As one of beauty’s most prolific talents, Mark Carrasquillo (Art Partner) has reshaped the way fashion thinks about cosmetics. His visionary work in publications like Interview, Vogue, The Last Magazine have brought forth a new way of looking at beauty – less about the latest products, more about the characters created and dynamic personalities behind the bold faces. Throughout his career Carrasquillo has developed a dazzling array of work – united not by a signature look but by a boundless creativity that never fails to excite.
Presenting an exclusive first look at an original video shot, art directed and with make-up all by Mark Carrasquillo, Models.com catches up with the multi-talented makeup maven to discuss his career and the surprising places he finds inspiration.
Images and video courtesy of Mark Carrasquillo & Art Partner for Models.com
How did you get your first start in fashion?
MARK: My brother owned a clothing store in Philadelphia where I grew up and I went to work for him. That was the beginning of my fashion introduction. It was the only store in Philly that was selling Comme des Garcons and Yohji.
Had you always been interested in fashion and makeup?
MARK: No, I wasn’t actually. I was really interested in art and acting, things like that. I loved to do painting, I went to Fleisher’s Art School in Philly and I was making collages and sculptures. Then I started working at the store – it was called Aero – and because of the shop I met people who were hairdressers and makeup artists and other fashion people who were coming into the shop. That’s how it started to pique my interest.
What was your first shoot?
MARK: That was a long time ago! I have no idea what my first shoot was, because I didn’t really do it as a career for a long time. I moved to Amsterdam and that’s when I got an agent and I had a decisive moment where I knew that I’d be doing this as a job. Before, I just played around. People would come into the store and they would ask me, “Oh, could we borrow this dress?” or they’d want a picture in it and little by little I started to lend clothes to people and then I met photographers and it started the whole process.
Did you spend any time assisting?
MARK: I didn’t assist anyone. I did it the backdoor way; I just kind of started working with people who accidentally met me. I just hung out and met people and started to work. So it was a longer process back then and a more naive way to approach it as a business. Now people realize that it is a job. You go to a famous person or a makeup artist who is established and you learn tricks of the trade, you learn who is important.
“I moved to Amsterdam and that’s when I got an agent and I had a decisive moment where I knew that I’d be doing this as a job. Before, I just played around.”
When did you first have that feeling of finding your voice?
MARK: It’s every time you go to work. I’m always thinking, ‘Is what I’m doing today 100% well done?’ I’m always questioning my own work. ‘Is my hand good today? Did I do a good job? Did I make those people satisfied? Did I satisfy myself?’ Sometimes you do give that 110% and you have a bad day or something doesn’t work out and you do a lesser job. So I never feel satisfied or convinced that I’m 100% where I’m at – I’m always questioning it. I think it’s always when you see the published work that you feel more satisfied because then you see what people finally see. It’s a finished product and there are a lot of people’s hands that touch it after you.
Do you have a philosophy when you’re doing makeup?
MARK: I’m not a makeup artist who is like ‘Oh my god, I love this look.’ It’s more like, ‘Who is the girl in this picture?’ I like the idea of making a character for film or pictures and that’s how it started to develop.
That’s a different way of looking at makeup – it’s about creating an individual as opposed to looking at the colors that came out this season.
MARK: Many people ask me what’s the new seasonal trend, and I only believe it if the woman believes it. Before, I thought of makeup as an accessory – it was not something that a woman was married to; it was just about what mood she was in or if she wanted to say something special that night. I think that some women use makeup that way but over the last decade or so, through advertising, women were taught that there’s some way they can hide flaws or enhance things.
So it’s become a “fix” thing- fixing things that you don’t like about yourself. I always love a woman that just wears makeup because they like it. Even if it’s not the right color or shade for them, they just wear red lips because they like it and it’s a “style” thing. I love that kind of idea, that [makeup] is just a thing that she adds to her wardrobe – like “oh, I’m going to wear red gloves today” or “I’m going to wear a red lip”. I don’t think of it always like “oh, if you use a pencil to outline around your lips you’ll have an illusion of bigger lips”. That I’m not interested in.
I read an interview where you’d said that you didn’t have a set style with regard to makeup.
MARK: People tell me my style all the time! They tell me what I’m good at or what they come to me for. They say there is a skin situation, or I’m known to do a good tan. I think there’s a treatment of skin that people think of when they think about me, but it’s all in who you ask. I trust my hand and I think that I can do many things but I’m cautious of things that I do for other people because I know that certain photographers handle certain makeup better than others. So, I wouldn’t go to a photographer that doesn’t love makeup in that way and load the model up with makeup because I don’t think that’s his/her story. Maybe because I’m conscious of that approach people think of me in different boxes than how I think of myself. It depends on the situation, it’s about what is appropriate first and what could be handled second.
Would you say that there are any particular things that influenced you or inspired you? I know that inspiration can come from anywhere but are there any specific things that you look to when creating?
