In this edition of #CREATORTALK, we speak to Becca Gilmartin ( @beccagilmartin on Instagram). #CREATORTALK is a series of articles and interviews, with a focus on the creative industries and the the talent working within them.
PW- Hey Becca! How’s it going?
Hi! Going great thanks! I’m here in NYC with my last cup of Australian coffee I bought over from home so I’m savouring it whilst chatting with you. Don’t ask me what type of coffee it is though… Australia would be embarrassed.
PW- So, first thing’s first. For those who don’t know yet, how would you sum up who you are and what you do?
Wow OK… sometimes I find this hard to explain this briefly. I don’t have my elevator pitch perfected. Let me give it a crack…
Hi, I’m Becca Gilmartin… who I am is an Australian woman living in NYC, my sixth city to live in in my lifetime. I am a Makeup Artist and a Body Painter, Writer, Educator and Editor… I work mainly in Editorial and Advertising but I work across a lot of different mediums. I’m also an editor for Laud Magazine, author of two makeup books and starting to work on a new book now! People probably know me best for the creative makeup I do.
PW- Your career to date has been really impressive. Alongside your make-up/ beauty work, you run a makeup bootcamp and are the beauty director for Laud Magazine. How do you juggle such a variety of work, whilst keeping everything of the highest quality?
I think as a creative in the modern world, it’s not so much about juggling… it’s more now about having a social permission to go play in all the areas I want to play in and be totally open about it. Even just 5 years ago having so many fingers in so many pies would have been seen as a weakness. You know… the old saying of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. I don’t think that applies today anymore. Thank Goodness!
I’m a single freelancer so lets just say I have all the time in the world to do the things I enjoy. I sadly don’t even have a dog as I travel too much. My family would say I’m a career girl but I would say I put my time into my art and work because I’m not going to sit still like a damsel in distress, waiting for Prince Charming to sweep me off my feet. That life is bollocks. I’m grateful to have a life where I can indulge myself in my art on a daily basis. And I have so much time for it too!
The past few years I have luckily been able to connect with photographers and directors who really know what is possible with my artistry and how my style can work in with their visions for what we are creating. Helping launch Laud Magazine was a great excuse to really play creatively too. It also gave me the freedom to creatively direct a lot of the visions I had. My Gucci inspired shoot with Henryk, where I spent 2 days creating glitter face accessories inspired by Gucci designs, fulfilled me on so many levels. Not only was I able to really create an editorial vision from my mind and not be facilitating someone else’s vision (which is most of my work)… but I was also shooting with all my friends so it was such a magical and fun day. I think the chemistry on the day and with the team is so important. That’s what gives you quality images… theres something extra special in them. Sometimes when I am back in Queensland to see my family and do a MUA Bootcamp… I pack my kit full of everything possible and go to Katriena Emmanuel’s studio and we spend hours just playing and experimenting with no boundaries. Some of my favourite work comes from working like that too.
PW- One of my favourite aspects of your work is how comfortable you seem with both traditional styles and more “out-there”, editorial styles. Who or what would you describe as your main influences?
My big dirty secret is actually that I was born an artist and for years I have been keeping her in the closet, from fear of becoming a poor starving artist and not fulfilling my potential in the 9-5 world I lived in whilst growing up. That might explain why my spectrum of work is so large. I never grew up wanting to be a makeup artist, even though I loved doing my friends’ hair and makeup going out in the 90’s. So really my main influences are artists not just other makeup artists. Of course… makeup artists like Isamaya Ffrench, Alex Box and Andrew Gallimore give me LIFE in what they do… and I recently wrote an article on Richard Sharah for Laud, with whom I fell in love with just by talking to those who knew him. However, for inspiration you’ll find me lost for hours on instagram scrolling contemporary artist pages, listening to music or watching artist documentaries. Lately I have been obsessed by drag culture (Sasha Velour is my QUEEN… I burst into tears when she lifted her wig in the RuPaul Drag Race season 10 finale… so BEAUTIFUL and unexpected. ) …and I’m always getting into documentaries like ‘I am Divine’ or ‘Eva Hesse’… stories of artists and discovering their truths have me jumping out of my skin to try something new in my work. The ‘Obey Giant’ doco had my brain buzzing for hours. This weekend I went to the MET and saw the ‘Heavenly Bodies’ exhibition… I was bursting out of myself with love for this exhibition and the whole experience. I could live on just visiting galleries and going home to make my own art.
PW- Different mediums often call for different skill sets, such as when shooting photography vs a music video. What do you find the main differences are between shooting still image and moving image, from a MUA/ beauty perspective?
