I love books. I’ve been a book girl since I was a kid, and I’m not talking reading so much, although I do love that too, but more what are universally referred to as “coffee table books”. Never owned a coffee table in my life, but the books, I own lots. I love to surround myself with beautiful inspiring works of art that I can dip into for inspiration at any time. Google image search and Pinterest just doesn’t come close to the experience of pouring over a lovingly compiled, beautifully bound book. Those big shiny pages, and embossed covers. Aaaah.
The vast majority of makeup books are aimed at teaching the absolute basics to absolute beginners. How effective they are in that aim I don’t know, I certainly never learned to do my makeup from a book, but I’d imagine in the age of Youtube tutorials that kind of book may begin to become obsolete. However what will never become obsolete, to a makeup artist, is inspiration, and beauty! I’m big on reference material and research. I feel like trying to create original and exciting creative makeups from fresh air is a little like trying to cook a slap up meal with nothing in your cupboards. As in the more “ingredients” you have to work from, the more creative, impressive and varied the outcome. As Dr Seuss said;
“The more that you read the more you will know, the more that you learn the more places you’ll go!”
This selection is my absolute favourite pick of a wide variety of books that I’ve come back to the most over the years in my makeup career. Some of these I’ve owned for over 15 years and they still come out on a regular basis, hopefully there can be some treasures that will appeal to the bookworm in you guys too!
“Garbage In, Garbage Out” as they say. Meaning the quality of your input directly reflects the quality of your output. If all you ever look at, makeup wise, is images on Instagram or the latest copy of your favourite magazine then you’re going to be very limited in your creative options. I can guarantee you that the work of the great makeup artists you look up to isn’t inspired by such things. Hoover up great art and absorb influences like a sponge. Find your favourites. You may think you’re not an art person, I used to think the same, but there is art and photography that speaks to each and every one of us. Get these compendiums and refer to them often (yep this one is actually three books, forgive me, but they come as a trio if you ask me!). They couldn’t be simpler, an alphabetical list of notable artists and photographers, featuring a large picture of one of their popular works, and a small bio. These are huge and offensively cheap so there’s zero excuse not to snap them up! You are a makeup artist, and no artist can exist in a vacuum, so get inspired!
Just as it pays to know of the work of great artists if you want to be an artist or creative, it also pays to know about the work that’s come before in the world of fashion if you want to work in editorial. This book is the ultimate bible of over 500 fashion designers, photographers, models, icons and more. Look to it for inspiration sure, but also look to it simply to learn! To just show up in the fashion industry with no knowledge of whats come before (as I did, so I’m calling out myself here) is a little rude. Those who’ve paved the way are incredibly influential, worked their asses off and created the industry you want to be a part of, so be willing to brush up! Again, find your favourites, don’t underestimate how much discovering the work of those you love can help to define and hone your own style.
A beautiful little gem of a book I stumbled upon in a bookshop one day and have felt so fortunate that I did ever since. Austin Kleon has summed up the creative process more succinctly, more enjoyably, and with more real usable gems of advice, than anyone I’ve ever read before. This book manages to be relevant to all creatives; photographers, illustrators, writers, musicians, you name it, and of course to us as makeup artists. I love this book and recommend it to creative buddies all the time. The amount of “yes!” and “eureka!” moments you’ll have reading this is ridiculous. Freelance creative work can be a lonely career path, this book let’s you know we’re all facing the same obstacles really. His follow-up “Show Your Work!: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Getting Discovered” is also a must-read.
Francois Nars is a makeup genius, simple as. His use of colour and texture and his ability to create bold and unusual looks that somehow manage to be classically beautiful is unlike any other artist I know of. Not only does he apply every stunning makeup in this book, but he also took the pictures, and the clean, uncluttered layout is utterly perfect. Each double page spread simply consists of a shot of the barefaced beauty (from Naomi Campbell to Karen Elson to Devon Aoki) on the left, a shot of the same face fully made up on the right, and a perspex overlay in between showing the Nars products used to create the look. This book first came out in 2001 and hasn’t aged at all, which is close to miraculous. It looks as fresh and contemporary today as it did then, and is a firm favourite that I refer back to time and time again. His 2011 follow-up book Makeup Your Mind; Express Yourself, the exact same format working on women of all ages is also a thing of beauty, but I’m a sucker for the original!
