The how and why of what I do…
Here is an in-depth interview with me that just came out. It seriously explores the “job” aspect of being a fashion makeup artist. The questions were interesting and I hope the answers might give you an insight on the “why and how” of what I do…
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be everything! I was very curious – I wanted to be a singer, a journalist, a film director, a fashion or costume designer and a writer. I didn’t know a person could be a makeup artist until I was 19.
How did that transpose into makeup artistry?
I loved images, whether in art museums, in film, or fashion magazines. All of that formed a visual background and provided inspiration, references and ideas. It sort of trained my eye, if you will.
What was your first memorable work as an artist?
My very first editorial booking scared me to death and I’ll never forget it. It was a job for Damernas Värld, the leading Swedish fashion mag. of its time. The job consisted of transforming a model into Greta Garbo for a fashion story. I didn’t have a lot of confidence but I pulled it off. I look at these pix today and wonder how I managed it, because they still look pretty good.
How did you know that the makeup artist industry was where you wanted to be?
I studied Film Sciences in college as well as costume history thinking I wanted to work in the film industry. Eventually, I did work on a couple of movies, but realized that being tied to long projects was not my thing. I turned to fashion and started as a booker in a modeling agency. That’s how I got all my contacts with the local VIP’s in the fashion world. This happened in Stockholm, Sweden, where I grew up.
What are the things about working in makeup that you love?
I love the aspect of creating and interpreting an idea into an image. Whether it’s for Vogue or for a client walking down the red carpet at the Oscars, an editorial or a fashion show, I love the collaborative process between the editor or designer, the photographer, hair and myself.
I’m also very tuned into creating products and consulting for a line. That kind of work taps into a whole “techie” side of me, and allows me to make good use of my collected experiences in the makeup world.
What are the things about your work that makes it the most interesting to you?
I really appreciate the variety that comes with my freelance world. Every day, every job is a new adventure, a new concept, a new team and a new location. I enjoy the sort of “United Nations of fashion” that we constitute in a studio. On any given day, there can be 6-8 people of different nationalities in the room. Traveling all over the world is an extra perk.
What are the challenges you face working as a freelance artist?
The main challenge is to deal with the uncertainty of the income as well as the ebb and flow of the workload. You pretty much have to prove yourself on every booking. You can do 100 great jobs in a row for a particular client and one day something bad happens (that may not even have anything to do with you) and you’re out. “You’re only as good as your last booking” is a proven truism.
Do you have a signature style?
I always base my makeup on the model’s features, coloring and the context rather than putting one particular “imprint” on her face. I like clean and elegant lines. However, I’m also known for being very versatile, which means I ‘m comfortable working in a number of styles: high-glam, undone, trendy, conceptual, reference-based etc…. This comes from working with great photographers who had/have a very different signature looks: Helmut Newton, David Seidner, Hans Feurer, Patrick Demarchelier and Michael Thompson.
What’s coming next in makeup?
There’s an ongoing evolution, which is in the process of replacing old makeup concepts with a new esthetic. Makeup, like fashion is going towards a more deconstructed, simple and natural direction with an emphasis on health and youth. The new makeup esthetic requires less steps, complicated rules and “musts”. The new products and technologies make this possible if not necessary. Let me take dewy skin as an example. Popular for over a decade, it has influenced our esthetic (translucent looking skin), allowed for the creation of a new type of skin makeup: sheer textured products, light-reflecting ingredients, cream makeup (as in cream blush), and luminizers. Another big catalyzer with major implications in the world of makeup is high definition television. Old fashioned thick base, contour and shading doesn’t really work in that world. Makeup artists need to re-evaluate their techniques to accommodate the new visual reality.
What should someone who is looking to develop a career in makeup know before getting into the business?
There isn’t just one business. There are many different great paths one can choose: fashion/studio, bridal, counter, brand affiliate, theatre, film-TV, direct sale, celebrity etc… You need to look inside yourself and do a reality check to see where you could thrive. Some careers are freelance based, which may not be for everybody. Some may have an age limit for beginners (you don’t launch a career in fashion and hope to make it to the top if you’re over 40). Some are sale and marketing based, and if you’re not wired that way you could have a hard time succeeding.
