Makeup artist Lisa Houghton‘s inventive use of color and skill for innovation have earned her a place among the top names in the beauty biz. With a repertoire that includes work in fashion’s most cutting edge magazines – Dazed, Vogue Italia and Pop to name a few and alongside photography’s most prominent names Lisa is a star on the rise. While her talent has brought her to the forefront her quick wit and tenacity have kept her at the top of her game. MDC catches up with the busy Brit to talk film, fashion, inspiration and to get a glimpse into the behind the scenes process.
Lisa Houghton repped by Jed Root. Ph: MDC.
MDC: How did you get your start in the industry?
LH: I come from a very theatrical, creative background. I studied theater and ballet. I had that whole kind of creative side to me. When I went to university I studied drama and theater studies with the intention of being an actress but then I decided I wasn’t very good. From there I worked for a time in television production, it was me trying to find my way and so I tried various jobs. It wasn’t really me and I just really wanted to go back to doing something that was creative and freelance.
I tested with Laurie Bartley and Mariano Vivanco who are both doing very well.Â It was mainly to try out ideas and to put images in our books. This eventually led to stories being published which then eventually led to getting an agent. There is no specific direction of how to become a makeup artist – that’s just how it happened for me. Also I think in London there are a lot of good magazines to work with – Dazed & Confused, i-D, Tank, Pop, etc.
Patricia Schmid for 10 Magazine. PH: Richard Burbridge, makeup by Lisa Houghton.
MDC: What was one of your favorite stories that you’ve done thus far?
LH: The beauty story by Richard Burbridge (for 10 Magazine) was something he felt very passionate about. He’s very interested in art and wanted to explore various art movements and practices and so we brainstormed and came up with Yves Klein, Anish Kapoor, Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly and the Damien Hirst spin paintings.Â I wanted to use makeup in a less conventional sense and and apply the model to the makeup instead of the makeup to the model.Â We filled a Perspex box with blue Yves Klein body paint and got the model to lie in it. The box was on a platform which meant Richard could photograph her from underneath.Â It created a very interesting shape.Â We used lots of different techniques – greasepaint, pigments.Â If you look closely at the images you can see her shape but it’s quite obscure.Â With her face I tried to think of it as just a canvas and not as an eye or a lipstick shot. The most important thing was that in every picture we used only makeup.Â So even with the Cy Twombly like picture where there is no model we used lipstick and black greasepaint.
MDC: How do makeup artists assert themselves in the creative process of a shoot or campaign?
LH: As a makeup artist you have to have confidence but at the same time you have to really get on with people. It’s also really important for a makeup artist to come to the shoot with ideas and knowledge. You can just show up and do what the client wants but sometimes they may not know exactly what they’re looking for and you have to provide the direction. I always take lots of references with me – books, pictures, ideas. One person’s interpretation of a look may be very different from your interpretation so this helps clarify.
MDC: What influences your work as an artist?
LH: I am interested in all kinds of film genres. My friend and photographer Laurie Bartley is really into film and always suggesting stuff, though sometimes his taste is a little too obscure for me – ‘The Vanishing‘ was just too dark!Â But I love all the old black and white movies because it was very early makeup and as a result the looks were very strong and at times verging on crazy -Â Bette Davis in ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane‘ was great for that and Dora Bryan the landlady in ‘The L Shape Room‘ is another example – too much makeup and slightly grotesque.Â The lighting played a huge part in that too.
Bette Davis in ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’ (1962)
MDC: Who is your favorite model to work with?
Eniko Mihalik is very interesting – I think she will do a lot of beauty campaigns as well as fashion.Â Malgosia Bela who has always been one of my favorite models is great, very polite and professional.
Freja Beha Erichsen is not only very beautiful, but really versatile and super cool. She’s easy to work with no matter how long she has to sit in hair and makeup. For a Vogue Italia shoot we did recently she looked gorgeous. I think they liked the idea of having her very natural and very boyish but I just thought Freja can be so amazing with makeup. I said ‘Come on let’s do a little bit more makeup on her’ and they weren’t sure but now everyone loves the shot with red lips. Sometimes makeup can take the picture to that next level!
Freja for Vogue Italia October 2008. PH: Glen Luchford, makeup by Lisa Houghton.