Tuesday, 1 February 2011

IMATS 2011: Alex Box Makeup Performance

Alex Box once again took to the stage at the London IMATS, this time showcasing her incredible artistry skills in a four-look application "performance", set to music.  This was a very different experience to the usual tutorial based IMATS session - Alex worked through her four looks with barely a word, concentrating wholly on the model.  

We managed to get photos and notes on the entire process - and as it was a full hour long, this is going to be an image heavy post.  Read on for the full low-down on the looks, the techniques, and the music that came together in this rather unique session.

The performance kicked off with the model sporting a completely white, blank face; a veritable blank canvas indeed.

As Alex readied her brushes, the first piece of music kicked in - and for this first segment, it was classical, starting off with rousing, booming acapella opera.  A bright pink powder was dusted across the model's temples, and then swept under the eyes, making a stark contrast to the whiteness of the skin.

Working quickly, Alex wielded her brushes fluidly, looking much like an artist painting with powder on bare skin as opposed to paint on canvas.  With a quick flick of Alex's wrist, the pink powder was blended into the skin in a way that looked less measured and more instinctive.  As the music changed into a deep, resonating cello solo which echoed through the packed auditorium, Alex moved on to shading the eye sockets with a golden russet brown, adding highlights to both the eyes and the cheekbones with a golden shimmer powder.

The corners of the lips were also defined with the same russet shade, with more golden shimmer used to accentuate the contours of the face.  The result was a chiselled, statue-like definition.

The music changed again, this time into a harpsichord based Regency piece which gave a hint at the final look to come.  Alex painted in eyebrows with brown pigment, carefully flecking in individual "hairs", and added beauty spots to match.  She painted in an exaggerated, heart shaped cupids bow, and dusted the lips with pink powder, before adding bright spots of pink flush to the cheeks.

As the harpsichord reached it's crescendo, Alex and her assistant added a powdered, stiffly ringleted wig and ruffled wrap to the neck.  The effect was a dirty, corrupted, almost zombie like Regency doll.

The wig and fabric were speedily removed, and the model's face painted over with white foundation and heavy powder to obscure the look and restore the blank canvas.  As the music started up once again, this time an electronica number, Alex positioned pieces of shimmering card onto the face.

We wondered if they might be stuck to the face, but as the music gathered pace, Alex loaded a brush with pale blue pigment and used the card to stencil curved shapes onto the model's face.

Where the previous work was entirely done with makeup, this look started to introduce more artistic elements and techniques.  To everyone's surprise, Alex brought out a set of spray paints, and began spritzing colour onto the models face, giving a riotously colourful, almost airbrushed effect.  

As the dance music picked up the pace and the tempo increased, as did the number of colours applied to the model.  Once she had been sprayed with blue, green, yellow and pink, Alex added more pink powder to the centre of the face.  

After adding a wet look turquoise lip, Alex and her assistant finished off the adornment with a candy pink wig and bright headdress.  Where the last look was a twisted period face, this look was vibrantly colourful, and almost joyous.

Once again, the wig and headdress were whipped off, and many in the audience were wondering how on earth Alex would return the model to a blank canvas once again.  Using a white spray paint, she misted the outsides of the face and the neck, leaving them grey - and then, taking a cake of black colour, she started using a wet brush to emphasise the contours of the face.

The music this time took on a darker edge - minimal, haunting, and menacing, it made it obvious that this next look was going to be dark and moody.

The stark, stylised lines looked almost tribal.  Alex mixed up some thinner black body paint and dripped it liberally over the neck and shoulders.

The music shifted into a discordant, uneasy jumble.  Using black and navy powder, Alex blurred the sharp edges of the contour lines.  She drew in a heavy, stylised lip with yet more black.

As the music abruptly dropped off from cacophony, Alex put the finishing touches to the look, adding eerie highlights to the eyes and lips, and adding a black wig.

With remnants of the last look showing through the mask of black, the final effect was both striking and disturbing, hinting at decay and corruption of the previous look's joyful colours.  Again, the move was away from using makeup to create art - this look was mostly black colour and a touch of black powder.

The last look, though, took it to new levels, involving no makeup at all.  Instead of blanking out the model's face again, Alex and her assistant built a paper structure around the model, working quickly alongside the haunting and fast paced In The Hall of the Mountain King (more well known for being the theme song for Alton Towers adverts).  

Using paint, Alex quickly smeared what looked almost like a caricature of basic facial makeup onto the paper.  Within a couple of minutes, the final "look" was complete, and Alex turned to the audience with a grin.  And there we had it - in just under an hour, makeup had evolved into art.


  1. Oh my word, I wish I'd have gone both days just to see this. I've had the pleasure of meeting Alex and watching her work before but I would have loved to see this! She's essentially a performer, isn't it?
    I am completely enamoured with the third look - I LOVE everything about it.

    Thank you so much for taking so many photos :)

  2. Ahh I wish I could've seen this, you make it sound incredible!

  3. Oh my god, just noticed I said 'isn't it?'. Bahaha, I meant 'isn't she' - I promise I'm not a chav!

  4. Alex Box is a makeup god! She honestly is the epitome of a makeup artist with a major emphasis on the 'artist'. I hope I get lucky enough to see her work her magic in person one day.

    Thanks for the fantastic post, I almost feel like I was there :)

  5. She is incredible. I wish I could have gone.


  6. It was indeed pretty incredible - thanks for all the comments, chaps! I really hope someone videoed it and will make it available - although at an hour long, maybe just the highlights :)

  7. just reading through and looking at the pictures i could see how truly amamzing Alex box is. Brillant work Brilliant!!!

  8. Alex is pure genius! I love her work!!



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