Vogue have brought out a selection of gorgeous coffee table books over the years, of which these are my three absolute favourites. “Models”, with Kate Moss being an utter dream on the cover is a compendium of the faces that have brought Vogue to life over the decades. From Dorian Leigh in the 50s to Claudia Schiffer in the 90s, the full spectrum of supermodels are presented here. “Covers”, you guessed it, is a compendium of their greatest front covers over the years, but perhaps my favourite is “The Editor’s Eye”, where the often unsung heroes of the magazine’s editorials and iconic images are brought to the forefront. Eight of Vogue’s Fashion Editors are profiled and celebrated, including current genius US Vogue Fashion Ed Grace Coddington, and we’re taken through the creative process that goes into their greatest work behind the scenes. A total treasure of a book.
Pretty much considered a modern classic amongst makeup artists, and truly a work of art (Alex did begin her career with a Fine Art degree after all!). Rankin’s often no frills portrait style works perfectly to showcase the mind-bending, unconventional and flawless work of Miss Box. An utterly timeless makeup book unlike any other that wows with every turn of the page, and inspired a whole new generation of makeup artists on its release back in 2010. No “how to”s here, or any writing at all for that matter, just beautiful full-page photos of Alex’s work in all it’s glory. These were a limited release and as such sell for a pretty penny ( I spotted some for almost £1,500 on Amazon?!), but there are more bargain ones on offer so if you get chance do snap one up! Rankin has created a series of similar books with other artists, his collaborations with Ayami Nishimura, Caroline Saulnier and Andrew Gallimore are all very much worth a look!
7. Miles of MAC
A bloody gorgeous book released last year and strangely not yet that widely known, I only found out about it myself very recently. MAC’s creative director James Gager and renowned photographer Miles Aldridge have collaborated on the majority of MAC beauty campaigns over the last seven years, and are very much responsible for the unique look and feel of the MAC campaign visual. This book is filled with an array of full-page images in Miles’s signature bright, often surreal and poppy style, both seen and unseen, from their recent campaigns. I have a love/hate relationship with MAC’s visuals, but no matter what they’re unapologetic, fearless and always pushing the boundaries of what a beauty campaign shot can be. Over two hundred gorgeous images with killer makeup looks from the likes of Val Garland, Charlotte Tilbury, Alex Box and many more. Love!
I barely need to introduce these two, such classics they are amongst makeup artists, but if you’re in the makeup game and haven’t yet laid eyes on these, please do seek them out! Kevyn Aucoin, who sadly passed away in 2002, is still revered in the industry as one of the greatest and most highly-skilled makeup artists of our times. He brought out three books during his career, but it is “Face Forward” and “Making Faces” in particular that have become firm favourites in the makeup community (the autobiography released after his death – “A Beautiful Life” – is also fascinating reading material for anyone in the world of cosmetics). Kevyn used makeup not only to turn the world’s most beautiful women and famous faces into sculpted, flawless versions of themselves, but also into other people via some serious makeup trickery. Gwyneth Paltrow as James Dean anyone? His masterful makeovers have to be seen to be believed and these gorgeous late 90s how-to books remain a total classic.
Shout out to all the bridal makeup artists! Back at the beginning of my makeup career, when I was working on weddings every weekend, this book was my makeup bible. I just couldn’t believe how straight up helpful it was. So many makeup books are full of useless fluff that we already know, or makeup creations that are incredible to look at but not so applicable to real women who want classic beauty makeup, whereas this book provides just that and lots of it. Really useable and beautifully laid out product and technique info that even makeup artists can learn something from, and then page after page of simple before and after makeovers. Classic looks on real women of all races and ages. If you do a lot of bridal makeup (and mother of the bride makeup!) you could do a heck of a lot worse than having this in your arsenal – and there is even a bridal specific edition if you’re thirsty for more. This one is even good to take on jobs with you, for those bridal clients who are a little… indecisive.
