Monday, February 27, 2012

An Insider's Look: Makeup Artist James Kaliardos

There's only one makeup artist who can make me get out of bed at 6:30 in the morning during Fashion Week -- and his name is James Kaliardos. James's resume reads like the best list ever of who's who. He's made up some of the most famous faces in the world (Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, Linda Evangelista, Nicole Kidman and Cameron Diaz are among his clients), worked with the world's top photographers (Peter Lindbergh, Annie Leibovitz, Steven Klein, Mario Testino, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Helmut Newton), and created runway looks for every designer you can imagine (Ruffian, Jean Paul Gaultier, Balenciaga, Chanel, Rodarte, Diane von Furstenberg and many more). In addition, James started Visionaire in 1981 with friends Cecilia Dean and Stephen Gan. Last week, I had the immense pleasure of attending a master class James was giving for makeup artists at M.A.C. Read on for more.

Humble Beginnings
I’ve always been obsessed by beauty and transformation and what makeup can bring to the table for a woman in terms of confidence. It’s always about a choice for a woman to show herself a certain way. I used to help my mother a lot, or my girlfriends. It evolved from doing my mom for the PTA meetings in the 80's, when I would do this New Wave stuff on her. And then girlfriends in high school and prom nights. It’s always been this motive of creative experimentation for me.

What Makeup Can Do For You
There is this thing about transformation. When I was a child I really loved watching Lon Chaney, the silent screen actor. He was known as the man with a thousand faces, and you never knew who the real Lon Chaney was -- he kept that a secret and I thought that was so cool.

I’ve worked with Madonna and Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman ... as they get older, there’s this real pressure to look a certain way. Sometimes it’s not about their work, it’s about the way they look. I’ll do press junkets with them or red carpet things with them and we’re trying to launch a work they’ve actually done, and so many times the journalists end up talking about what they look like. I think it’s so crazy. If it was Clint Eastwood, no one would be doing that to them. Real women face it every day, whether it’s from your husband or your boyfriend or your girlfriend or your job. Makeup can help you get a raise, look confident or look like a bimbo or look like a slut, or look minimal and intelligent. It’s really just stuff that you put on your face!

I’ve always acted, since I was a kid, so I’m into my interior and my emotions. It’s hard sometimes working within fashion, which can be seen as very superficial, and makeup, which is a topical thing, to make it mean something and have a duality to it. It’s not just, “Oh that’s a good red lip.” It’s about “Why are we wearing that red?” How do you take something superficial and make it mean more and make it empower a woman? I’ve always thought of that, maybe because I started doing makeup on my mom, but it’s always been this really personal thing to me. I’ve always cared about the face I’m doing, I don’t just stick a look on someone. I really work with each model and each actress to come up with something where they feel good with the look.

Fashion Week
I work a lot with M.A.C doing fashion shows. It’s a very difficult thing to do, to work with a designer, especially during showtime, because they’re really uptight and scared and freaked out about their collection, and somehow it all gets funneled into the mascara or the lip color or the hair. You have to play it really creatively and cool to find the right look that makes sense for the show, do something which is progressive and interesting, because I feel like the shows are a laboratory of creativity. It’s very spontaneous and you wouldn’t believe the quick decisions that have been made in my career that have become major trends! It’s like, wow, that was just some last-minute word that Karl Lagerfeld said at 4 in the morning that suddenly became something big.

You have to be on the ball and open creatively. It’s not always that there’s a structure to it and decisions that have all been formulated by marketing editors. Sometimes it’s very, very fast, especially with someone like Karl. These fast things happen. It’s always 4 in the morning, and you just sort of whip out these things and make it work.

Creating a Look
I always think of building a character. Who is this woman? If it’s Madonna, or if it’s a model, who is this woman we’re sending down the runway? It’s a bohemian hippie, or it’s a Janis Joplin. There are these references that come out, like Diana Vreeland, or Marisa Berenson. You have reference points of Sophia Loren or Meryl Streep, whoever gives you a clue into what type of woman this is, and then you find what elements make these women what they are.

We work with the designer. You meet with them and look at all their clothes, and even if you don’t like what they’re doing, you have to come up with a look that transforms these clothes. The hair and the makeup really build the character and who this girl is. I always think of them walking down the street, like a character in a movie, instead of these abstract robotic girls that don’t have personalities walking down a runway.

James on Skin
So many people have dry lips, I don’t know if we’re lacking in vitamins or what! I’m a health nut and I really believe in juicing and eating well and eating fruits and vegetables, and it can really make you have great skin. No makeup can make you have great skin. It can make you look way better, but you really have to take care of your skin.

Taking Cues from Photographers' Lighting Techniques
This is what I’ve learned doing photographs with the world’s greatest photographers. Their lighting techniques are so great. What good lighting does, like the famous Richard Avedon lighting, is lifts up the planes of the face and helps you sculpt the bones of the face so you look more sculptural and less flat.

Skincare and Makeup Tips from James
1) The skin is very important to me and it really makes a difference in how the makeup goes on. I start by taking a toner and really exfoliating with a cotton pad. It really helps when you’re putting makeup on to not put it on a dry, ashy face.

2) I take a lot of moisturizer with a foundation brush and work it into the skin. I used to use my fingers a lot when I first started, but as the years have gone on I feel like it’s not as hygienic. I think a tool gives you consistency.

3) If someone’s a little older, I’ll use eye cream. I love the cheekbone -- it’s a very neglected part of the face, which is really sexy to me. I often use eye cream there to make a glistening effect.

4) Even when we do a minimal look backstage and designers don’t want any makeup, you still have to make everyone look good in a minimal way. I add a little pink tone in the foundation.

5) M.A.C has great reds like Lady Danger and Ruby Woo and Russian Red. It really does something so fast. Coral, red, cranberry ... you don’t have to wear it with a lot of other makeup.

James's Top Two Tips for Aspiring Makeup Artists
1) You have to learn about fashion and actresses and get your references down. A lot of people speak in a reference terminology, so they’ll talk about Diana Vreeland, Faye Dunaway, Veruschka, Twiggy. Having a knowledge of photography and photographers -- Richard Avedon and Irving Penn and Helmut Newton -- that’s very important.

2) As artists you have to be flexible. If it’s really not working or it’s not what the photographer wants or the designer wants, [you] just can’t do that. You have to be able to switch it up and not get stuck in a creative, ego-driven rut. You have to know that there’s more tricks up your sleeve.

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