International Make-up Artist Trade Show makes Atlanta Debut

by Mark Gresham | 22 NOV 2018

Surrounded by artists and their design models, IMATS founder Michael Key (fifth from left) presents awards for a "Battle of the Brushes" competition.

Surrounded by artists and their design models, IMATS founder Michael Key (fifth from left) presents awards for a “Battle of the Brushes” competition.

Boundless enthusiasm, bustling energy and an amazing spectrum of creativity were on display this past weekend at the International Make-up Artist Trade Show (IMATS) downtown at the Georgia World Congress Center, the first time the highly-esteemed trade show has ever been held in Atlanta. IMATS, which takes place in six different major cities world-wide each year, is the make-up world’s largest gathering where artists, manufacturers and educators gather to discuss, display and collect the best the industry has to offer.

With its other shows held in Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and London, the decision to hold a 2018 show in Atlanta was based largely on the city’s burgeoning reputation as a creative center for film and television, and an eagerness among the region’s growing community of make-up artists for bringing IMATS to what’s often being called the “Hollywood of the South.”

IMATS and Make-up Artist Magazine founder Michael Key, himself an Emmy Award-winning make-up artist, explained the decision in a brief conversation at the trade show on Saturday.

“Why Atlanta? Our organization has a capacity to about six IMATS shows [per year],” says Key. “We had been doing Sydney, Australia from 2009, but travel costs got to be higher and it did not make sense for companies to come overseas. I pressed pause on that and I’d been thinking about Atlanta. Some of my colleagues are moving from Los Angeles, selling their home there, buying here, because there’s more work going on here than there is in LA. My colleagues are telling me they’re booked here for the next two or three years. Atlanta has become an epicenter for film and television work, and there’s a strong ‘beauty’ community here.”

Completed full body paint with headdress created by artist Stephanie Anderson and assistant Ryan Straut. (Model: Diego Serna. Photo credit: Ryan Straut.)

Completed full body paint with headdress created by artist Stephanie Anderson and assistant Ryan Straut. (Model: Diego Serna. Photo credit: Ryan Straut.)

Mr. Key points to a growing number of area make-up artists the public should keep our eyes on. “There’s talent coming to Atlanta, some being raised and groomed in Atlanta,” says Key. Among them, he cites Stephanie Anderson as an Atlanta-based artist who does “some really, really cool work.” Anderson demonstrated doing a full-body paint Saturday on model Diego Serna, assisted by Ryan Straut, over the course of about five hours. On the stage directly behind Anderson’s was Matthew Silva and Jonah Levy, co-owners of Blue Whale Studios, demonstrating the more subtle application of “aging” make-up to model Dondrey Jackson. Focused in special effects make-up, Silva and Levy maintain operations in both Atlanta and Orlando, Florida.

Matt Silva and Jonah Levy demonstrate "aging" make-up on model Dondrey Jackson -- a work in progress, to which a costume was later added. (photo: Mark Gresham)

Matt Silva and Jonah Levy demonstrate “aging” make-up on model Dondrey Jackson — a work in progress, to which a costume was later added. (photo: Mark Gresham)

Another notable area artist is Conor McCullagh, a prosthetics and special effects make-up expert who also creates sculpture and tattoo design. He moved to Atlanta late last year from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he had been based for 13 years.

Conor McCullagh with his "Android" creation: prosthetics, make-up and costume. (Photo: Mark Gresham)

Conor McCullagh with his “Android” creation: prosthetics, make-up and costume. (Photo: Mark Gresham)

“Moving to Atlanta became a necessity for me,” says McCullagh. Available work around Charlotte had dried up but he was getting many offers for gigs in Atlanta. It was only when he began working on Guardians of the Galaxy II that McCullagh seriously considered the move. “I started working at Pinewood Studios [in Fayetteville] and really loved the area. It’s outside of town, it’s beautiful, it’s quiet. You can get around easily. Long story short, I made the move in December of last year. No regrets. I absolutely love it. I’ve been setting up shop for months and work started coming in long before I was finished building the studio. I got it operational and started working, and now I’ve got more work than I can handle.”

It’s not just artists moving here to take advantage of Georgia’s flourishing film and television industry. In breaking news, Make-up Designory, a major make-up arts school with campuses world-wide, has confirmed that they will be opening a school in Atlanta. Word is they were scouting spaces on Friday.

Michael Key founded Make-up Artist Magazine in 1996, and organized the first IMATS show in 1997. His intent for starting the trade show was to promote the magazine. When he sought advice about publishing and growing a trade magazine, he was told to attend trade shows. In doing so, he learned that while the cosmetics and make-up industry generates annual revenues in the multi-billions, the trade shows of the time had a “salon” focus of mostly hair and nails, with little attention to make-up arts. He determined that Make-up Artist Magazine should create a new trade show to fill that void. “None of them really embraced media make-up artists. That’s really who we are,” Key says of IMATS.

Attendees peruse exhibits at IMATS. (photo: Mark Gresham)

Attendees peruse exhibits at IMATS. (photo: Mark Gresham)

In addition to an array of exhibits, demos and educational sessions, one of IMATS’ most engaging events is the “Battle of the Brushes” where pro make-up artists compete, with live models parading their design and execution on stage in front of gathered colleagues and enthusiasts.

Winners in the Character/Prosthetic category, which based on the theme “Victorian Emporium,” were Jo Archer of Vancouver, British Columbia, who took first place; Moona Jin, from South Korea, coming in second and Jordan McKoy from New Brunswick, New Jersey placing third. In the “Wildwood Warrior”-themed Beauty/Fantasy category, first place went to Moona Jin, from South Korea, with second and third places going to Elaina Dilts, of Clarksville, Tennessee and Daria Kruchinina, of Brooklyn, New York.

Key considers “Battle of the Brushes” one of the best ways for artists to do “shortcut” networking and get gig offers, but that having all those different artists working at the same time, under pressure, and having their work seen on stage by colleagues and enthusiasts is great for the art of make-up itself: “What a better way to celebrate it than to come and see it created in front of us?” ■