Pablo Rodriguez is one of the passionate people in the world of creativity. Fashion designer turned professional makeup artist based in London, he is also an artistry director for Illamasqua beauty brand. Pablo kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about his beautiful profession and his endless love for the fashion world and its endeavours:
Lucifer: When did you realise that you want to become a professional makeup artist?
Pablo Rodriguez: After working as a fashion designer for quite a few years, I understood that it was not as “hands-on” as doing makeup, which I had been doing for a long time just as a hobby. I was doing random makeup jobs as a secondary thing, until one day I decided I should do it full-time. That’s when I started building up a portfolio and concentrating on exploring makeup techniques.
L: How did you start working in this field?
P.R: After doing makeup on my friends for fun to go clubbing, a friend who was an event producer asked me to do makeup for a fashion show. I created some insane multicolored plastic lashes for the models, the hair stylist at that show asked me to do an editorial after that, and then the photographer asked me to do another one, and that was it, I never looked back to doing fashion design. I still love it though.
L: What does the artistic director´s work at a makeup brand consist of day to day? Which are your main duties?
P.R: I create everything that is artistry related such us the makeup looks for the campaigns, product design, and makeup for fashion shows that the brand sponsors
L: As a professional and creative makeup artist, where do you draw inspiration from for creating new looks?
P.R: I think of characters from movies that I like, new or old; that gives me a much wider spectrum than just looking at fashion. I try to avoid things that have already been filtered by someone else. It’s hard not to be unconsciously influenced.
L: What are the major differences between creating makeup for a fashion show, fashion editorial or public events?
P.R: For a fashion show, as there are a lot of models, the key makeup artist has to direct the team to ensure no matter the face shape or colour of skin, that consistency is achieved by every individual makeup artist on every individual model. Sometimes looks need to be adjusted or tweaked but working with the designer’s vision. I need a big team of assistants, so the look has to be something that everyone is able to reproduce. Also, you can’t rely on post retouching as it is live.
When doing an editorial look, you can spend a lot more time and change the look as you go, usually it’s only one or two girls, so it can be a lot more tailored to that model in particular. For public events, like doing celebrities for a performance or red carpet, it works more like a collaboration, they want to look amazing and simultaneously the best version of themselves.
L: How much time do you get for creating and proposing new makeup looks?
P.R: For campaigns, sometimes it takes months, there can be a lot of preproduction meetings. For a fashion show, only a couple of days, before the show; you meet up with the designer, the stylist, hairstylist, and a couple of models, and you make the decisions beforehand. On the day of the show, after the rehearsal, sometimes things can change only one hour before the show. In terms of the makeup application, you might spend forty-five minutes on the first girl you do, and only ten in the last one. It’s very fast paced, so I think the look really happens in lineup to start the show, when the girls are dressed, ready to go and you do the final touches.
L: Which was the show or editorial where you had the most freedom to create?
P.R: Once I did a Vivienne Westwood show where I let the models do their own makeup, only using their fingers dipping them in palettes of grease paint. For me, it felt so liberating to lose control of where the looks were going. The girls really went for it, all the looks turned up so different from each other, I was so impressed with the results, some were color explosions, others just black lines
L: Could you share your thoughts on how male makeup changed in society during the last decade?
P.R: Unfortunately, I think it hasn’t changed that much. It’s still a taboo, kids already used to wear fun makeup to go clubbing in the 80’s, but today an executive wouldn’t turn up at a meeting with a bit of powder on. I think it is quite divided, you have a lot of artistic makeup that you see in social media (from trompe l’oeil to sushi painted on the face), and then you have what real people wear, which for men it’s probably only skincare products.
L: Did the drag queen phenomena influence the world of makeup and how?
P.R: In many ways yes, but now maybe it’s turned the other way around. Perhaps all the YouTube tutorials and Instagram extreme looks and filters, set the bar really high for drag queens. In my clubbing days, I used to do drag makeup on some friends, and it was all trial and error. But also, I presume that as they are a lot more exposed now in the media, the competition is harder, and they have to look more polished and creative. It must be quite a lot of pressure to nail those looks, they are masterpieces.
