MAC's Make-Up Art Cosmetics: Maira Kalman
Well-known as the creator of numerous covers and drawings for The New Yorker magazine, Maira Kalman is the author and illustrator of a dozen books for children and the designer of accessories such as watches and umbrellas for M. & Co., fabrics for Isaac Mizrahi, and sets for ballets by choreographer Mark Morris. With composer Nico Muhly, she recently turned her illustrated edition of Strunk & White's Elements of Style, the standard writer's guide to English language usage, into a mini-opera that she has also performed with an ensemble of musicians playing such "instruments" as teacups, slinkys and typewriters. Currently she is following up "The Principles of Uncertainty," her 2006-07 visual diary for The New York Times web site, with an illustrated monthly blog, "And the Pursuit of Happiness." Ms. Kalman regularly exhibits her drawings at the Julie Saul Gaul in New York.
Linda Yablonsky: You are a very prolific artist, Maira. Where do you get your energy?
Maira Kalman: As I once told an audience at the New York Public Library, my biggest motivator is fear of boredom.
Q: Fat chance of that! How did you arrive at this portrait, Young Woman at Yellow Table, for the new M·A·C collection?
A: I started with about ten sketches, using the eye pencils and lipsticks.
Q: You actually used the makeup as paint?
A: Ultimately I painted in gouache, as usual, but I wanted to try this one using the M·A·C makeup first, so I started sketching with the pencils.
Q: Because of the colours?
A: Just as an exercise in sketching. It was fun. And appropriate! But I also liked the blue-black-red palette, and that the colours were vivid but not garish. Then I added a few colours that I liked. Out of instinct. Thinking too much about a picture can be the death of it. Allowing beauty to take over is what this is about.
A: This whole project evoked a certain feeling for me – playful, pensive, elfin, and feminine.
Q: Who was the model for the portrait?
A: It was someone I had just met and photographed in my kitchen.
Q: Someone you had just met…you mean she was a stranger?
A: She came to interview me for a newspaper article and when she sat at my yellow kitchen table, I wanted to photograph her. I just liked the way she looked, like a smart pixie. That made her seem appropriate for this project. I often take pictures of people as they come into my life. Someone delivers something and the next thing I know I'm photographing them. I also take a lot of photographs as I walk around the city. I'm a walker, and I'm constantly photographing broken chairs…
Q: Broken chairs? Not people?
A: I photograph a million people. But I like broken things left on the sidewalk. I don't know why. I find them very moving. Today I brought home a ladder. It's not broken but it is rickety, a relic from another time. It's beautiful.
Q: What does beauty represent for you?
A: For me, beauty has to have a sense of heartbreak but also be heroic. That's really why I like the broken chair: it's broken but also heroic because it is still a chair. The same goes for people who appear in the world with a certain amount of courage.
Q: Do you pay attention to what people wear or just their faces?
A: I like looking at everything from high fashion to shoes with holes in them. I'm least interested in people who think of themselves as fashionable, unless they exhibit some kind of eccentricity that interests me.
Q: You must have quite an archive of pictures by now.
A: I have a huge reference library: men with plaid jackets and brown shoes; women with umbrellas. I have walls full of photographs and files full of them, and I use them constantly. They capture lots of things I don't expect. Yesterday, for instance, I walked by a man with a black turban and white scarf. A second later I passed a man with a white hat and red scarf.
Q: You don't appear to wear makeup.
A: I'm scared of makeup. I do try to wear lip gloss. As a friend said, at least it shows you care.
Swatches of Crest the Wave
Swatches of Maira's Magic
Swatches of Violet Trance
Swatches of Technakohl Liner in Artistic License and Obviously Orange
The Maira Kalman collection
Eye Shadows in Crest the Wave, Off the Page, Maira's Magic, Haunting, Purple Shower and Violet Trance.
Technakohl Liners in Color Matters, Obviously Orange, Artistic License, Full of Fuchsia and Graphblack
Credits: MAC and Blogdorf Goodman
Labels: MAC Cosmetics