Art, for Daniel Takahashi, has always been an escape. One that has called to him since some of his earliest childhood memories. Clad in all black, with flecks of light bouncing off his eclectic collection of silver rings, he begins to explain the important role art played in his formative years.
“I was always drawing and painting. I remember being in class as a kid one day and I was so bored! So I put craft glue all over my hand to make my it look like something had happened to it, then I broke a red pen and put the ink on it – and got sent to the nurse!”
Though Daniel had always loved to draw and paint, his introduction to the world of Special Effects Makeup came from somewhere else.
“Everything started with Lord of the Rings. I fell in love with the world they created. I just kept asking ‘How did they do that?!’ My mom would say ‘They’re masks. I don’t know!’ But I just had to find out.”
Thus began Daniel’s quest into the Makeup world, searching for the ways that other people were able to bring his favourite fantasy and horror characters to life. A quest that of course, was laden with parental restrictions and made even more difficult without the ever-knowing oracle of Google or Youtube.
I just kept asking ‘How did they do that?!’ My mom would say ‘They’re masks. I don’t know!’ But I just had to find out.
“I used to watch horror movies that my parents didn’t know I was watching and then I’d ask for the action figures. Which of course they wouldn’t buy me! So I would take the Max Steel toys that I would get, cut off their heads and sculpt the face of whatever action figured I’d wanted in the beginning. Everything was so far away to me in Mexico. There were no people to ask or places to go to learn things like that. I didn’t have access to the internet or Google so I got any books or magazines I possibly could. I sculpted my first prosthetic out of construction grade plaster.”
Eventually, Daniel’s passions and at home practice got him an invite to the small but knowledgeable film industry in Mexico. Though a definitive turning point in his career, Daniel doesn’t boast or brag, instead he describes, in his soft-spoken and earnest voice, how helpful and insightful his film colleagues were. Daniel’s Makeup career in Mexico was beginning to take off. He was teaching Makeup classes, working on films and even represented Mehron Makeup at the biggest Makeup event in all of Latin America. Though, the perfectionist in him knew he wanted even more skills than the ones he’d been lucky enough to acquire and foster.
“I was always doing Special Effects. I wanted to improve my other Makeup skills too, like Beauty Makeup. I talked to a lot of people in the industry about the top Makeup Schools with a good reputation and everyone was talking about Blanche Macdonald. If I go back to Mexico and I have a diploma from here, that to other people in the industry there is like ‘Woah’. I mean, it’s the top school in Canada – maybe even the world! It’s a really good thing for me to have studied here no matter what.”
My dream has been to take my experience and knowledge in Makeup from Canada back to Mexico. I know that wherever I go, my diploma from here will take me far.
Daniel’s Makeup career in Canada has, not surprisingly, taken off faster than he could have imagined. Though one could assume it’s due to his excessive levels of talent, Daniel asserts it was because of his sheer drive to make the most out of every single opportunity.
“The Career department at Blanche Macdonald really helped me. They encouraged me and connected me to all the right people. They knew who I was because I would go by their office so, so often. When they connected me to Special Effects labs, I would stand outside and talk to the managers as they went into work. I gave them my portfolio and asked them what I needed to do to get a job there.”
And it seems, his persistence paid off. Daniel landed a paid contract with Todd Master’s FX studio, one of the top FX studios in Los Angeles and Vancouver.
“The studios are where things get sculpted and made. I love applying prosthetics and working directly on people but my heart is in the process. Recently the studio was doing some prosthetics for Dwayne Johnson’s new movie and I worked on his leg molds. I’m so excited to see how they look on screen! I was also able to do some things for Power Rangers and Elizabeth Banks’ character. It doesn’t matter how small the prosthetic is or who it’s for – at the end of the day you’re part of it. And that’s the best feeling.”
Of course, studying at Canada’s #1 Makeup School helped him hone and perfect his skills.
“The instructors are all so cool and so knowledgeable. Once they got to know me, they kept me in mind for every possible thing. I did birthday parties, I did makeup for a strip show, music videos – anything they offered me, I took!”
Daniel made sure to take advantage of the opportunities outside of the classroom as well.
“I ended up working with a director to create a short film based on one of my Makeup looks that inspired him. Of course we needed help and so I was able to take some of my classmates with me onto set so we could all get real-life experience together.”
It’s no surprise that Daniel was selected as one of the competitors for the highly anticipated student competition Battle of the Brushes at the International Makeup Trade Show (IMATS) in Los Angeles. For any aspiring Makeup Artist, a win at this prestigious student-only competition not only cements their status as an up-and-coming Makeup Artist in North America but also catapults their career to unimaginable heights. The exposure combined with potential industry connections can mean great things – especially for Daniel, a self-proclaimed “thirsty” Makeup Artist.
“I met so many amazing people and incredible artists. I made so many contacts of brands and cosmetic lines that want to keep in touch with me once I go back to Mexico. I had the @amazing_jiro come find me after the competition to tell me he loved my creation and that was a huge moment for me because he really is amazing!
“The theme for the Prosthetics category was ‘Victorian Emporium’ so I wanted to create something that was out of the ordinary for that era – something almost creature-y. I was inspired mainly by scientists and alchemists, along the lines of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had so many face charts and I worried so much about texture and costume and ‘what if?!’– then I talked to my wife who told me that I was already there and all I had to do was do my best makeup and see what happened. She’s so wise! I was so absorbed in so many other aspects of my life when I left Mexico that pulling this together was a little bit hard but I’m so happy with the results. It was such a great experience for me!”
Very recently, Daniel has added another title to his name: Dad. How does that fit into the life of a busy, up-and-coming Makeup Artist?
“It’s really exhausting! There was one day where I was on set for such a long time and my wife kept texting me asking when I would be home. It can be hard for both of us but at the end of the day, everything I’m doing is for her and my new son.”
Though Daniel’s time in Canada has given him limitless opportunities, his future lies on the horizon of his home country for now.
“Doing Makeup in another country is such a privilege and looks so good on your resume but my dream has been to take my experience and knowledge in Makeup from Canada back to Mexico. My dream now is to create my own Special Effects lab and host workshops by the incredible artists that I’ve met and the ones I know I will meet one day. I know that wherever I go, my diploma from here will take me far.”