FURLESS INTERVIEWS CRUELTY FREE MAKEUP ARTIST ELVIS SCHMOULIANOFF
How did you get started as a MUA?
My wonderful aunt Joanna first inspired me to do makeup when I was 11 - she showed me some photos of a gory severed prosthetic foot she’d worked on for a film and the idea that you could do that as a career totally blew my mind. I started out by doing makeup for the plays in my school theatre, the wardrobe mistress was a wonderful woman and she gave me free reign and a little budget so I could order in materials to experiment with. For the last couple of years I did every production that was put on and from there went on to do a BA Honours Degree in Makeup & Prosthetics for Performance at London College of Fashion.
What inspires you?
Inspiration comes from so many different sources – film, TV, magazines, galleries, street art, nature, literature, people… I’m constantly looking at all kinds of artwork, sketching ideas and trying to figure out what would translate well onto the human canvas. I also think it’s very important to have a lot of creativity around you, working with other artists is a very inspiring process and I love collaborating on projects where you can bounce ideas off each other and develop them in new directions. One of my best friends, Grace McComisky – is an amazing makeup artist and I find that a lot of my best work happens either when I’m working with her and her frankly awesome company Happy Slap Boutique, or just after I’ve left her and am still buzzing full of creative energy and ideas!
What advice would you give to up and coming MUA’s?
Practice, keep positive, network at every opportunity and learn how to use a camera! I've done too many shoots where the photos haven’t been anything near what I wanted – some where they've never even sent me any - and you end up with hours of work just disappearing into the ether. I’m sure it happens to all of us and it’s immensely frustrating!!! If you have a fairly decent camera handy you can always take a few safety shots of your own just in case, it’s really worth it. I bought a handy little Canon S100 about 6 months ago, it’s a wonderful little thing and has already proved itself to be absolutely invaluable.
Why did you choose to become a cruelty free artist?
A couple of years ago I started to realise that every single individual has the power to make positive changes to society and our glorious planet simply by being aware of who they’re giving their money to. If you buy factory farmed meat, animals from pet stores or cosmetics from companies that test on animals, you’re not only allowing that cruelty to continue but you’re actually actively supporting it. Once I took the time to educate myself and really looked into animal cruelty in all its forms I knew that I could never again give money to people who inflict such hideous pain and suffering, so I switched and have never looked back. I have a lot of sources to thank for that change in perception, notably the documentaries Food Inc & Earthlings and the literary work of Peter Singer – they completely opened my eyes and I’m eternally grateful for it.
Are there any drawbacks to being a cruelty free artist?
It can be more challenging at first to find the products you want as most of what’s in the mainstream cosmetics market is far from animal friendly, and then you get faced with the companies who say they don’t test on animals but are clueless as to which products have or don’t have animal derived ingredients in them. However I think people are becoming a lot more aware of animal cruelty and you see more and more makeup popping up that is certified Vegan and Cruelty Free which is really exciting! I’m currently working on a section of my website that is dedicated to recommending cruelty free makeup and hair products in an effort to make it easier for people to find what they need, and I’m also beginning to look into making a line of my own cosmetics so I’ll always have products I can trust 100%.
Which job/work are you most proud of?
It’s constantly changing… one day I’ll do something and be over the moon with the results, a few months later I’ll have totally flipped and will suddenly see all little things that I could have done better. I have a very critical eye, something which comes with its fair share of good and bad points…. Generally though, I’m happiest with my work when it gives something to the person who is wearing it. It’s so rewarding when you do someone’s make up or cover them in body paint and you can really see that it’s given them more confidence or helped them get into character. It’s the transformative abilities of makeup – visually and mentally - that I really love.
How do you feel about animal hair brushes vs. synthetic?
I just don’t think it’s justifiable to kill an animal just so I can paint on someone’s skin, especially when there’s an ever growing variety of amazing alternatives out there. I saw a great talk by a MUA called Donna Mee at the Sydney IMATS this year – while on the topic of brushes she said “c’mon kids, I don’t care what they say, animal hair in brushes comes from pelts, there is NO bald squirrel farm out there!” It’s so true, realistically who is going to take the time to shave an animal and then painstakingly arrange all the hairs so they’re the right way up? With synthetics we may not get that fine tapering at the end of each bristle like you do with animal hair (yet), but I’m utterly convinced that you can apply makeup just as beautifully.
All of my favourite brushes have taklon fibres – it’s so incredibly soft, applies makeup wonderfully and the handles are made from sustainably grown bamboo which is an extra happy bonus! I’m totally committed to buying only synthetic brushes and encourage everyone to do the same!
What is your best makeup tip?
Practice and play as much as possible! If there’s no one else to practice on just do it on yourself. The better you know how to use your tools and materials the better you’ll be at your craft.
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