MARK: Some of the obvious things; I’ll look at art, I’ll look at film. I see a lot of films because I really love actors; I love the whole process. I think that film puts you in a mind set that lets you dream more, so I use that a lot for my work. Also music is definitely something that makes me dream about who the person is, what kind of canvas. Also, people on the street can be genius. Sometimes I’ll be in the subway and a girl sitting across from me is doing a weird eye and I’ll just remember it and maybe draw from a part of it. Maybe just the end of the wing that she did, or it will be more normal or easier makeup or a more beautiful version. You always get it from somewhere, you get it from real people, you get it from film, you get it from anything you see.
Inspiration can definitely strike in the strangest places.
MARK: When I was in LA and I saw a liquid looking silver mercury car – that started this whole interesting thing in my head like, ‘oh maybe I should do a liquidy kind of texture in makeup’. It’s random things that you see. I posted a picture of that car on Instagram and all of a sudden in my head I started thinking about it; ‘it’s such an interesting texture, I wonder how we can do mercury textured makeup.’ Soon, in a video, I did metallic lips from seeing that car. You don’t even know, when you see the car and take a picture of it, that four months later you’re going to be thinking ‘oh, that’s where that’s coming from. That’s what I’m chasing.’
I love that you’re looking to the street, you’re looking at cars and real people. What would you say are some things that you’d like to see in terms of beauty in everyday life? Things that you think people should try and embrace that you don’t see as often?
MARK: You know, it’s funny because I always say my favorite look is a girl out of the shower and into the very expensive dress. That means there is no makeup, but I actually love that a lot. I love a girl that’s that confident she just puts a dress on and goes out. I think that’s a great idea – she’d probably get scolded for doing it on the red carpet or something, but it shows me that it empowers her. On the flip side of that, I really love a girl that goes there and wears makeup not to hide something nor to enhance something – but just goes there for a look. It’s all about level of taste too because when I say “goes there for a look”, it can go really wrong.
In general I miss feeling like there’s someone on the street doing a look. Really believing in something, dressed to the nines and really putting on a face and doing their hair. I miss the group of people that like having a haircut or saying “my thing is to have an arched, tweezed eyebrow” and it doesn’t matter what they’re seeing in magazines. I miss those people because before, especially in New York City, you saw them everywhere; there were all of these characters.
I saw that beautiful story that you did for The Last Magazine where you were given complete free reign to create whatever you personally felt was interesting – what were you trying to convey with that image.
MARK: That picture is about freedom. It’s almost like we neutralize women to a point where I feel like there is a lack of sensualness or sexuality left in the picture. I liked to play with the idea that I used the makeup as an “in,” because they had asked me to do a makeup story, to break some of that down. I asked the model to lick her underarm and everybody laughed at me but I wanted to break down the barrier. Maybe people are more sensual, when they have a bigger chance to experiment – makeup is a tool to get that message “maybe it’s going to be fun to do it”. So that’s what that picture is about- breaking the walls down and making people a little uncomfortable or more conscious that it’s not just about beauty- it’s about something else. There’s a layer of sensuality and a layer of sexuality and I wanted to say that in the image. I hope that’s what people got out of the picture.
There is absolutely a sense of freedom to that image. Editorially you’ve gotten to explore all these incredible ideas, but is there anything you haven’t done yet that you’d like to?
MARK: There’s definitely things as a person in the industry, as a makeup artist that I haven’t done. I would like to work on a project where I actually develop products for someone. That’s a big dream now because I’m older and I have more weight of being in the industry for so long. Before this industry I was in retail and I know what it’s like being in a store and selling something to someone. So I think it’s kind of interesting now if someone were to approach me I would be very interested in that. It’s something that I haven’t done really. I would love to have input and control to develop certain products, certain colors, certain things that I just think women would really like to have in their handbag or in their home that really work and are fun to use.
What’s one thing that you think isn’t on the market yet that women could use?
MARK: There is too much product out there and a lot of people don’t know where to begin. Especially for a regular woman, she may not have a clue what she’s doing with makeup or she doesn’t know which one she wants to buy yet. So, I don’t think it’s about saying “oh, I’m going to make the ultimate product.” But, if you can do a line of makeup that’s interesting that makes a woman want to own it. I just feel like a lot of women don’t feel seduced at the moment. They’re buying something to fix a wrinkle but they’re not seduced by the product. In the past women would fall in love with certain things like, they’d search for that same lipstick over and over again. I don’t think that there’s that kind of love and attachment to a product anymore. If you can create something that women feel that strongly about again, I think then it’s interesting.
You’re right. I think back to my own mother and she had her lipstick for a decade that she’d just buy over and over again. She felt so strongly about that color and when it was finally phased out, it was like the world had ended.
MARK: Right now there is no “Oh my god I can’t live without this product; this really nails who I am; this is something that becomes part of me; this is my signature.” It’s funny I always think of these things, which include the smells. Certain smells bring me back to certain people. Even the smell of a lipstick or the taste on your lips.. I wonder if that happens now? There are so many options that they don’t ever have enough time with something to get that attachment.
I think we have sort of lost that in terms of beauty, that personal connection. No one has a signature scent anymore, a signature lipstick – you just buy what’s new and you try it out.
MARK: I’m still really old school. I think that women want to be charmed and they want to feel beautiful. They don’t want to be told there’s something wrong with them, they want to feel elevated. That’s really what I believe about women. If I were to work on something, that’s the approach I would take because it’s in my blood.
