The makeup artist Lucia Pieroni is as low key and unassuming as her work can be bold, visceral and devastatingly beautiful. Here she has a post-summer catch up with Beauty Papers before the launch of Issue Six BIG in which she features both as a make up artist, in a dynamic, post-modern beauty story with photographer David Sims, and an interview subject in an illuminating, often acerbically funny conversation with her old friend, the artist Jenny Saville.
Interview KARL PLEWKA
Karl Plewka: I wish I could say you are glowing, after your holiday and detox, but I can’t see you because we’re doing this over the phone. So, how was it?
Lucia Pieroni: It was amazing, actually. I’m very glowy right now. It was fantastic. I had an amazing holiday in Italy and totally stuffed my face, ate lots of ice cream, lots of pasta, drank lots of wine. And then I went away to Lanserhof in Germany and sort of starved myself for 10 days, which was amazing. And it’s an incredible place. And I feel really good, and I’m so glad I did it.
KP: I’ve known you for a long time, Lucia, and I know that you’re one of these people that does these ridiculously healthy holidays and retreats and things. Does it help with your creativity, when you’re on a retreat or a detox? Does it help you come up with ideas for what you’re doing in the future?
LP: Actually, it does. It kind of gives you that room to breathe and a place to think. And it’s quite meditative. And then a lot of the time I do yoga retreats as well. And it’s a time for yourself. I usually take a drawing book with paint, crayons, etc. And you know, you do get ideas. Because, normally, you would never allow yourself to do that. Because when you’re at home, you’re just doing something else. There’s always something to be doing. When you’re in these places there’s nothing. You just have to be with yourself, which is really great.
KP: I’m really excited because this is my first proper issue as editor of Beauty Papers, so I’m so glad that, as one of my old friends, you’re in the issue too. I wanted to ask you, what made you say ‘yes’ to working for us?
LP: Oh, well, I love Beauty Papers. I didn’t even realise it was Maxine, and when she asked me, I think it was about a year ago, it’s taken that long, actually, to get it together. But I love it. I love the sort of freedom that you have. And that it is about you as a creative person, as a makeup artist. You don’t really have any constraints. You can kind of do what you want. Which, you know, even with all the will in the world, you never really get that. Because there’s always somebody else to be considered. And this time is kind of about you, which is quite amazing.
KP: You have done both a beauty story and an interview, but I want to talk about your beauty story first. Why was it important for you to do it with David Sims?
LP: David is an amazing photographer. I mean he is one of the best photographers. His light is incredible. I work with him and it just seemed right that it should be with him. And I have a good relationship with him, so it sort of allows you to sort of go off on some sort of tangent. And he’s fairly open to things like that. That’s why I wanted it to be with him.
KP: What were yours and David’s initial discussions about when you were approaching the story?
LP: I think for me it was about big faces. Quite sort of ‘in your face’ and closeup. And I think once you get into that kind of creative process you can kind of do what you want. Both of us, David and I, we sort of go down these different avenues because it’s often just a feeling you get when you’re there—at that moment, with that girl. And you have no restraints. There’s no restrictions on you, you do what you want. So it’s amazing how it really did change a lot, from what I initially thought it would be to what it became. I mean, it’s slightly schizophrenic, I think, but somehow it sort of works all together. And I like the sort of messiness, the rawness of it. And especially the pictures of Dominika with her hands all over her face. There’s something just very organic and not so studied about it. Which, in a sense, is the kind of makeup that I like because everything today is so polished. I just like the freedom of it. And also, when you’re there in the moment you think, I’ll just do that or, OK, that looks quite good. And without really much conceptual thought about it or, this is what we’re going to, and this is my inspiration. Just kind of being there in the moment, and just doing it. Whatever comes out comes out. Which is actually really good fun, and quite different from what maybe we’d normally have to do.
KP: Did you feel that you had more freedom working for Beauty Papers than you would working for other magazines?
