take creativity or success for granted," he says. "They are the result of hard work and nonstop learning."

Part-time work as a backstage assistant for his father's ballet company gave Zing an introduction to the many facets of makeup and costume design. As a teenager, he was already fascinated by the artistic possibilities and keen to take his interest further. "I can't say I thought it would be my profession," he concedes, "but I guess my childhood experience developed into a passion. By now, you could probably say that it has turned into an obsession!"

Getting known
Zing managed to secure his first formal part-time jobs after contacting a number of production houses and magazines. He also concentrated on making new social contacts in his native Singapore as a way of getting better known within the business and securing freelance work.

By 1992, he felt the time was right to move to Hong Kong and begin another chapter in what was becoming an exciting career. "At first, I just wanted to test myself and decided to spend a month here looking for opportunities," he recalls. Inevitably, this meant making cold calls to local production houses, art directors and publishers. What set him on his way was a job doing the makeup for a Towngas advertising campaign, and he has not looked back since. "That lucky break taught me to grab any opportunity that arises," Zing says, "because you never know where it may lead."

Not content with working 25 hours a day, Zing is now starting to dabble in other areas like art direction and image styling as an extension of his work in makeup. He is also trying his hand at writing a magazine column that allows him to speak his mind and explain the concepts and techniques behind each makeup masterpiece. "One thing leads to another," he says, "and, if you love the work, you just don't want to stop."


Taken from Career Times 29 October 2004, p. 32

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