Whilst John Galliano was creating magic at Dior for over a decade, photographer Roxanne Lowit was there by his side, backstage at each and every show, taking the most fabulous visual riot of photos of the most fabulous ensembles. And also there, of course, was Pat McGrath. Pat’s work with Galliano at Dior was legendary, turning out jaw-dropping and high drama looks season after season, many of which are consistently shown as being McGrath classics, favourites of many a makeup student in particular for their sheer wow factor. This gorgeous 200 page book is filled with the most beautiful full-page images, including stunning up close and personal shots of those incredible makeup looks. Not a makeup book per se, but a joy for makeup artists none the less.
If like me you love not only looking at beautiful faces and beautiful fashion photography, but are also fascinated by the chameleon nature of the world’s greatest supermodels when transformed by incredible makeup, then it doesn’t get much better than this. This is Kate Moss, by Kate Moss. A sumptuous retrospective of over 350 pages of her personally chosen favourite shots, illustrating her career from teenage Croydon waif and It girl, to world-renowned icon and supermodel. Kate Moss is one helluva stylish woman and this is one helluva stylish book, oh and there are eight different and equally delectable covers to choose from, just to make your life hellishly difficult. The big glossy photos in this book by the world’s greatest, from Mert and Marcus to Mario Testino, Inez & Vinoodh, Mario Sorrenti, David Sims… are to DIE for. And the makeup looks? Don’t get me started. The work of everyone from Lucia Pieroni to Val Garland, Charlotte Tilbury, Tom Pecheux and everyone in between is in here. A beautiful tribute to one of the world’s most beautiful women.
This is the book that Val Garland has revealed she gives to her nearest and dearest for birthdays and Christmas. It doesn’t come with much higher praise than that. After starting out as a music industry makeup assistant herself, Sali has been writing with humour and impartial honesty about the world of beauty for two decades now, with columns in the likes of Elle and Grazia and her current post as The Guardian’s regular beauty columnist, and she really knows her stuff. As makeup artists, there will be many parts of this book that don’t teach us anything we don’t know, it’s not written with professionals in mind after all, but Sali is an absolute expert and as such there are many gems in here for us all! Brush up on your skincare or basic hair quick fixes, for example. Or just cosy up with a cup of… wine and read up on hangover makeup or great beauty gifts, for sheer enjoyment. This is like chatting about makeup and beauty with your mates, except your mates are bona fide experts whose product knowledge will knock your socks off. Great fun, seriously informative, and damn entertaining stuff for anyone with the vaguest interest in beauty.
And finally… Face Paint: The Story of Makeup – Lisa Eldridge
An added extra. And I’m certainly going out on a limb with this one as this book hasn’t even come out yet, but from what I’ve seen and heard so far I’ll be snapping one up as soon as it’s released and it looks set to be an absolute gem! Lisa Eldridge, she of a bazillion Youtube followers (well, over a million and counting), countless Vogue covers and makeup artist to the likes of Kate Moss, Keira Knightley, Emma Watson and many more, is bringing out what looks to be an utterly gorgeous book not of tutorials and the same old same old, but rather a comprehensive history of makeup throughout the ages. The only books like this that I know of to have existed in the past are very dated, very text-booky and pretty damn ugly, so I can’t wait to see lovely Lisa’s take on the whole shebang. Out October 12th, not long now!
And yes I know I’ve left out the Scott Barnes books before the Scott Barnes lovers come for me! Scott is obviously incredible at what he does but his style of tutorial in his books is a little too heavy for me, both on the makeup and the retouch, although the books are undoubtedly beautiful! Scott teaches, and is exceptional at the full face contour look, which includes a tonne of foundation and powder, and is pretty much the opposite of my own style, so I don’t use these books often myself. As with the whole of Mascara Wars I stick to my guns when it comes to only raving about things I myself use and love, anything else would be dishonest, but if you’re a contouring fan then look no further! His books About Face and Face To Face are the ones for you!
As usual I’ve had to edit myself wildly to get this list down to just 12 picks (or 18, ahem) but I couldn’t go without giving an honourable mention to some other favourites, books that aren’t perhaps so makeup heavy but have been infinitely inspiring to me over the years, do have a click through the links to find out what they’re all about!
- Fresh Fruits – Shoichi Aoki
- At Twelve – Sally Mann
- Voguing; And The House Ballroom Scene Of New York City 1989-92
- SUMO – Helmut Newton
- Fashion Forever; 30 Years Of Subculture – Iain McKell
- A Message For You – Guy Bourdin
Happy reading guys!