LP: Oh, God yes. And because, I think, there’s very limited opinions, there was just me and David. And that was it. I mean, Duffy who did the hair, was amazing, because he was very like, “Whatever you want. I’m here. I’ll do stuff.” And normally you don’t have that. You have a hairdresser’s opinion, you have a stylist’s opinion, you’ve got the magazine and whatever. You know what I mean? And this shoot really was like it was just David and me and we could kind of do what we want. It was a real treat, I must say.
KP: It feels like the story took on a life of its own as you were doing it. Is it true to say it’s almost like a stream of consciousness? Because it does go off on all these different tangents but, at the same time, it also feels very anchored in terms of the makeup I associate you with.
LP: Yes, I guess so, because when we were in the actual process of doing it, we had a lot of models. And I’m very hands-on. I’m not very good at saying to my assistant, “OK, can you do that?” Because I don’t know what ‘that’ is. It’s like, I have to do it. So, I don’t know, it just becomes this thing that, something just comes out of you and you just do something, and you kind of present it. And then you think, oh well, maybe we should do something completely different. The process, for me, is really hard to explain. It’s just a bit sort of disjointed, I guess.
KP: Do you feel nervous sometimes when you push it? Because some of the makeup in this story, in reality, must have been quite bizarre.
LP: Oh, God, yes, I do. And you know there were a lot of pictures we didn’t even submit because you do something, and you like it at the time, and then you’re like, meh, maybe not. Maybe that’s not so great. And so, it’s very much a process. Quite a few of them did look quite mad in real life and I quite like that. It then becomes also a collaboration between me and David, because, you know, he makes it what it is, in a sense, because he’s taking the picture of it.
KP: What I like about the story is you’ve got a lot of these amazing, gorgeous avant-garde moments of colour, as well as these little moments of an almost childish naivety, with models rubbing colour all over their faces, and and then some of it’s just very raw. People always talk about you being about the skin but is it true to say you’re experimenting a lot more with colour these days?
LP: I guess I am known for skin, and I’m known for that just really beautiful kind of makeup. But, then if you look at some of my things they do have a lot of colour. I’m either one or the other. Kind of weird. I do do a lot of colour things occasionally. Does that make sense? Not really. I don’t know what the bloody hell I’m talking about (laughs) I mean, it’s always fun to do colour but maybe you just don’t get so many opportunities to do so many things like this, which is more to the point. I used to do a lot of colour and things with Mert & Marcus but it’s a slightly different thing.
"When I'm creating a makeup, I’m much more inspired by art than I think I am by anything else so it often becomes quite a bit abstract and painterly"
KP: Because this feels like colour being utilised in a really unprecious, abstract way perhaps?
LP: Yes, and also my inspirations are very much more from art than they are from, say, movies and things like that. When it comes to something that I’m doing, when I’m creating a makeup, I’m much more inspired by art than I think I am by anything else so it often becomes quite a bit sort of abstract and painterly, like the girl in the story with the purple and blue eyeshadow and a little bit of a weird eyeliner and a really dark mouth. And it’s all a bit sort of not done properly. I kind of love her. And, I don’t know, then you always sort of think, oh God, maybe I should have done it a bit more like this, or like that. And somehow, you have to kind of let it go.
KP: It’s interesting how you describe the make up as, ‘not done properly’. Do you think that when you get to a certain level in your career as a makeup artist, you actually have that license to do things spontaneously and just throw it on and mess it up? Does it become easier to do that, and make a statement?
LP: Yes, for sure. And also maybe it’s also about current times where everything’s so perfect in make up. Not necessarily in fashion, but definitely in the world of Instagram. It’s all about that hyper-reality and contouring, and it’s so overly made up, and I don’t know, it’s almost a sort of reaction to that. Where is all this going? I mean, why are all these young girls looking like they’ve got ten tonnes of makeup on? It’s just so fake, to me, and I love that sort of, you know, not giving a shit about it and just being individual, and having that sort of slight quirkiness about yourself.
