MAC Make-up Art Cosmetics Collection: The Interviews

MAC Cosmetics Make-up Art Cosmetics Collection:  The Interviews


In M·A·C culture, the human face and body are the ultimate canvas for makeup artists. Makeup and brushes are quite literally the tools. M·A·C Artists are influenced by all forms of art from painting to photography to images in film, using makeup as their means of expression. Like fine artists, they create depth, sculpt contours, brush on highlights, blend textures, mix colours, or apply pigment straight from the tube like Van Gogh. But in this case, the canvas talks back.

“We are M·A·C … Make-Up Art Cosmetics. Every face is a canvas to us, a glorious chance for spectacular transformation. It’s nice to be pretty, but it’s so much more fabulous and interesting to be a persona, something once out-of-grasp that has, through the power of art, become thrillingly real,” says James Gager, Senior Vice President/Creative Director. “In keeping with our art heritage, it made sense to ask these three artists to participate in a unique collaboration with us for fall. Working in their individual mediums – drawing, photography and painting – each applied a different colour palette to a portrait, with inspired results.”

Gordon Espinet, Vice President, Makeup Artistry adds, “Art has no boundaries. Art appeals to ‘all ages, all races, all sexes! Art is ultimately all about individual expression. M·A·C makes no distinction between the fine artist and the makeup artist and gives every artist the power to tell their story with makeup.”

Everything at M·A·C is built around the idea that anything is possible when self-expression is honored, exalted, allowed to rise to its ultimate aria. This season M·A·C celebrates the idea of the Artist in every shade and stripe…makeup as art form. M·A·C has selected three individuals who exemplify this idea through both the subjects they choose, and the wildly individual styles and colours used to convey them. Bold, heroic, big; giggly, playful, clever; dramatic, original, abstract: Fall ’09 as seen by Richard Phillips, Maira Kalman, and Marilyn Minter. Be inspired!

Check out full Q&As with each collaborator


Richard Phillips makes lush, provocative, seven-foot tall oil paintings of men and women based on photographs he cuts out of magazines. Most are fashion models or female pop stars, though he also painted Leonardo DiCaprio and George Bush. Removed from their original context, cropped and pumped up with vibrant colour, he teases out the subliminal messages embedded in each image, often an equation of sex, propaganda and power. Now 46, Mr. Phillips welcomes collaborations with fashion companies; previously he created an ad campaign for Mont Blanc. He also has adapted one painting to evening bags by Jimmy Choo, and contributed another to an episode of Gossip Girl, in which he also appeared, playing himself. He lives in New York with his fiancé, the German-born artist Josephine Meckseper, and is represented by the Larry Gagosian Gallery, with which he has had successful shows in both Los Angeles and New York.

Linda Yablonsky: Have you ever worn makeup, Richard?
Richard Phillips: Oh, sure. Absolutely. I was on the death-rock Goth scene in Boston in the early 1980s. I lived with members of a Goth band and an actual witch, so wearing eyeliner and black nail polish was really standard at that time.

Q: For your collaboration with M·A·C, you were given the colour palette of a particular line of makeup to work with. Not black.
A: It was hard to make sense of it at first.

Q: That surprises me. Aren’t you used to painting women in makeup?
A: I know how to make it look as if the makeup is on flesh but I don’t know how the makeup artists actually do it.

Q: So how did you figure it out?
A: I worked with Pascal Dangin, the number one photo retoucher in the fashion business. You know how the human body changes to adapt to its environment? Pascal takes evolution farther, beyond what is physically possible. He has adapted the body to meet unreasonable expectations of beauty, literally creating forms that the eye wants to see.

Q: But didn’t you adapt this painting from one you made for your last show at the Gagosian Gallery?
A: When M·A·C approached me, I knew I wouldn’t have time to make a new painting but I thought I could “retouch” the one I had just finished for the show. Why confine retouching to photography alone? Instead of trying to repaint my canvas with the M·A·C makeup, I thought I could ask Pascal to put the makeup on the painting by digital means.

Q: So you virtually “made up” the painting, the way a makeup artist would a living model?
A: Yes. It was quite a unique collaboration. Cosmetics create different types of appearances for a face and to have them put into a painting of a face – I don’t think it’s ever been done before.

