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10 Sep

Make-up artist Grace Ellington is finished with boring beauty

With make-up that’s playful, joyful and expressive, Polyester’s beauty editor is just having fun

From digital artists to photographers, body sculptors and hair stylists to make-up and nail artists, in our Highlight series, we profile the creatives tearing up the rulebook of their respective industries.

“I do think that make-up isn’t really a serious thing,” says Grace Ellington. “But that’s really liberating because in case you remove the pretence and lower the stakes you’ll be able to just rejoice with it.” And that’s exactly what she does. The south London make-up artist’s work is stuffed with color, energy and the type of off-the-wall looks that come out of creative freedom and joyful experimentation.

Ethereal butterflies drawn across the face, skinny brows with piles of silver eyeshadow, an unapologetic use of glitter and rhinestones – Ellington’s playful style is expressive without being gaudy, maximalist while still remaining nuanced and opulent. It’s make-up from a women’s gaze, free from the expectations and restrictions of conventional beauty culture. “I all the time want people to appear and feel beautiful in my make-up,” she says. “I find it so satisfying to take into consideration what small details I can tweak to actually amplify the wearer’s beauty, even whether it is a very wild look.”

Ellington’s playful, sensitive approach has been tapped by everyone from clients like Ganni, Valentino and Nike to photographers including Tom Blesch and Campbell Addy. For Polyester magazine, where she holds the role of beauty editor, she has painted the faces of stars including Chloe Cherry and Gemma Collins, and her work has also appeared in Dazed, Puss Puss and international Vogues.

Here we chat to Ellington about her magazine obsession, nurturing creativity and embracing messy glamour. 

Do you remember the primary time you were conscious of your appearance?

Grace Ellington: I can’t remember one specific moment but I all the time remember being super conscious of my appearance. Often in a really critical way like I feel lots of girls can relate to, especially as a preteen and an adolescent. That’s one nice thing about getting older, you do feel really released from that. The early beauty memories I actually have are the classic early 00s state school ones like black pencil within the lower waterline only, clear Miss Sporty mascara and pressed Rimmel Stay Matte powder.

Growing up, what informed your understanding of beauty and identity and the best way you presented yourself visually?

Grace Ellington: Growing up I used to be obsessive about magazines. First Vogue after which Dazed, i-D and a number of independent ones. I used to have this whole archive with every month since 2001 nevertheless it just got an excessive amount of in my early twenties after I was moving to a recent shitty flat every six months. I’d should take boxes and boxes of them up and down the steps so I massively condensed, something I do regret now.

The primary editorials I remember being really obsessive about were the Nick Knight April 2004 shoot with Gemma Ward and Lily Collins – that image where they’re each lit by the yellow highlight; then Lily Cole again, it was that era, by Tim Walker in Vogue July 2005; then Lara Stone by Alasdair Mclellan for i-D 2008, that shoot had a huge effect on me.

Why are you a make-up artist?

Grace Ellington: I feel I got here to make-up through fashion moderately than beauty. Growing up, I all the time desired to work in fashion, but I didn’t know anything concerning the jobs that were available. I had a vague idea about being a designer but that was the one fashion role I could discover.

I did art in school and all the time felt confident that it was something I used to be good at. Then there was some extent where make-up suddenly became more visible, perhaps due to Instagram, but after I discovered who people like Pat McGrath were it suddenly clicked for me and felt like make-up, it being in a way an extension of just drawing and painting, was the thing that I might be good at.

Is it something you learned or is it more instinctual?

Grace Ellington: I’ve all the time been obsessive about fashion photography, magazines and editorials since I used to be young. I feel there are two parts to it, one is that visual language which I do feel is instinctual, but by way of technical skill that has grown with practice and experience. I can definitely cringe looking back at a number of times after I was starting and I just hadn’t learned enough yet to execute what was in my head.

How did you break into the industry? Was there one big moment or was it a gradual progression? 

Grace Ellington: It’s been a gradual progression. Some things I assumed were going to be the moment never really landed and other things I didn’t expect much from have. I do think persistence is absolutely a minimum of half of it.

What’s your creative process? How do you translate someone’s initial creative vision right into a final look? 

Grace Ellington: In the event you’re someone who must have a relentless creative output to your job, it’s vital that you simply nurture inspiration individually from anyone specific temporary. So I might say it’s really vital to me to do visual research as a part of my day-to-day, even when that’s identical to going to see a movie on the BFI or something. I feel you’ve got to take care of your creativity and feed it in a way that’s not nearly responding to another person’s ideas. That way in terms of working with photographers and directors you’ve got richer references to supply, and so they are stuff you are genuinely inspired by moderately than scrambling to seek out appropriate references. 

I really like the work of so many make-up artists but I do attempt to make certain that my references are either in a roundabout way fashion or make-up images, or in the event that they are, that they’re pre-90s. I feel that’s vital to make certain everyone isn’t just rehashing the identical ideas.

What are the projects that you simply’re most pleased with? 

Grace Ellington: I’m super pleased with the whole lot I do with Polyester zine mostly simply because Ione, Gina and the opposite women who run it are only amazing, but in addition because as beauty editor I’m involved in the method loads sooner than I could be if I were booked by a client normally. The Chloe Cherry shoot we did was my favourite. It was so exciting having the ability to be there from the initial concept onwards.

What should the make-up bring to an editorial?

Grace Ellington: I feel that the make-up is so vital since it’s literally the face, which I feel is essentially the most emotive a part of the photo, but in addition it needs to be a part of the editorial and work seamlessly inside it. The make-up artists I most admire know exactly how something goes to feel texturally in the sunshine of the ultimate image and can make a alternative to haven’t any make-up in any respect whether it is the proper one for the good thing about the image.

Have you ever noticed a change in attitude towards make-up because the lockdown?

Grace Ellington: I feel like people need to party again and are perhaps slightly less serious about it. So I feel like individuals are embracing a little bit of messy glamour.

What’s essentially the most significant thing you’ve learnt over the course of your profession?

Grace Ellington: This work is about collaboration, finding people you’re excited to work with, and dealing towards one of the best result without ego – that’s what’s really vital. 

What advice would you give to young artists hoping to get into the industry?

Grace Ellington: Learn find out how to photograph your personal work behind the scenes. Even just together with your phone, that’s what I take advantage of. But that way you’ll be able to construct a visible identity without having to depend on final images that will not all the time be what you were hoping for, especially when you’re starting out and testing.

Who would you prefer to shine a highlight on next?

Grace Ellington: Hairstylist Ryo Narushima.

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