KP: I guess you’re feeling the face of the girl and approaching how to enhance it like an artist?
LP: It’s always about what they look like when they’re sitting in front of me. And something just comes out of that, you know, whatever. It’s not a sort of A to B of makeup and shading, and how to make somebody look perfect. I quite like the throwaway, I quite like the idea of wearing some funny colour eyeliner and that’s all you have. I mean, why not? Especially if you’re young. It’s much more fun, isn’t it?
KP: Absolutely. I mean, I think these young girls that are doing all the contouring and all the triple liner, and everything, they’re going to just look back and think, why did I cover my face up so much when I was so young and beautiful? It’s a shame, really.
LP: Yeah. I know, I mean, I don’t really see a beauty in that, personally. It’s so unindividual. When I look at my nieces, and they’re like 16 and 17, and they’ve got the most incredible skin. It’s that thing of, youth is wasted on the young. And you don’t really realise that when you are young and there’s going to be a long time when you do need to cover it up, so don’t be doing it now.
KP: I might be wrong, but I don’t think any artist we’ve featured in Beauty Papers has done both a story and an interview for the same issue. Which is quite amazing.
LP: Really? I feel honoured.
KP: Obviously you are old friends but what was the experience like of being interviewed by Jenny?
LP: It was kind of quite odd at first. Because I hadn’t actually seen her in a while, so all we wanted to do was chat about rubbish really. Which we did, obviously, for quite a long time. We kept saying, OK we need to start doing this. And I think in the actual recording of it on my phone, there is a lot of us waffling on, and we go off on some weird tangents about stuff that’s really not that interesting to the rest of the world. But it was fun. It was nice. Actually, it was very nice. And it made me realise that she’s so much smarter than me. She had all these amazing answers to questions, and I’m like, oh, I didn’t think of that.
KP: She was brilliant. She’s actually quite a natural interviewer. Would you say you learnt new things about each other in the conversation?
LP: Yes, we did, because I used to see her a lot when we were younger, but now I still see her but not so much. I mean, she’s obviously an incredibly famous artist and a mother of two and lives in Oxford, so I just don’t see her so much. So, I think it’s that thing of, you both realise that you’re older and it is quite interesting how you’re essentially the same but you’ve changed somehow. It’s quite weird, like you kind of grow up but you don’t grow up. I don’t know. Quite difficult to explain.
KP: I have to say, there is such a sense of ease in the conversation. And what I love is there is a lot of respect between both of you but with a big dollop of acerbic humour. It really shows what a great relationship you both have.
LP: Well, we do actually. And I don’t know if we actually spoke about it in the interview, but it was like even though I hadn’t seen her for a while it was like I saw her yesterday or something. And when we met all those years ago, in ’93 or something, I don’t even remember when it was, we just clicked. And you know when you’re just friends. And she’s probably going to be my friend for life. Not that I’m going to see her every day, but yeah, we’re good friends. We get on very well. Which is really nice, actually.
KP: So you’ve done a shoot AND you’ve been interviewed by an iconic artist for Beauty Papers Issue Six. What next? Would you maybe consider interviewing somebody for us in the future?
LP: Oh God. Yeah. Oh, I’d love to.
KP: Really? I’m sorry to put you on the spot but I’m loving ‘Lucia Pieroni: The Journalist’.
LP: I think you’d have to be there with me though or I’d get it wrong. But actually, Jenny and I did talk about doing something together. Collaborating together. Which actually would be great. I don’t know what we’d do, but I think it would be pretty cool.
KP: Maybe you could do a podcast?
KP: That would be great.
KP: Watch this space.
LP: Yeah, exactly. Or maybe we’ll do a shoot together.
KP: Oh, we’d LOVE that! DEFINITELY watch this space!
Beauty Papers Issue Six available here