We had a conversation with Jo Franco, makeup artist, to discuss his career and the makeup field.
Jo comes from a multicultural background, growing up between Florida and Colombia. As a child, he had a strong artistic inclination and an affinity for beauty and fashion. “Even as grown man I would say I still have a curious and active imagination. Being a loner has made me into a bit of of a storyteller, which happens to be something that I apply to my work everyday.” Franco currently resides in Dallas, as he says the fashion industry there is vibrant, exciting and ever-growing. “I do think that I’m in a good place and enjoy being part for a market that is opening up to a more fashion forward direction.” He bounced around trying careers; retail, service, even fitness but everything came down to art, fashion and beauty in the end.
Thinking back to the start of his career, Jo says he loved “reaching into my mother’s makeup bag or using colored markers to draw eye shadow on my sister’s yearbook pictures.” In high school and college his love for the arts and fashion continued. “As I grew older and after many jobs I was never good at I realized that my obsession with beauty products and fashion were more than just vanity, it mean something to me. Growing up I enjoyed making up stories and drawing, so then I came to find a way to express my creativity and fascination with beauty through the art of makeup.” So, Jo quit his job, walked into a makeup store and asked for one. “[I] was then determined to become the best artist I could possibly be. Haven’t looked back ever since and I couldn’t be happier.”
Aside from short makeup workshops, seminars and beauty counter tips and tricks, he has had no formal training. Beyond that, Jo has been involved in the Mastered program for makeup artists, applying after seeing the results from some of his favorite artists and friends. “I felt I was pretty well rounded in technique and I knew my way around a set, but I wanted to exercise and develop my creativity, network and industry knowledge, which are some of the most important things to be successful.” When talking about the experience, he notes “I was very impressed by the engagement and intricacy set by the Mastered team. The course work is intense but fun and very eye opening, I’m glad I joined and will recommend it to anyone who wants to highlight the “artist” part of being a makeup artist.”
Jo says his work is “different and unique to me–– that doesn’t necessarily mean its better than someone else’s.” He draws inspiration from many things like stories. “I definitely like to add a bit of poetry into anything I do; it being simple, whimsical, edgy or conventionally beautiful, there’s always a story behind it and a meaning to me.” In addition to this, being engaged and having a great attitude elevates his work. His ultimate goal is to continue to create beautiful characters, worlds and impactful art. “No matter if I’m creating a classically beautiful image, a playful story or a darker concept I always want to evoke an unforgettable feel and a strong visual.”
In terms of the industry itself, Franco shares his opinions of retouching in mainstream fashion and beauty photography. “Let’s start with the unrealistic standards set by the beauty and fashion industry. You can literally create an ideal human being on Photoshop. Editing is an important part of any successful production, there’s certain things that are hard to achieve with just makeup and styling; product moves out of place, clothes wrinkle, hair gets out of place and it would be a shame to pass on a great image just because of small things affected by what we can’t control.” But he says there is a fine line between tweaking things and giving an effect or mood, vs. blatantly changing or re-doing someone else’s work. “At this rate, software will replace us all. We need to remind the industry the reason why we exist.”
Something in Jo’s kit we wouldn’t expect? “I carry I few sets of very natural and neutral press on nails; they come in very handy in test shoots or in jobs where there’s no nail artist available. Among other things I also carry are a cigarette lighter to melt kohl pencils and a jeweler’s headlamp with magnifying glasses for very detailed work.” His absolute essentials, however, are skin care products. “I spend a good portion of my time making sure the skin is nicely prepped–– the least amount of complexion such as foundation and concealer products I use the better it is for me.”
And finally, a word of advice for makeup industry up-and-comers from Jo: “Work on your skill. Practice, don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes… it’s just makeup, it comes off and you’ll instantly learn what not to do next time.” Additionally, Jo says to “draw inspiration but don’t copy. No idea is completely pure but you can always adapt an idea to your own aesthetic.” And finally? “Remember that being on time; working hard, being professional, and impeccable with your word and actions are things that require no talent.”
Thank you Jo for sharing your story with us! You can see Jo’s work at @jofrancoartistry.