Saturday Studio: The Medium of Makeup

Naomi Vanderleest, Education Assistant

Art comes in many different forms in our lives, even makeup applied to one’s face. While the application of makeup is similar to painting or drawing, some artists take this a step further by using makeup as their medium. Look at this artwork below, currently on display in Indiana Artists Club 2023 Annual Members Exhibition. It’s created with makeup! Can you see where the different products, lipstick, foundation, blush, eyeshadow, and mascara, were used? 

Alicia Dawn Criswell, American, b. 1983. Lafayette, IN. Seeing Versus Knowing. Lipstick, foundation, blush, eyeshadow, mascara, pastel, 2017. Loan from the Artist. Image courtesy of FWMoA.

I think lipstick was used to create the brain, for example, due to its color. This piece won Best of Show, and I think its use of medium is a contributing factor. Using some of my own makeup, I am going to try to make my own artwork. To start, I gathered all these materials:

  • Various makeup products (lipstick, eyeshadow, blush, foundation, mascara, nail polish)
  • Pencil
  • Watercolor paper (a textured paper will hold powders and liquids better)
  • Water
  • Makeup brush, blender, and/or paint brush!
  • Hairspray/setting spray
  • Eraser

TIP: If you don’t own any makeup, make sure you ask for permission from the person you are borrowing it from first!

Let’s start by just trying out our materials! Some makeup may look different on paper, so make a swatch of everything you have. Let the colors you make inspire you. Look at the colors I have. What could  I make with this palette?

TIP: I used a lot of liquid makeup to create. I found that some powders didn’t adhere well to the paper, which you can see in the swatches.

All the warm tones reminded me of the colors outside; I decided to make a fall tree! I started by drawing with an eyeliner pencil to create a rough outline of a tree trunk. To fill in color I used makeup brushes and my fingers, painting various shades of brown. I began to blend and layer colors to create highlights and shadows.  I repeated this process throughout my work, drawing a few details and then painting in the rest.

This is the result:

Does it look like I used makeup? What makeup do you think I used? 

Creating this work I learned to appreciate Criswell’s art even more. Using makeup takes practice, like any art medium! I believe my leaves were the most successful part of my artwork and, if I were to create this again, I would try to use more colors for more depth. When you finish creating your piece, share it with others! Can they determine what makeup you used?

Come to the museum for Second Saturday Family Tours to study Criswell’s piece and much more!

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