Q: Can you describe the process?
A: Pascal created six different possibilities from the M·A·C palette, using so many different layers and separations of colour it made my head spin.

Q: Then how did you decide on the right “look” for the painting?
A: The first examples were shocking because they were too bright. The M·A·C colours were much more muted and subdued. So we made the lips darker and cooled down the skin tone. The eye shadow is also radically different than it is in the painting, where the head appears upside-down. Here it’s sideways. We really put a lot of effort into creating something extraordinary.

Q: Did you choose this painting to work on because it’s a close-up of a woman’s face?
A: She’s not wearing heavy makeup in the original, so she made the perfect canvas. It’s called “Bondensee,” the name of the lake that joins Switzerland, Austria and Germany. In my painting, it appears in the background behind the model, whose image I took from a porn magazine.

Q: It’s a very arresting image, partly because it is cropped so closely, and partly because of the dark tones of the M·A·C colours you’ve applied to it.
A: In painting, you can create power through beauty, and when I speak of power I am speaking of creating unfulfilled desire. This image is advertising something that isn’t there – the unseen eroticism of the rest of her body. The painting is really an expression of sensuality.

Q: Funny, but the reproduction still seems more like a painting than a photograph. The eyelashes alone are incredibly detailed.
A: I know. You could put your face right up to this face and it will still look exactly as if it were painted. I was floored when I saw it. I’m still not over it.


Well-known as the creator of numerous covers and drawings for The New Yorker magazine, Maira Kalman is the author and illustrator of a dozen books for children and the designer of accessories such as watches and umbrellas for M. & Co., fabrics for Isaac Mizrahi, and sets for ballets by choreographer Mark Morris. With composer Nico Muhly, she recently turned her illustrated edition of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, the standard writer’s guide to English language usage, into a mini-opera that she has also performed with an ensemble of musicians playing such “instruments” as teacups, slinkys and typewriters. Currently she is following up “The Principles of Uncertainty,” her 2006-07 visual diary for The New York Times web site, with an illustrated monthly blog, “And the Pursuit of Happiness.” Ms. Kalman regularly exhibits her drawings at the Julie Saul Gaul in New York.

Linda Yablonsky: You are a very prolific artist, Maira. Where do you get your energy?
Maira Kalman: As I once told an audience at the New York Public Library, my biggest motivator is fear of boredom.

Q: Fat chance of that! How did you arrive at this portrait, Young Woman at Yellow Table, for the new M·A·C collection?
A: I started with about ten sketches, using the eye pencils and lipsticks.

Q: You actually used the makeup as paint?
A: Ultimately I painted in gouache, as usual, but I wanted to try this one using the M·A·C makeup first, so I started sketching with the pencils.

Q: Because of the colours?
A: Just as an exercise in sketching. It was fun. And appropriate! But I also liked the blue-black-red palette, and that the colours were vivid but not garish. Then I added a few colours that I liked. Out of instinct. Thinking too much about a picture can be the death of it. Allowing beauty to take over is what this is about.

Q: The new M·A·C colours are brighter than those normally found in fall fashions. How did they affect you in the studio?
A: This whole project evoked a certain feeling for me – playful, pensive, elfin, and feminine.

Q: Who was the model for the portrait?
A: It was someone I had just met and photographed in my kitchen.

Q: Someone you had just met…you mean she was a stranger?
A: She came to interview me for a newspaper article and when she sat at my yellow kitchen table, I wanted to photograph her. I just liked the way she looked, like a smart pixie. That made her seem appropriate for this project. I often take pictures of people as they come into my life. Someone delivers something and the next thing I know I’m photographing them. I also take a lot of photographs as I walk around the city. I’m a walker, and I’m constantly photographing broken chairs…

Q: Broken chairs? Not people?
A: I photograph a million people. But I like broken things left on the sidewalk. I don’t know why. I find them very moving. Today I brought home a ladder. It’s not broken but it is rickety, a relic from another time. It’s beautiful.