What type of work do you find most satisfying?
I love the different jobs I get to do: red carpet, videos, commercials, editorial etc… I occasionally even do master classes for certain brands and I like teaching. But my first love is editorial fashion. I get a real buzz from doing a sitting with a very creative, skilled team where every person is at the top of their game and together we create gorgeous images. Actually, in a situation where all the stars align, everyone “sees” the image before it’s even shot. For me, it’s nothing short of magic.
How do you continue to grow your career as an artist?
I make a point of not getting attached to any particular products, looks, trends or techniques.
A big challenge for all makeup artists is to keep current. Techniques, tastes, references even products – all are in a constant change. Since I work in fashion, my approach evolves each season.
I make sure to change a good part of my technique every year, and switch to a few new products every three months. That way I stay out of my comfort zone and learn something new all the time.
Do you have a project that you’ve done that you are especially proud of?
The fact that some images I worked on are in the permanent exhibition in the Helmut Newton museum in Berlin is a great honor. On a more recent note I have just finished a book proposal called Fashion for the Face that hope will get picked up by a publisher. It took years of blood, sweat and tears but it’s a great coffee- table-meets-how—to-book.
What are some of the most important qualities that a makeup artist can have?
You have to train yourself how to really look at nuances and details. Anyone with enough practice can apply eyeliner, for instance, but a good makeup artist has an eye for the subtleties that help create a “look”. You have to understand the importance of doing the right makeup for the job, which in some situations requires you to set your ego aside. You also have to be a diplomat and a people-person.
What makes you a good makeup artist?
I was taught by an incredible master: Jose-Luis, the YSL makeup artist who was the Way Bandy of Europe in the 80’s and 90’s. I assisted him for three. years on editorial shoots, and fashion shows and he jumpstarted my career. We remained close friends until he died, and he generously mentored me through the rocky waters of the fashion world. As for myself, I am absolutely obsessed with makeup, beauty and images since my early childhood, which is why I feel passionate about every job I do. It pushes me to get better all the time.
What project did you have the most fun working on?
For a year and a half, I was the beauty editor of a beautiful magazine called Madison around 1999/2000. I had to involve myself in all aspects of a shoot: subject, budget, production booking and also makeup. It was insane but unbelievably fun. It also taught me what it’s like to be on the client side of the fence.
What project was the most challenging?
I have keyed a ton of fashion shows in Paris and New York during the years I worked in both places. But the three or so years I keyed the Valentino haute couture as well as the prêt-a-porter shows were particularly challenging. With designers of that caliber, there’s a lot of pressure. As the makeup artist you have to be at the top of your game, interpret ideas that can sometimes be quite elusive, and be able to handle mountains of stress for several consecutive days. But it was an incredible privilege to work for Mr. Valentino. I just saw the documentary that describes all this called “The last Emperor”. Looking back, I realize what a privileged and powerful experience that was.
Do you prefer one type of work to another?
As long as it’s creative I love it all.
Is there someone you have always wanted to work on who you haven’t had the chance to do yet?
There are only a couple of photographers left with whom I dream of working at least once. But I won’t say who it is because I’m still working my way to them. One day…..
What inspires you?
I always have my eyes open for possible inspiration. People, the streets of New York, world travel, paintings and exhibitions, books and movies.
Have you ever worked at a retail makeup counter or in a salon?
Not full time. At the beginning of my career I did special events for YSL in a couple of department stores. I loved working with average women. Good makeup can give a woman a new perspective about herself and improve her self-image. In addition, working with a variety of faces can be some of the best training a newbie can get. Working with 16 year-old models is the easiest thing in the world. Doing a great makeup on women of all ages requires actual skill.
Whose work do you admire?
I find some of my peers’ work very inspiring: Stephane Marais, Kevyn Aucoin, Pat McGrath, Dick Page, Lucia Pieroni, to name a few. But I am also a huge fan of the old masters: Shu Uemura, Barbara Daly, Pierre Laroche, Way Bandy, Serge Lutens and, of course Jose-Luis.