Saturday, 30 January 2010

Report: Terry Barber demonstration at IMATS

Today was the first day of the IMATS event, and needless to say both Gemma and myself have lots to tell you. There'll be even more happening tomorrow and it's going to take a few posts to get all our stories told. So first off, I'll be writing about today's first keynote speaker, Terry Barber, who is the UK and Europe Director of Makeup Art for MAC. He gave a demonstration and talk on makeup for film and music video.

Terry began by informing us that he was going to "do that thing of imagining everyone naked, because it makes you less nervous". We knew then that we were dealing with an artist free of prima-donna tendencies, and he confirmed this favourable first impression by giving us a thorough, clear and highly inspiring demo of how he goes about creating one of his looks for the screen.

The work in question was a look for black skin, inspired by the iconography of 70s blaxploitation movies ("Something very beautiful, but also very tough"), the 1920s entertainer Josephine Baker ("almost cartoonishly distinctive") and Barber's own contemporary work with artists like Grace Jones, Mary J Blige and Diana Ross.

He spoke very fondly of the famous names he works with, giving us intimations of the close relationships that are developed between subject and makeup artist. Grace Jones, he tells us, allows him to shave off her eyebrows, saying that since she spent most of the 1980s without them she clearly didn't need them. She also taught him many of the contouring tricks he used in today's talk. "I learned a lot from her" he said.

Terry's maxim is that every look has to reflect the person wearing it, their stage persona and their attitude. "You're not just there to make them look pretty." Pamela Anderson, for example, often asks him to "trash down" the looks he gives her, smudging eyeliner and creating an edgier and unpolished effect that meshes with her own personal style.

Terry's model for today, a stunning woman with very defined bone structure, had already been prepped with several shades of foundation before we arrived. Terry described how he likes to create a three-dimensional, textured effect for film and video makeup, providing the director "something to play with". Rather than simply creating an eye, a lip, a blush, he thinks in terms of the whole head in 360 degrees, he told us. Creating different surfaces, light-dark gradients and textures on the skin offers the director an extra dimension to work with, along with the lighting and camera effects.

The first step in creating this textured look involved several shades of concealer, which were used to highlight the areas in the centre of the face that are naturally caught in light - the middle of the nose, the cheekbones, the area around the brows. His aim was to create a "ringflash effect", with the middle of the face lit up and the edges falling away into darkness.

The concealer was set with a layer of colourless translucent powder, applied with a dual-fibre brush (Gemma identified it as the MAC 188). Terry said that the microfibre brushes in MAC's brush line "have changed my life". He described them as working like a paintbrush on the skin - applying colour across it rather than rubbing product into it.

At this point he stressed the importance of working quickly - makeup artists are always given a set time to achieve their looks and are always working against the clock. If you can work quickly, he says, people will book you more often. He advises learning to do a look in ten minutes, because sometimes that's all the time available.

Used to viewing his work in progress via a mirror or a monitor, Terry was clearly uneasy working "blind" with just a model in a chair. He frequently darted out to the front of the audience to check the look of the model from a distance - very much bearing out his description of seeing the whole rather than the parts of the face.

The model's eyes were dramatically defined with a black layer of Chromaline, (a Pro-only product, as was most of today's kit) swept from lashline to just under the brow and blended with a MAC 224 brush (apparently his favourite - he used these for more or less everything). A second Chromaline in rich purple was added up near the crease. Then he added a layer of Deep Blue-Green pigment over the top, to bring texture and movement to the lid. Finally, the model got a set of No. 36 lashes, applied artfully and poked into place using an orange stick.

The lips were the most attention-grabbing aspect of the look without doubt, outdoing even the neon coral 80's-look blush (which was actually a Pro pigment). Terry used Lipmix in red and orange, as well as deep black-red Nightmoth lip pencil, to create a stunning sunburst effect, finished with shiny clear Lipglass.

Perhaps following the philosophy of Grace Jones, he chose to minimise the brows, only running them through with some gel to tidy them.

"Oh and the last step in any makeup look" he said, as we marvelled at the transformation of the model's face "is to clean off the black smudge that you always end up making with your hand."
Affectionate laughter rippled through the auditorium as he took off the offending smudge with a q-tip.

Then he took a final step back to admire his work. "That's pretty nice" he said. "I'm kind of happy with that."


  1. Thanks SO much for this report! I'm SO upset I didn't get a chance to watch him in action myself, this def. makes up for it and feels like I was there in person! ;o) x

  2. Hey! No worries - there's another report on the Alex Box talk to come too. Hope you had a lovely day today :)

  3. Wow, what a great post, so interesting, thanks so much for sharing! I LOVE the look he gave the model.

  4. Brilliant write up! Gutted I couldn't get into this talk :-( Fab work ladies xx


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