Speaking of being seduced, some of the images that you’ve been part of and created have been so beautiful and seductive – can you speak a bit about their creation?
MARK: Some things are accidental, and some things we know when we go in where we’re headed. It’s really raw energy a lot of times, like, with Eva Mendes, for example – she’s a great woman – because the day I met her I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I said to her that morning when I showed up, “You know, I really don’t know what we’re doing but you’re really beautiful, you have gorgeous skin, let’s just put 8-hour cream on your skin and prep you like that and head out to set, if you’re cool with that”. A lot of actresses who had never worked with a makeup artist before wouldn’t have said, “Yeah, okay let’s do it.” So I put 8 hour cream and we brought her to set and we started to play. So there was no real makeup on her face, just cream as a texture to start off. And I was sitting there talking with her and I just grabbed her face and squeezed her and I was saying something stupid probably to her, and Mikael (Jansson) saw me do that and they took a picture and they got a picture of me squeezing her face and that is in the story.
We ended up doing a dark eye and had her tied up in strings – but we didn’t know we were going to go do those pictures. People were feeding off of the raw energy that we had on set. She was so open and I was chatting with her and it started something – I think that happens a lot when you have people who trust you and there’s no set guide. There was no story board on the wall. I think sometimes the images come from things like that and sometimes they just come from a storyboard that’s on the wall and you have your inspiration. People know what they’re going to be wearing, whoever is involved – whether it’s an actress, actor, or model – they know the direction it’s heading and the picture gets made. But, it depends. I don’t think there’s any one way to come to a final place. I think that maybe a lot of times I’m on set and the pictures look or the girls look sensual or whatever because that’s the kind of thing we’re chasing. Even if they’re removed or aloof about their sensuality in the picture – that’s also something that we’re chasing. It’s not all premeditated but it just happens because it’s in the air.
What would you say are some of the projects you’ve worked on that have a special place in your heart? I know that every project are special but are there any that you love deeply?
MARK: I always really loved working for Calvin Klein. That is a brand that I grew up with, if you grew up in America you saw the Calvin ads on the TV. The brand introduced me to Bruce Weber and those images. For me it really resonated and maybe that’s why I have it in my head for somebody to be seductive because those ads seduced me as a young boy. When I got a chance to work with them it was a really nice feeling because I felt like I watched it and I was seduced by this and now I’m part of it. That makes you so satisfied.
You know what I really love too is when you get an actor or actress and you know that twenty years from now that picture might resonate and become part of a collective book or an art book. Someone who is young is going to look at that and use that as a jumping off point or his/her fantasy about what the person would be. I always love when we do that with an actor; it’s not just about doing them well and making a good picture and making them look beautiful, but capturing that image and hopefully something else resonated. It’s almost like a time capsule; you captured that moment and the way they looked and what they’re saying in that picture… that’s more than just a beautiful person.
That’s true there are kids and people who rip those pictures out of the magazines and put them on their walls. A really good image can make you dream.
MARK: There’s a cover I did with Marion Cotillard; I had a lot of fun with her that day, she was really open and free so we managed to make a cover that I thought was really good when I left that day. Then when I saw it on the magazine stand I realized that you HAD to look at the cover, not because I worked on it but because it just stood out. It was a great picture of her and it was of the moment, you wouldn’t get another picture of her like that again. That’s a picture that I really like because it stays in my mind and I think that later it will come up again and again. There’s something about it; it’s more than just hair and makeup and the fashion. There’s another layer and the layer is what makes you want to look at it.
So often we see celebrities in just one way, they’re usually presented in a very safe way and then to see them do something different…
MARK: Yes, it’s special. I always think when I’m uncomfortable something is happening. So maybe that’s how I gauge things; if I feel uncomfortable about it and if it’s making me take a second look or making me really look at it harder. Then I’m thinking there’s something there -even if I’m not sure what it is- I like that.
We can make everybody beautiful now. With retouching, hair, makeup, lighting and everything else, you can take anyone and make a beautiful picture of them, right? But you’re not necessarily going to make a picture that everybody wants to look at over and over again or want to look back at it twenty years from now. That’s harder to do.
We can’t talk about pictures that everyone wants to look at over and over without mentioning Interview. You have been collaborating with Fabien and Karl for years, what is that like?
MARK: My work at Interview has been very interesting because I work with Fabien and Karl; people that I’ve worked with for years so it’s a collaboration with people that I trust. That’s another interesting thing to think about as a career; where your career is going, who you’re working with. When you find places where you can actually have a voice and you can do your craft really well, that’s exciting.
I have to ask you, what’s on the horizon? What can we look for in the near future?
MARK: I don’t know what’s on my horizon at the moment. I’m going to keep working that’s for sure because I’m not going anywhere! Hopefully I’m going to work with even more people that I haven’t worked with that challenge me and make me grow as an artist. Also hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to finally work on product. It’s a hit list of the things you want. Of course it would be great to work with amazing actors and actresses and make important pictures of them and make amazing pictures of models and to do your job really well. That’s what it’s all about all the time.