L: Could you describe which is your signature look/makeup style?
P.R: I prefer simple looks, which doesn’t necessarily mean natural all the time. I get bored spending too much time on one face, i would rather do something impactful but easy. I like leaving some element/s of the face undone. But also, if the makeup is messy, I always put a beauty element, like a perfect lip, or carefully curled lash.
L: In your opinion, how did the work and image of a makeup artist change with social media?
P.R: Sometimes social media can become quite vicious, anything to grab attention, extreme makeup. It can be a popularity contest based on how many followers you have or if your account has the verification blue tick. But you can use it to your advantage too, anyone that has just started can show their work, like a mini website, so that’s great. It can be very democratic, but also quite fake too. I hate selfies with people pouting like ducks.
L: Fashion designer or brand that you would enjoy collaborating with and why?
P.R: I can’t think of a brand, but I would like to work with photographer Donna Trope, her pictures are so dirty good; or with Pierre & Gilles! I would love to live in that fantasy world. Currently, I identify with all the images I have done with Paulina Surys, we have similar visual languages and we connect effortlessly when we shoot together.
L: In which other ways is fashion present in your life?
P.R: It becomes a lifestyle. Once you pop you can’t stop. Fashion is present every day, wearing it and seeing it in my house. Clothes communicate so much; whoever says they don’t care about what they wear, it’s bullshit. Even if you really try to dress down and wear basics from Uniqlo, there is a message you are trying to send, and you expect a response. Maybe you are trying to blend in, or you are saying you are above caring about image, or you just don’t prioritize spending your money on clothing. Saying that, you can look fabulous with stuff from a charity shop.
L: A fashion piece from your wardrobe that you cherish a lot.
P.R: I’m obsessed with collecting vintage Jean Paul Gaultier. I have a nice little archive, so it’s hard to pick one piece, but one of my most recent pieces that I got is a jacket from the Chic Rabbis A/W 93 collection inspired by the clothing of Hasidic Jews. The amount of work put into that piece is insane, and after some restoration it’s impeccable. Also, I have some multi-piercing earrings from the rockabilly/tattoo collection S/S 2012, they are a series of piercings, like my ears, but a single clip-on piece. I bought those new but could never wear them because my own piercings get in the way and the Gaultier ones fall off. One more, a reversible jacquard jacket from his Eskimo collection called Le Grand Voyage (A/W 94), and a Peruvian motif all sequin beaded jacket from… You see? I get too excited, I can’t stop!
L: A character that you admire for his/her style and look.
P.R: I really like matchy-matchy looks, and monochrome color palettes on clothes, like Howard from The Big Bang Theory. And now that Friends is having a big revival moment, I got obsessed with Gunther, the owner of the coffee shop, he is the only stylish one from the cast. Anything from a Wes Anderson movie, maybe that’s why I like Gucci and Prada so much. And costume designers Sandy Powell, Eiko Ishioka or Milena Canonero! I’m a sucker to their aesthetics.
L: Your work is related to the temporary enhancement of skin, but what is your relationship with tattoos?
P.R: Tattoos for me are very visceral, once I have a design in mind, I can feel where on my body I can envision getting it done, and its placement helps finish the design. In terms of the longevity: no regrets! There are many decisions in life you can’t undo anyway, from getting your nose done to having kids. Any simple or big decision you make is forever, you can’t change the past, duh!
L: What skills are required in your profession? What would your advice be for someone who wishes to become a makeup artist?
P.R: You need to be able to listen to clients’ briefs. Pay attention to art, fashion and design (past and present), you need the references, good and bad ones. My advice would be don’t let the system abuse you. You are an individual that can also say NO. Don’t be fooled by things that are meant to be “a great opportunity for you” but they are actually shit. Don’t work for free unless it is a job that you will enjoy doing. And the main one, never ever copy someone else’s work.
All photos courtesy of Pablo Rodriguez