Just like the chorus of 80s Spanish pop-group Mecano song would say, 'Shadow here, shadow over there, make up, make up. A glass mirror and look at yourself...' Makeup artist Marco Antonio dreamed of transforming, feminizing and projecting beauty with brushes, pencils, lipsticks, eye shadows colors and sculpting foundations, creating an identity and a fantasy. Makeup is undoubtedly a crucial element in photography and through the magic of makeup, whether natural or extravagant, it sets the mood, reflects feelings, and evokes different times and situations. The magic that Marco Antonio paints can now be seen in his wonderful new book with the photographer Rankin, and here he talks with us about his inspirations, challenges and a few of the exciting highlights of his career so far.
Words by Andy Durán. Special thanks to Fabio Vivan.
Who is Marco Antonio? Tell us a little about yourself, how did you get to where you are now and how did your passion for makeup begin?
I’m a self taught Makeup Artist with over 25 years of experience in the beauty industry. This incredible journey started in my native Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where I would do makeup for local Drag Queens and friends. I always had a passion for transforming faces, for expressing myself with colour and makeup. Staying true to myself as an artist but also pushing boundaries allowed me to be where I am today. I can’t imagine doing anything else and I still feel like I have so much to say as an artist.
Beauty is subjective, sometimes ephemeral and in some cases incomprehensible, what does beauty mean to you?
Beauty is subjective, to me it is not necessarily the face itself but a certain confidence about how you look or how you carry yourself. Beauty definitely goes beyond the reflection in the mirror.
How would you describe your work and how would you define your style, what specific details do you think leave Marco Antonio's signature?
I like to think I’m a very versatile Makeup Artist but I think my signature style is minimal but stylized make up with brave colour combinations although not overbearing. I come from a very colourful country, Brazil, and I think unconsciously that often shows in my work.
Your covers included Harper's, Financial Times, Hunger and King Kong. Which of these have been the ones you remember most and the ones that have made you grow professionally?
One of my favourites was for FT How To Spend It Magazine with the legendary Iris Apfel, I traveled to her West Palm Beach home and we spent 2 days shooting with her, she was amazing, colourful, energetic and very inspirational.
It is difficult to chose one cover that made me grow as an artist, I think every cover is important and with every cover you challenge yourself to create something unique, something that people will like and remember.
Tell us about the book you just launched in collaboration with the photographer Rankin. How was the creative process? How and when the idea was born?
Marco X Rankin is a mix of my pop colour pallets and Rankin's signature sense of humour. It is a tour through some of the boldest makeup photography around today and it includes a conversation between us discussing not only our careers but also where makeup and beauty sits in today’s visual culture.
Rankin and I have collaborated very closely for the last 5 years. The book came about very naturally, we simply decided to celebrate our working relationship in a form of a book because we believed it is one of the best ways to highlight our journey, it was always a big dream of mine to create a makeup publication that could inspire beauty lovers and leave my mark as a Makeup Artist and what a better person to have a book with than the legendary Rankin.
What would you highlight about the connection you have had with Rankin to ending the release of a book?
Both Rankin and I share the same vision we like to work with all kinds of beauty especially when it is not a traditional perception of it, we want to inspire people by pushing boundaries and want to present our vision in less predictable way. We want this collaboration to subvert viewers perception of beauty and demonstrate the creative potential of makeup.
Your work is visual, and in this era social networks have become the ideal showcase for the artistic world. How important are each of the social networks? which ones do you use and how do you manage them?
To be honest I only use Instagram. I’m a visual artist so Instagram allows me to showcase my work best without focusing too much on the written word. I speak with colours.
Each work team is different, how do you prepare for each shoot? What specific things do you like to control to work at ease?
I always make sure I do a little research on the photographer or the model and if it is a specific project with brief I make sure I am always prepared in terms of what the client wants or expects, I like to control the final makeup look. I also like to make sure I have more products that I really need.
Your work is exquisite, where do you get the inspiration when it comes to expressing your ideas on different faces?
That depends on the project sometimes inspirations come from a brainstorm with the creative team from digging into research for a brief or from a face itself, I also get inspired by new products, textures and colours that allow me to express my vision like never before.
What do you enjoy most about your work and how far would you like to go professionally?
When I can execute my vision from start to finish without being limited, but the most amazing thing about my work is when my subject is really happy with the final results and the make up I did makes them feel confident.
There are still faces I would love to paint and maybe dip into the world of cinema with my makeup.
During these years of adventures what has been the biggest challenge of your career?
Finding time to engage with the audience on social media is most challenging for me it is very helpful tool but it is also time consuming you have to find the right balance between staying relevant and not getting sucked into it too much.
What other Makeup Artists have influenced your work, and how?
There are a few that really inspired me throughout my career. Topolino with his ability to create magic out of nothing. Val Garland for her vision, but most of all Kevin Aucoin for the way he transformed faces creating some of the most iconic looks.
You have worked with faces like Anna Cleveland, Lily Aldridge, and recently with Sara Sampaio, which ones you have not yet made up that would you like to have in your hands?
Kate Moss was one of my big dreams that came true but I would love to work with Julianne Moore, her face is just amazing.
Do you think you would end up creating your cosmetic line? Or is it something that you are not interested in at the moment?
I don’t think I am interested in doing that just yet. I know how much time and effort it takes to create a good line of cosmetics, I wouldn’t like to sacrifice the quality of the product because I don’t have enough time, maybe one day when I’m less busy.
Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring makeup artists?
Find your style, keep creating, engage, push boundaries.