Body painting is a form of body art and make up guru Julia Townend is the ideal professional to tell us all about it. Since 2013 Julia has been the Head Judge on the Body Painting Competition at Olympia Beauty UK. Julia is a guest speaker on the Warpaint Stage at Professional Beauty and also writes a regular series called “Get Trained” for Warpaint magazine. Julia is truly an artist with over 20 years experience of working in the fashion and media industries.


Let’s find out more about Julia Townend and her world.




How did you become a make up artist?
I knew from the age of 14 I wanted to be a make up artist. I had seen an image of Margaux Hemingway on the front cover of Vogue and I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. It inspired me to ask if there was such a job to apply make up for editorial shoots. I was advised to train in Hairdressing when I was 16 and then trained in Beauty Therapy. Later I trained in professional make up at the London College of Fashion and started a career in the fashion industry as a make up and body artist around 1994. I am a big believer in good training and I am sad there are so few colleges in the UK offering a high standard of education.


Tell us about body art . Why did you choose this area of make up specifically?
My two loves in make up are Historical Make up and Body Art. I started in the fashion industry arriving in London in the 1980’s where I was fortunate to mix in with a creative crowd who introduced me to the Blitz Club, Steve Strange and Zandra Rhodes. I used to do the hair and make up for my friends before we went out and worked on a few fashion shows but realised I needed training professionally to develop my career. I trained in the 1990’s when London became alive with MAC Cosmetics opening up for the first time. For me it was exciting finding such a diverse range of make up, before MAC there was only Makeup Forever which was of the same standard but this was only available from the MUFE shop in Paris. I love history so I was naturally drawn to Period Dramas on the BBC. Jane Eyre is my favourite book of all time and I have watched every film and TV production of this. At the London College of Fashion we held an annual Body Painting Show which became very successful. It was vibrant and so visually beautiful to view. We used the Makeup Forever Body Paints which you could only buy in from Paris in the 1990’s. I knew I had an affinity with Body Art because of my love of art and vibrant colour. A make up artist I assisted in the 1990’s asked me to paint a male model white on a commercial and it developed from there. The budgets for editorial and commercials were very different in the 1990’s and I was able to work on a variety of exciting projects. More recently I have included my body art into feature films such as the Infiltrator and The Nutcracker which has been challenging and exciting.


What part of the make up process do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy the research and testing side which can be very organic and testing new products or methods. When I first started body painting I only used brushes now I also incorporate airbrushing for the finishing effects. I am never happy with the final results and always find areas I can improve on; but that keeps me motivated also. Research from books, the V&A and art galleries keep me very inspired, I have an extensive collection of books and magazines.


What two products are essential for the make up artist to carry in their kit?
It is really difficult to pick two products but I would need a good skincare range such as Beauty Lab or DHC to prep the skin and my Louise Young Cosmetics neutral palette which I take on every job. I also have to add in MAC Face and Body which is one of my all time favourite products.


Which is your favourite ‘touch up’ make up product?
My favourite touch up make up product is the Maq Pro Grand Palette designed by Kate Benton of PAM. I use this on every job I do and it is always in my set bag.


When and how did you decide to create your own brand, products and studio?
I combined my freelance make up career with working as an educator until 2013. I left my full time position at WTC (West Thames College) after developing the BA Hons & the HND Specialist Makeup course for a period of 10 years. My sisters and I designed the JT Make up range due to my love of glitter and gold leaf. I found there wasn’t one place to buy gold leaf, glitter discs and glitters together so I started my own range. I was the first person to do this with a glitter makeup line but basically I utilised all the type of products I would use for body painting. In 2017 I also opened my own studio based in Leeds, West Yorkshire to offer short courses in Make up training.



What make up trends you dislike most?
 The make up trends I dislike are the heavy contouring seen on Instagram. I know this is a fashion but these images have filters that are edited. I see so many young girls in the street with the same make up that needs more blending. I saw a make up posted on Instagram recently by Jordan Liberty, it was so beautifully blended and the skin tone was the main focus. It was such a skilful make up to view, he’s such a talented makeup artist.


Who is your favourite make up artist?
There are many make up artists who inspire me but my inspirations come from the 1980’s and arts movements such as the Surrealists, Pre Raphaelites, History, David LaChapelle, Tim Walker and Film. I am a big supporter of make up artists as I understand the motivation and hard word that goes into their careers. I am very inspired by Alex Box, Sharon Dowsett, Pat McGrath, Val Garland, Andrew Gallimore, Phyllis Cohen, Jenny Shircore and Serge Leutens and more recently Vanessa Davis who is the Wigs & Make up Manager at the ENO but has created a new Instagram life designing a wide range of skull based designs. I also am fortunate to have a network of extremely talented friends who always motivate and inspire me.


What is your favourite type of make up look?
My favourite make up look is fantasy based mainly on fairy tales; I would love to work with Tim Walker and Grace Coddington as we are inspired by similar things. The early Illamasqua campaigns by Alex Box were bold and very fantasy based.


Any tips to become a successful body art make up artist?
To become a successful make up artist depends on the area you wish to work. If its theatre or film/TV you need an in-depth training in both hair and mak eup. I would suggest a year of training at NVQ 2 Hairdressing then taking a specialised trained at a private college such as Iver Academy, Delamar, CBMA and BAMM. There is also a 3 year Degree course at Arts University Bournemouth that I really recommend as a leading state course in the UK. Afterwards I would recommend getting trainee positions at the ROH, ENO, NT, RSC or Glynebourne to really master hair and make up skills and to keep learning from very skilled teams. I will add that you need to be passionate, hard working, punctual, organised, supportive, loyal and above all else a team player. It is a really difficult career to maintain and you need to keep your skills base up to date with knowledge of both the industry and products. Essentially you have to network and attend industry related events, it’s a full time career and you very rarely switch off. On the upside it’s an amazing career, exciting and inspirational and we have some of the best hair and make up technicians in the world in the UK.