Lighting is the main thing and how my work will translate. Also the photography process is so much more contained in one frame as apposed to creating looks that will translate into so many shot ranges in moving image. In moving image your looks have to be resolved WELL before shooting starts… where as in photography I find there/s so much more flexibility in evolving a look in shot to get the balance right for the whole composition. You can be more creative on the day with photography … and don’t have to worry about continuity as much as in a moving image. My hat goes off to every film makeup artist in the world… continuity is amazing in the work they do and there should be an award for best makeup continuity in a film as that skill is incredible and unsung.
PW- I was first introduced to your work after seeing the Laud cover with Kimbra, and then again with her “Top of the World” video. How would you describe your collaborative process when working with artists, and does it change once you’ve worked with them more than once?
That Laud cover was so much fun. The whole team travelled to Bali to catch Kimbra on tour and lets just say an adventure was had! In saying that, it’s not hard to have a wild ride when Mr Thom Kerr is around ha!
I first met Kimbra body painting for her Golden Echo album cover thanks to Thom Kerr pushing for me to be able to do it. I then did her 90s Music video clip (one of my favourites!) and the working relationship continued from there. The relationship DEFINITELY changes when you have worked with ANYONE more than once. A rapport is built and as an artist you get to know another persons preferences and tastes. That goes for everyone from stylists, photographers to directors. Kimbra is a very thoughtful and mindful artist and I now can work within that realm with her when we work together. Building creative working relationships is very much like dating… after a while you just KNOW how you need to be as a creative for that relationship to organically produce collaborative work. But at first it can be giggly and fumbly… Sometimes you don’t want a second date and other times you want to marry them immediately! I’m working with a few people here in NYC that I want to keep working with forever… it’s exciting.
PW- This blog focuses heavily on creativity and the real people behind the art. How does creativity affect you on a day to day basis? Do you get super inspired out and about, or is it more of a focused effort, where you can shut off from the world and just think?
I can’t imagine living a life without creativity being in every moment…. It’s the way I am built and strangely enough it’s only been in the past decade that I’ve allowed myself to accept that. We talk about this topic in MUA Bootcamp quite a bit as a lot of Makeup Artists haven’t yet realised that we are in fact real deal artists and we need to be able to nurture and feed that side of us… all of us need nurturing in a different way and a lot of Makeup Artists forget that part and get caught up in trying to follow other peoples’ styles, instead of evolving their own style and/or career path. When I first moved to Sydney I was told “Don’t show anyone your body art just yet… there’s no place for it in the Sydney fashion world.”… luckily I only believed that for a second and then thought ‘who says?’… I went on to body paint for Sydney Fashion week nearly every year I lived there before I left. It takes inner courage to create your own personal career path but it’s worth it.
I’m constantly inspired! And now that I have moved to NYC it’s off the charts! Peoples personal style here is so varied and amazing… Americans sure know how to be fully self expressed! I love it! I’m always making little notes or taking pictures of oddities and things I like. The street art here is wonderful and my eyes are always darting around in anticipation for what I will see in any moment. On a daily basis I have a thirst for being inspired creatively, so I’ve learnt over the years that it’s actually o.k. to indulge this. I don’t have to be so serious and ‘focus all my energy on making all the money’… because at the end of the day the more I play and follow my joy… the more that all follows anyway. And if I get lost, or down, or worried… I just paint. And drink wine lols.
Sometimes I do need to have focused quiet moments to work on a brief… but that usually involves either me going down the research rabbit hole or a sketch book session. I don’t have to force anything anymore as I am good now at shutting off the inner voice who thinks she isn’t good enough or shouldn’t be doing it. That’s a disabling opinion. There’s usually some relevant music playing as I find that really works for me to conjure up visuals in my mind. When I was designing my book ‘We the Painted’… I had Sigur Ros on repeat. If I DO have to force an idea, usually a good walk fixes any creative blocks.
PW- In this kind of economy and industry, it can be tough to feel like you’re moving forwards sometimes. How do you battle these feelings when they come up, and do you have any advice to other people who might be struggling in a similar way?
