Petaluman perfects the art of makeup

Ever since Elise Bigley was a child, she wanted to be a makeup artist, even going so far as her saving her allowance and buying lip gloss at the drug store, then applying it to all the children in the neighborhood.

Those early makeovers have led to a successful career in makeup, from local photo shoots to touching up the stars of Hollywood movies.

At 16, she began working for retail cosmetic companies, and at 25, she decided to freelance, focusing on artistry and client event makeup instead of sales. Bigley offers makeup tutorials on her Facebook page, including some creative looks for Halloween.

With the holiday coming up, Bigley finds herself even busier than usual.

“Because of my niche with Halloween makeup, October tends to be pretty packed,” she said. “I try to do one Halloween look on myself per week and do a live Facebook tutorial, as well as several clients wanting makeup for photo shoots or Halloween-themed parties.”

This year’s the most requested look is a “mask” face, she said. A tutorial that she did a few weeks back became very popular on social media.

Bigley said she gets inspiration from other freelance special effects artists, business owners and family.

“My mother, who is an incredible watercolor/pastel artist, inspires me with her creativity and desire to continue to produce art for herself and community,” she said. “Also, Petaluma-based In Her Image Photography owners Heidi and Tara, for whom I do makeup for their clients’ photo shoots, are such empowering, positive women. They encourage my entrepreneurial growth, as well as respecting my artistry as a business and a creative outlet. Last but not least, my kids and husband who say, ‘That looks cool, Mommy,’ which actually is the best inspiration and encouragement I can receive.”

Bigley has garnered film industry notice, scoring her first gig, which she calls her greatest accomplishment, as a makeup artist for the feature film “Gibby,” starring Vivica A. Fox, Sean Patrick Flannery, Shannon Elizabeth and Peyton Meyer.

“I was so humbled to be part of that experience,” she said. “On a local level, last Halloween I did the makeup for Radio Alice 97.3’s morning show with Sarah and Vinnie and was on air talking product and application.

Bigley took a brief hiatus from the cosmetic industry, landing a “9 to 5 desk job,” as she puts it, but discovered it was not the path to career satisfaction for her.

“I was burnt out by retail,” she said. “I decided to try something different. Directly after the birth of my first child, I was laid off, and beyond stressed about income and my professional future. That’s when I decided to go full force into freelance and artistry. In hindsight, being laid off was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

Now happily settled in Petaluma, Bigley’s future goals include continuing to improve her artistry, learning new techniques and skills and meeting other professional artists to do collaborative creative work.

“Most importantly, my goal is for my children to see their mother following her dream, and knowing that they are capable of doing the same thing,” she said. “I love what I do, mainly because I help people feel beautiful and confident. If I’m doing a special effects look, I help inspire a creative outlet, of which I think the world needs more.”

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