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A Face on a Face - An interview with Sophia Claire

Sophia Claire’s work is a perfect example of what art and make-up looks like. The thought of trying to separate the two and discovering what is their commonality and what features differentiate them, is something which fascinates me. In this piece, you will take a dive into a multitude of ideas revolving around art and make-up, as well as discovering Sophia Claire.

‘I am an academic who stumbled into the beauty industry somewhat accidentally. When I was writing my dissertation, I started my Instagram as a mental health activity, and it grew into something I hadn’t anticipated. Now my day job is as a professor (of philosophy), but I still love playing with makeup and learning about photography.’ Sophia says. She has two separate Instagram accounts, one for make-up (@sosodoesmakeup) and one for art (@sosodoesart). While browsing through her work one will definitely notice a burst of colour and creativity. The colour combinations are so fresh and lively.

This look for example has such a fresh and fruity colour combination. It is daring and yet it can be worn as a casual look, for those who prefer more colour in their make-up palette. The yellow-orange blush gives a note of cheerfulness to the look, and it is one of Sophie’s signature blushes. It is unique and brings the look together with its yellow toned chromatic. Apart from the orange lipstick which really infuses the look with femininity and creates a beautiful centre of attention, I really love the entire styling of this look. The lemon earrings give this vivid taste of fresh fruit at your first glance of this look. It is amazing to see how a make-up look can create so many feelings and connections by what it is representing.

This is one of Sophie’s look from her make-up account, rather than from the art one; which made me wonder if there is this response of ‘too much’ that she gets for colourful casual looks. ‘I agree that makeup is typically marketed as an enhancement for women to make them more desirable. In some ways, I ascribe to this view, as I like how mascara makes my eyes look larger and more distinct, or how red lipstick instantly makes me look more dramatic and put together. However, I also think bringing techniques like contouring and baking into the mainstream, which were developed for very specific purposes, can normalize an unnatural aesthetic (while acknowledging that “unnatural” is a loaded concept), and keep us from appreciating how beautiful faces are on their own. No one should feel less than without makeup, but everyone should be able to wear whatever makeup they want.’ I think this idea of make-up as an extension of your creativity and expression, is something that hasn’t quite reached across the world. Colourful looks tend to be criticized and are considered to be different, exaggerated or unnatural. What is interesting is that vivid colours are usually associated to joy and cheerfulness, however, when that is used as a make-up look it becomes ‘vulgar’ and ‘inappropriate’.

Moving onto one of Sophia’s looks which leans more on the artistic style. It is fascinating to see how she created the shapes of a face on her own. The way it mimics a painting and the shapes of a brushstroke, really raises the question of whether there is a difference between art and make-up. ‘I’m not sure there’s a clear boundary between makeup and art. So much about the application of colour and use of texture on the face, mirrors painting and sketching. Even the simplest look can have an artistic bent, and I’ve learned to appreciate that less can sometimes have a bigger impact.’ In this look the visibility of the lines and the lack of blending in them, creates a link to the Post-Impressionist works of Henri Matisse or Paul Cezanne, which is why we are more likely to perceive it as a painting rather than make-up. I think this element of ‘smoothness’ comes into play when one is thinking about art and make-up. As a society we expect make-up to be well blended, mimicking the natural shades of your face; as well as having muted nude colours to maximize the ‘natural make-up' effect which is considered appropriate.

However, this look is showing the shades of where the light would fall onto a face in this position. Sophia continues about her art and make-up: ‘I think that art and makeup have always had an important relationship! I grew up looking at the editorial looks of makeup artists like Pat McGrath, Gucci Westman and Lisa Eldridge in fashion magazines and on the runway. Perhaps it has more recently come into the mainstream through social media’s highly accessible platforms, which I think is amazing.’

One of her other works is a recreation of Paul Signac’s painting entitled ‘Venice, the Pink Cloud’. The positioning of the colours and the choice of colour placing is really fascinating. She has also lengthened the brushstrokes, (whereas pointillism is based on the concept of small taps of colour) and created more texture in her look. ‘I do tend to gravitate towards French artists, especially the impressionists, which definitely displays a certain cultural bias. I also think that the French aesthetic is very simple yet sophisticated. They never overdo, but always end up looking polished without trying too hard.’ She has done many painting recreations, on her art account, mainly of works around the Impressionism and Post-Impressionism era. ‘For artistic makeup I love water activated face paints from brands like Mehron and Kryolan. I’m also constantly looking for colored liners for detail work and shading. My everyday makeup is actually pretty simple, in contrast to what I post on instagram, but I love a bold brow and a sheer lip. I’m also obsessed with faux freckles, and constantly use products from Pseudolabs and Freck.’ She also gives out some tips: ‘Pay attention to the lines and shapes that constitute the face. This will help with product placement. Also, have fun! Makeup does not need to be serious, or scary. It’s just another way to bring more colour and beauty into life.'

Her journey through the make-up industry has started as a hobby and a platform for self-expression. However, nobody can deny the difficulty of making yourself known in this industry. The most difficult part of her journey in this industry was: ‘Learning how to negotiate with brands! The influencer beauty community is highly saturated by non-professionals, or people not previously in the beauty industry, which means many do not have practical knowledge about building beneficial relationships with cosmetic brands. As a result, many are willing to work for free, or in exchange for product, which is highly exploitative and lowers the standards for all content creators.’

Images by the courtesy of Sophia Claire. Written by Tímea Koppándi.


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