OMG I have so much to say about this. Especially in the makeup world where popular Instagram makeup artists are getting overnight ‘success’ and look like they want for nothing. I’ve been a makeup artist for 18 years this year but only freelancing for 9 years. I’ve done retail, teaching and odd jobs to keep going, so I understand a whole spectrum of feelings! I’ve had more bad days than good! I’m just masterful in getting back up again, dusting off and moving ahead. I am most proud of my resilience as an artist and MUA Bootcamp is a lot about resilience talk, so you could say I’m quite passionate about this conversation. I feel like I have had so many life changing challenges as an artist to overcome, it’s gifted me with not only jaw dropping stories to tell… but a desire to share them so people can learn from my mistakes… ha! I also feel the pressure has influenced my work in a positive way… I just can’t do anything I don’t believe in anymore and that applies to creative briefs too. (Unless there’s a big budget… I’ll sell out on any concept for a big paycheck ha ha ha)
Understanding in your low times that careers are like waves and we ALL have highs and lows… we just need to work out how to best sail those waters. Some lows are pure hell but the upswing is always going to come if you stick around. It’s part of the natural the ebb and flow. I know what it’s like for everyone around me to be telling me how well I am doing but knowing I might not be able to pay rent that week, as clients haven’t been paying their bills. Or to feel like I’m just not getting anywhere or even going backwards! Sometimes when you’re in a financial drought and you don’t know when the next job is coming… it’s really really tough. I’ve ended up homeless before and having to couch surf for a few weeks until I was back on my feet. The worst thing you can do is feed the negative inner voice. I find cleaning my kit brings new good vibes to my space. I also like working on mood boards for shoots I want to do and reaching out to photographers to test. The point is to distract yourself from the reality of the shituation (yes I said Shituation) and put good thoughts in what you would like to be creating. Eventually the good opportunities find you or you’re led to finding your own. The biggest challenge as a new artist is giving our self permission to be the kind of artist we want to be… not what you think everyone is telling you to be. And trust me… everyone has their opinion… but it’s usually to benefit their own vision in their own work. We get to choose if we take their advice on or not. Our work is at the mercy of who shoots it, so sometimes opinions on where your work needs to go is warranted, but it’s only from their perspective.. it might actually not be what’s best for us. An agent will always try and get you to do the work they can sell and that’s all market based in that moment. That’s always valuable advice. The art of it all is finding the perfect balance between giving ‘them’ what they want and also producing work that fulfils you. And if your fulfilment is just doing what the world is asking to see to merely fill up your bank account too… that’s fine too! Just be prepared, one day your inner artist will want some attention and you’ll have to do something about that. A makeup artist is a strange career as we are half an artist and half in the service industry. It’s all about finding balance until we get well known enough to just indulge our own style most of the time. I feel I’m just getting there now.
To me, I like to think of my work like an artist would. As long I am doing my work… as long as I am moving my ideas forward and evolving my body of work there’s nothing wrong. And I need to think of my work as a body of work with a point of view just like a painter or sculptor would. I try not to focus on the financial side as when I spend time stressing… then all I get is more to stress about. In the past I have been masterful at that (being an editorial makeup artist doesn’t pay the bills). It’s really important to be observant about what your inner voice is saying as you quite often are, not on purpose, creating your own dramas direct from your fearful imagination. I’ve created some real massive doozies from my negative self talk!! I try now to practice focusing on my positive imagination! I’m seeing the difference in my life for it too.
My advice is find a way to feel good every day. Your own version of feeling good. Even if it’s taking a nap to reset your brain from the negative self talk… we have a culture where we feel we need to be ‘busy’ all the time to be successful, however I’m seeing time and time again… it’s when I’m going with the flow and doing things I enjoy (even if I have no reason to feel good)… magic starts to happen. I’m learning to become less ‘busy’ and more mindful and creative. It then seems to send wonderful beams of goodness into the universe and work starts to happen all in perfect timing. And NEVER EVER compare yourself to anyone else. It’s useless and counterproductive… just focus your imagination on what you want to be known for and not on stressing to follow someone else’s path. It’s no accident I’m known for creative yet clean work.
PW- And final question! It’s more of an invitation actually. Use the next few sentences to self-promote the hell out of what you’re up to, where we can see your work and anything else 🙂
I am mostly on my website and Instagram with my latest work – www.beccagilmartin.com and @beccagilmartin. I love Instagram so much as a visual tool… come over and stalk me! I also have a blog thats about to get a whole lot more attention.
I am currently working on an online version of my MUA Bootcamp book (as postage and printing is KILLING ME being self published). I would also LOVE to bring Makeup Artist Bootcamp to that side of the world… so if you are interested in me coming over.. email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I can start to make it happen. I only take 8 people per course as it’s intensive… but usually arrange a masterclass around the dates too! I was over that side of the world this time last year and I’m ITCHING to get back over.
I know you can buy LAUD Magazine over in Europe/UK too as we always sell out over there… so always best and easiest to get an annual subscription delivered to your door. www.laudmagazine.com.au … there’s also links on the site for the download from App Store or Google Play. We have a couple of weeks to go before our Alchemy Issue deadline and I’m in love with my shoots going in there. I can’t wait to see it all together!
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