Friday, February 20, 2009

First Look Fridays: Makeup Artist Chris Colbeck

Chris Colbeck, makeup artist, interview, makeup artist interview, beauty interview, First Look Fridays
I am unbelievably excited to bring you this week's edition of First Look Fridays, featuring the fabulous makeup artist Christopher Colbeck. Christopher has made up some of the most famous names in the business, including Naomi Campbell, Madonna and Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester. Read on to find out what first inspired him to become a makeup artist, the makeup artist who inspired him the most, and so much more.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I was born in a small coastal town near Whitby, North Yorkshire, England, which is very beautiful and rich in history. The ruins of a formidable 7th century Abbey which was destroyed by King Henry VIII stand high on the cliff top looking over our town and the rough North Sea. It was the inspiration for Emily Bronte's famous novel Wuthering Heights.

It's a landscape so steeped in history and old folklore that a creative child's imagination becomes limitless. I grew up with a real love and appreciation for local history, painting, poetry and nature. My grandfather was a talented local landscape painter and taught me how to draw and paint at an early age. At school, I excelled at all things creative, especially art, English literature, photography, carpentry and even cooking. But when it came to maths or sceince, for some reason, I just couldn't get my head around them. No matter how hard I tried, my brain just doesn't work like that, and as a young teenager I'd sit there daydreaming and sketching in the back of my books, mostly beautiful women's faces, often with sexy cat-like eyeliner and fierce eyebrows and dark glossy lips -- without realizing I was actually honing the skills for my future career, whilst teacher after teacher tried to raise my lack of interest in algebra, biology and physics. (I'd love to see those books now -- I think my style is pretty much still the same.)

How did you first become interested in makeup, and what led you to become a makeup artist?
I guess I first discovered the magic of makeup when I was about 5 years old. Throughout the week my mother was just a regular, working class housewife, but Saturday evenings were her Big Night Out! And I'd sit at the end of her bed and watch her as she'd go through her beauty ritual, fascinated by the transformation from 'mum' or 'Mam' as we say in Yorkshire, into this stunningly beautiful lady. When she was finished, I saw how it slightly changed her personality. She seemed to stand taller and move a little more gracefully, and I realized at a very early age that makeup had magical powers! My mum was very beautiful and had a kind of young Elizabeth Taylor look about her, with dark hair and blue eyes.

I love beautiful women and my real passion at school was Art. For my finals I painted a series of portraits of models, beauty pictures that I'd saved from fashion magazines like British Vogue and Harpers & Queen, and I'd spend hours drawing these beautiful women and often changing their makeup in my picture to colors that I preferred using a series of "layering," often blending pastels over water colors, and I still love layering color today.

At 18 I left art college and didn't really know what I wanted to do but decided being a famous pastry chef could be cool, and so I packed my bags and moved 400 miles south to London to seek my fame and fortune and took a live-in job in a very nice boutique hotel to start my training.

I continued to paint and draw, still mostly beautiful women's faces, still spending hours on the eyes, and one of the young live-in waitresses told me that she thought I could be a really good makeup artist and asked if I'd like to do her makeup that evening, and so I did. She got sooooo many compliments that evening that she asked if I could teach her how I did it and it was then that I realized I had kind of a natural talent for this and it wasnt long before all the waitresses were asking me to do their makeup -- and that's really how it all started.

Have you worked with any makeup artists who inspired you? What did they teach you?
One night I was out clubbing with friends at London's hip night club Heaven and I met a young fashion photographer from NYC called David Zanes. I told him how I'd like to be a makeup artist and it was him who opened the doors to the fashion business for me. He returned to NYC and suggested I come over for a vacation and come to one of his shoots and see if I like it -- which of course I did. He then introduced me to a friend of his who worked at the agency Bryan Bantry and they introduced me to legendary makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin!

I started assisting Kevyn and worked with him for several years and absorbed like a sponge his many amazing tricks of the trade. It was a dream come true -- suddenly I was off to Hollywood staying in five-star hotels shooting fashion stories with Harper's Bazaar & working on Revlon commercials with Cindy Crawford and Vogue beauty stories with Irving Penn and Naomi Campbell and working on all the major fashion shows every season.

I learned so much from Kevyn, he was truly a genius. The importance of the eyebrow and the art of contouring were two trade secrets I'll always owe to him.

I was also greatly influenced by Tyen, the original makeup artist for Dior, and the French "enfant terrible" Topolino for his avant-garde ideas that are truly unique.

What are some of the moments that have stood out as highlights in your career?
Once I felt I was ready to stop assisting I decided to move to Paris where the work was more creative and I started working constantly for Paris Vogue. Once your name starts appearing regularly in the big glossies, people in high places take note and suddenly I was getting booked to do very prestigious work and then my agent in London got a call asking if I could do Madonna's makeup, which is still one of the highlights of my career.

