From Vincent van G to Kat von D

Scarlett Rowland shares her view on whether make-up can be considered a true art form

Scarlett Rowland
6th March 2017

Makeup as an industry throws out a myriad of opposing opinions about style every season. Is an Instagram brow better than a 1920s style skinny brow? How should you wear brights in autumn, if you should at all? Are fake freckles super cute or just plain trashy? In attempting to follow these trends many of us become trapped by the confines of what is considered beautiful in the moment. But this constant struggle of the currently accepted form of ‘beauty’ is often set aside in editorial shoots and by innovative instagram creatives not afraid of combatting the message of beauty prescribed to us by the media.

When the focus is less on someone becoming more attractive, it is far easy to see makeup as an art form. As editorial makeup steps further and further into the avant-garde it is less about becoming beautiful and more creating a look that represents the concept of the shoot, the creative industries marrying together creating images of visual intrigue. Examples where eyeshadow has not been neatly placed into the confines of the crease and lid, where lipstick application is not dictated by the sharp edges of lip liner and where eyelash application has fallen far from the eye- helps to show the creativity and art of the industry.

However, it is not to be argued that the current makeup trends cannot be considered art, even though they are more tame. Throughout art history, movements have formed styles which have come in and out of fashion just as in the makeup industry. For me though the portraits from the renaissance are mundane, they are still art coming from an artistic movement which held much popularity and required an inordinate amount of skill. In this way, the everyday makeup trends though perhaps less visually exciting than the avant-garde work, can still be considered art and a form of self-expression.

Furthermore, where is the dividing line between body painting or prosthetics and makeup? Youtubers like Madeyewlook and Glam & Gore are a body painter and SPX artist respectively, who have also made bodies their canvas. They are able to completely change the way they look using light, shadow, colour and prosthetics, in a way that could be compared to the use of contour and the addition of fake eyelashes by a makeup artist. Alongside this they also post makeup tutorials, showing that their skills between the forms of expression are easily transferable. The difference in their output could easily be compared to different art styles - everyday makeup looks are like a renaissance portrait style, whilst the extravagant body art reflects pop art or even minimalism.

When discussing makeup as an art form we must not forget those who have made it their profession, those who are called makeup artists. Having trained at their craft just like any artist, to define their medium as anything other than art is unfair. These people study tone, shade, light and colour just like any other formally trained artists would, the difference merely being that their chosen canvas is a face. In the same way as people dabble in water colours and pencil sketches, but would not consider themselves actual artists – those of us who grab a colour correcting palette and some eyeshadow are merely dabbling with tools part of an art form we are not trained in.

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