Q: What does beauty represent for you?
A: For me, beauty has to have a sense of heartbreak but also be heroic. That’s really why I like the broken chair: it’s broken but also heroic because it is still a chair. The same goes for people who appear in the world with a certain amount of courage.

Q: Do you pay attention to what people wear or just their faces?
A: I like looking at everything from high fashion to shoes with holes in them. I’m least interested in people who think of themselves as fashionable, unless they exhibit some kind of eccentricity that interests me.

Q: You must have quite an archive of pictures by now.
A: I have a huge reference library: men with plaid jackets and brown shoes; women with umbrellas. I have walls full of photographs and files full of them, and I use them constantly. They capture lots of things I don’t expect. Yesterday, for instance, I walked by a man with a black turban and white scarf. A second later I passed a man with a white hat and red scarf.

Q: You don’t appear to wear makeup.
A: I’m scared of makeup. I do try to wear lip gloss. As a friend said, at least it shows you care.


Marilyn Minter brings a certain disheveled glamour to art that is almost too sexy for words. Her extreme close-up photographs of lips, eyelashes, fingernails, freckles, tongues and high heels blur the line between gorgeous and grotesque. Often they become the subjects of her monumental, enamel on aluminum paintings where even a model’s beads of perspiration are indistinguishable from her jewels. That gift for sparkle is one reason Minter was a natural for the high-key glitter pigments in Make-Up Art Cosmetics’ fall collection. She is an artist who shifts easily between art and fashion, billboards and gallery walls, or from the prestigious Whitney Biennial to photo shoots with such outsize personalities as Pamela Anderson. “I never know what I’m going to shoot before I look through the lens,” Minter says. “I’m looking for the accident to happen.”

Linda Yablonsky: What attracted you to M·A·C’s Make-Up Art Cosmetics collection?
Marilyn Minter: The glamour industry is the central source for my art. I feed off it like a parasite! They need my eye; I need everything else from them.

Q: Especially the glitter eye shadow! Or was it the lipstick?
A: I did ask for lipstick but mostly to complement the eye makeup for the photograph. But I do wear blush and lipstick ninety percent of the time.

Q: You’re primarily a painter who works from photographs. Did you paint your model’s makeup for the M·A·C shoot too?
A: I work with a professional makeup artist named Rosina Harris and she applied the makeup perfectly. Then I went in and messed it up – sprayed it with water and glycerin. I don’t like to retouch or clean up freckles or sweat. I like things to be gritty. Retouched models don’t look human. Every place I work commercially they airbrush everything. M·A·C doesn’t do that. That’s why I like M·A·C.

Q: You had the whole range of glitter pigments for fall. How did you decide on this particular pink for your photo?
A: We played around to see what would work. We also tried different colours on each eye.

Q: You equate freckles with beauty?
A: Oh, yeah. I even think pimples are beautiful. I don’t see them as disgusting. They’re human.

Q: What did you mean when you said you went in and messed things up?
A: I exaggerate the look a bit. If the makeup artist puts on a lot of mascara, I add a bit more. I recently shot Julianne Moore, who has freckles that have faded or are always airbrushed out. I penciled them in more. If someone has a bit of mustache, I like to show it. I like to show things starting to fall apart.

Q: Your photograph for M·A·C is an extremely close close-up image of the model’s eye. Did you shoot it that way or crop the photo?
A: I never crop. I shoot everything very close with a macro lens, and never use the whole of anything.

Q: How close can you get?
A: I shoot a foot or two away from the model’s face, which means that when I look through the lens I get right into the pores. Close-ups are my specialty. They’re what I love. When you get that close, you lose all the outside information. You can just look.

Q: What do you think glamour is?
A: It’s relative. A fantasy of what everyone believes someone else is having but no one is really living. Makeup does start running, the heel of your shoe can really break, and your hem can come undone. You really only get a few hours when everything falls perfectly into place. The Duchess of Windsor had the soles of her shoes polished. That’s obsessive. It’s not real. Life is messy!

Q: Yet your photos are so glamorous.
A: It’s the universal eye – a little messed up.

Q: Your paintings are based on digital combinations of your photographs, which you paint in enamel on aluminum, blending it with your fingers – the way a makeup artist does on a face.
A: It’s the only way to do it.