Chris Colbeck, makeup artist, interview, makeup artist interview, beauty interview, First Look Fridays
Chris making up the gorgeous Leighton Meester!

I also got to work regularly with Diana Ross, Kylie Minogue, Catherine Zeta Jones, Dido, Amy Lee from Evanescence, Naomi Campbell & Sting's lovely wife Trudie Styler, who has been a client of mine for 15 years and recently flew me to Malibu to do her makeup for the Golden Globes. And at the moment Im working closely with the very beautiful Leighton Meester from Gossip Girl.

What are the products and brands you can't live without?
Shiseido, Shiseido moisturizer, Shiseido Bio-Performance Advanced Super Revitalizer Cream, Shiseido skincare, Shiseido skin care, skin, skincare, skincare, moisturizer
1) Shiseido Bio-Performance Advanced Super Revitalizer Cream for nourishing the skin.

2) Chantecaille moisturizers and Aqua Blush in Charming.

Elizabeth Arden, Elizabeth Arden moisturizer, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, Elizabeth Arden skincare, Elizabeth Arden skin care, skin, skincare, skin care, moisturizer
3) Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream for adding controlled, soft shine in all the right places.

4) Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler.

Dior, Dior Hydra Life Pro-Youth Skin Tint SPF 20, Dior tinted moisturizer, tinted moisturizer, makeup, Dior makeup
5) Dior Hydra Life Pro-Youth Skin Tint SPF 20 and the Eyeshadow Palette in Beige Masai.

6) Chanel's Eyeshadow Palette Quatre Ombres in Variations.

7) Anything and everything from M.A.C.

NARS, NARS pressed powder, NARS Mountain Pressed Powder compact, pressed powder, makeup, NARS makeup
8) NARS Pressed Powder Compact in Mountain.

Lancome, Lancome makeup, Lancome bronzer, Lancome Star Bronzer Natural Matte Long Lasting Bronzing Powder, bronzer, bronzing powder, makeup
9) Lancome Star Bronzer Natural Matte Long Lasting Bronzing Powder.

10) YSL Brown Mascara.

Laura Mercier, Laura Mercier concealer, Laura Mercier Secret Concealer, Laura Mercier makeup, concealer, makeup
11) Laura Mercier Secret Concealer and Translucent Powder.

12) Vincent Longo Lipstick in Rain Dance -- just a dab with the finger makes a beautiful natural healthy lip color.

13) I'm also loving some of the eyeshadows and pencils from Victoria's Secret.

14) What are your top 3 makeup tips?
1) Less is more! 90 percent of the time, keep your makeup light and natural. Avoid bright colors unless you're skilled and always apply your makeup by a window with soft, indirect daylight if possible. Always curl your eyelashes, but NOT excessively -- I do three gentle squeezes, once from close to the root of the lash, once in the middle and once near the end for a smoother more natural curl, not just one hard squeeze from the root. You want the eyes to look open and awake, not startled and fake.

2) Find what works for you. Find the right shape brow for your face and stick to it. This often means sacrificing a few hairs on the outside edge and replacing them with pencil or powder, but if the shape really flatters you, it's worth the sacrifice. But don't overpluck and go for a very thin fine line of hair, it just looks too fake.

3) Practice makes perfect!

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
The most rewarding part of my job without a doubt, is transforming regular women who either don't wear makeup, or don't know how to do their own makeup and have no idea just how much better they can look with a few simple tricks. I know many women who are first-timers in my chair and think, He's putting so much on me ... and they expect to see this very heavily made-up face, or look like someone completely different. But when I turn the chair around and they finally get to look and they see it's still them, but as they always dreamed of looking, or them but how they used to look ten or twenty years ago, that's the best part of my job. It's that look of amazement and gratitude.

Being a makeup artist must be fun -- but what do you do for fun when you're not playing with makeup?
Living in NYC allows me to take advantage of much this great city has to offer, especially the art galleries, concerts, museums, theaters and restaurants. But I'm still very much a country boy at heart and love to spend the warmer months on my mountain bike exploring the expanding Green Routes around Manhattan, The Bronx and Brooklyn. It's a great way to discover things I'd never usually find and every journey offers something new.

My partner and I have also just bought seven acres of woodland in Northern Pennsylvania, two hours from the city, with a wild meadow and our very own stream (see the picture of it at left), and are busy planning the layout of our eco-friendly log cabin.

If I wasn't a makeup artist, I'd have liked to be a landscape gardener. So much of my thoughts are focused on planting at the moment, which is very exciting.


  1. Nice blog!! I really enjoyed reading the articles. Pretty interesting stuff. Keep up the good work.


  2. Ah I love Leighton Meester. I wish he'd tell us how to get her makeup look. Her makeup is always clean and natural looking. I love it.

  3. great make up I love your site by the way