One Art Work, Five Canvases and Makeup

Makeup is extremely versatile. For some reason, this versatility pales in comparison to social stigmas that situate makeup, and the act of applying it, as superficial and narcissistic. This assumption is very one-sided. The purpose of makeup is not singularly, and certainly not always, to at- tract a man or woman, and a love of cosmetics does not signal self-obsession or shallowness.

Instead, I proffer that makeup is a form of creative expression, an art. Some might find this suggestion an overstatement, but what about applying a brush, carrying colour (whether in powder form, gel, liquid, cream, or otherwise), is not artistic? Like painting, makeup articulates and reframes a canvas, highlighting key features, malleable to different moods, bold and brazen or soft and subdued. The purpose of this week’s shoot was to underscore the very inherently artistic nature of makeup. We also specifically chose to recreate styles that have a history or are somehow socially constructed, emphasising that cosmetic trends are cultural artifacts just like art of certain eras and ages. Our models, Georgia Galton-Ayling, Persis Bhalla, Brenda Nijiru, Charlotte Ward and Sarah Fan all pose, therefore, using makeup designs from different eras to demonstrate this.

60s graphic liner (Georgia): When you think of thick eyeliner, Egyptian-style winged liner first comes to mind. We chose to emulate the look popularised by Twiggy in the 60s, which is a very stark, graphic design. The contrast of a pale lid with a dark, dramatic line is interesting and bold. It changes the shape of the eye, and can be very flattering. Recently, the makeup industry has gone very natural, as assistants at makeup counters often en- courage clients to go for brown and grey liner shades, rather than black, which they suggest is too ‘harsh’. But we embrace and appreciate the black, graphic trend.

Dark lips (Persis): Dark lips have a long and diverse history: from the Maori of New Zealand, and the Hindu tradition, to Queen Elizabeth I and the 1920s film industry. But the trend really took off in, and is still associated with, the 1970s and 80s punk/goth movement, when dark lips were not limited to women, but also seen frequently on musicians such as Robert Smith (The Cure) and Marilyn Manson.

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Brights (Brenda): Bright colours in makeup often immediately recall the 80s, when lids were swept with a pop of colour, or lips were glossy and cherry-red. Modern makeup seems to tend instead towards neutral shadows, and there is an aversion to colour at times. I, however, am a big fan of colour, and going all out. A thick line of eyeliner in teal or purple perks up my eyes in less time than a full lid of shadow, and bright fuschia lips make me feel alive when I’m hungover.

Strong brows (Charlotte): Eyebrows are the most frequently forgotten facial feature. Not only do eyebrows frame the face, but they can also change the facial expression; heavily arched brows create a more surprised look, while straight brows are bold and no- nonsense. These days, bold brows are back – think model of the moment Cara Delevingne. Perhaps surprisingly, the tweezer has taken a hiatus. We experimented with this look on someone who has naturally thin, light brows – the end result is different, but wearable.

Heavy contouring and highlighting (Sarah): By choosing to contour, changing how light hits the face and where shadows fall, you can seemingly change your bone structure in just a few steps. I have loved experimenting with this, and watching the lines and angles of my face shift and change. The trick with contouring for everyday purposes is to blend, blend, blend (which we actually didn’t do in this shoot). Finding a contour shade that mimics the actual shadows on your face is important so that the skin doesn’t look muddy.