In Conversation with Carole the Artist

Earlier this year, I spent a quiet morning in a cute apartment in the Mile End of Montreal with my friend and collaborator Carole the Artist. She’s a mega-talented, outspoken, and all-around super rad creative being working as a freelance makeup artist. If you follow her on Instagram, have worked with her on set, or met her IRL, you probably know that she has a very unique and often subversive style which has gained her recognition in both Vancouver and Montreal. You also may know that she’s a vegan, an animal rights activist, and an advocate for sustainability. She’s woven her beliefs into her work in an eloquent, yet assertive way, and we hear you girl! I took some pics and chatted with her about her thoughts on being an artist, make-up, and all things green.

  Words and photos by     Lauren D Zbarsky

Words and photos by Lauren D Zbarsky

LDZ: How long have you been in the industry for?

CM: 7 years, I started when I moved to Vancouver in 2011.

LDZ: When and how did you figure out you wanted to be a makeup artist? Is there a story behind it?

CM: In high school I didn’t know anything about makeup, but I would use markers, black mascara, or even nail polish to write or draw on my face. I felt really inspired by movies or bands that I listened to, but my mother wouldn’t allow me to do this crazy makeup for school, so I would do it at the bus stop or on the bus in the morning. There wasn’t the abundance of Instagram-born makeup artists like there are today, and living in a small town, I was never exposed to the industry, so I really didn’t know it was a way to make a living. I can still remember flipping through fashion mags and seeing the most beautiful dewy, shimmering skin in an editorial, with no idea how it was accomplished. I began realizing there must be somebody who does the makeup on the model. Later I heard about a makeup school in Vancouver, and thought this was probably what I’d end up doing.

LDZ: What is your favourite thing about make-up?

CM: The feeling of it. The compatibility of different textures, hues, consistencies. Just trying things until it works. I take advantage of the ability to not take it seriously, because you can wash it off and start again within a matter of minutes.

LDZ: You started your career in Vancouver and then moved to Montreal. How do your professional and personal experiences compare between the two cities?

CM: I guess it’s hard to compare the two cities because in Vancouver, where I began makeup, I had no sense of who I was or what I wanted. I’m experienced enough in Montreal to have the confidence I previously lacked.

My experiences in both cities have been extremely different. I feel like I’m not the same person I was in Vancouver. My life in Vancouver brought me to my lowest points, far away from reality, but also taught me a lot personally and professionally. It took me years to find the right friends and collaborators in Vancouver, which wasn’t a problem when I moved to Montreal. The fashion industry is much busier in Montreal, so there’s a lot more work for me. And since the city is filled with quality creatives who want to collaborate, it means I get the freedom to experiment a lot more.

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LDZ: What is your favourite shoot to date? Give me the deets!

CM: This past summer I worked on a short film in Asbestos, QC. We stayed at a music camp for four days where there was no cell reception so when we weren’t working we were hanging out and getting to know each other. Although I was there for work, I felt that I had gotten away from my usual life for a bit, and I think that’s necessary when you work in this industry. Aside from that, everyone was great at their job which always makes a shoot so much easier to enjoy.

LDZ: How do you get inspired? Where do you find inspiration for your art, work and for life in general?

CM: Generally I feel the most inspired when I’m away from the city. There’s too much noise that I can’t register quickly enough. I’m in constant need to be away in a quiet town where there isn’t as much interaction with short-lived trends. I need the silence to reconnect with my emotions.

Creatively, I’m always looking for movies I haven’t watched before, old or new, and researching the intentions of the film makers. I take note on how they portray the characters based on the story. So often when creating a look, I try to envision this character, and what story we are trying to tell.

LDZ: You've created a very unique and signature style with your work. How did you get there?

CM: I’m not sure. When I look at my work put together, to me it looks like a jumbled mish mash of things. I did a lot of shitty shoots in the beginning, which I’m thankful for. I really wasn’t good in the beginning so I needed those weird shoots to practice on, and make mistakes, then learn from them. When selecting my work that I want to show, I look at the overall makeup look and image. If I feel a connection to it then it feels right. I will rarely select a photo for the perfect sharp edge alone, or flawless blend; I need to see and feel a handful of things to feel proud and show it.

LDZ: What are you trying to say with your work? Or are you mostly focused on the aesthetics?

CM: I try to avoid thinking too much about what my aesthetic is, if I have one. It can get depressing thinking so much about how others see me. Instead, I like to share my work where I feel that it came from my own mind and heart. The work I share needs to represent what I can create and execute as an artist. So I risk possibly having people not understand it, which is totally fine!

LDZ: How do you separate (or do you separate) your professional life and your more creative work?

CM: I think they work hand-in-hand. I can’t force my brain to come up with ideas constantly. I need the commercial work to take a break from creative work, and it goes the other way as well.

LDZ: As a photographer, I find my relationships with my subjects very intimate and special. For me, it's a total collaboration. What are your thoughts on the relationship between makeup artist and subject/model?

CM: It’s always a different experience. Sometimes we’re comfortable to be silent and sometimes we get to know each other and have a laugh. There was a film I worked on, and after they shot a very emotional scene, the actor came to me and thanked me for our time spent together before shooting. He felt that our small conversation helped him prepare and that I relaxed him. Most of the time the makeup chair is the last place they go before getting to the set, so it’s really important to me that I get familiar with their boundaries fast.

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LDZ: I know that you're very passionate about animal rights and that you use only brands and products that are strictly cruelty-free. I think it's amazing that you have such a strong voice! Do you feel that your role as a makeup artist has allowed you to speak louder and reach a wide audience through your work?

CM: I think I talk about it a lot, and make it known on set as well, in a sort of playful way. It’s important to me that we don’t support brands who are supporting the abuse of animals. Anybody who works in the beauty industry, and who cares about this issue, should take the time to do research on anything they put their money towards. I try to study brands when I have time, so it’s easier to shop around later on. And when in doubt, don’t trust the sales person! All it takes for me is a quick Google search to find out if a brand is truly cruelty-free, and not selling in China.

LDZ: Working as a makeup artist in the fashion industry and being passionate about sustainability, how do you feel about the extremely negative impacts of fashion on the environment? Do you think there are strategies that the industry can implement to change the trajectory of their footprint? Or are there things we can do as consumers to help out in a collective way?

CM: Yeah it’s definitely no secret that the big players of the fashion industry use a business model that is unsustainable and based on making a faster and larger profit. I just read somewhere that every year, Americans toss out 25 billion pounds of clothing. It can be easy to place the blame on manufacturers, but at the end of the day, we the consumers are the ones who have the upper hand.

One of the most impactful marketing strategies we have today comes from social media. For example, the amount of influencers getting an outfit sent to them just for a post, and of course leading their hundreds of thousands of followers to shop with the same fast fashion brand that most likely won’t be worn more than 5 times and thrown away once the trend has passed. I’d love to see more of these people with massive followings opening up a dialogue about sustainability, and reducing our consumption of these products.

In the past year, I’ve been changing most of my habits to fit a more zero-waste lifestyle. When it comes to fashion, I mostly shop secondhand. I also like supporting local brands and finding ethically-made clothing. It’s really important to remind ourselves that as small as our actions might seem today, our combined efforts to consume less and stop contributing to one of the most polluting industries, will count for something.

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LDZ: There’s a lot of waste created from working in makeup. Is there anything you do to try to reduce waste and is there any advice or tips you can offer other MUAs to be more eco-friendly on the job?

CM: There is so much waste that comes from working in makeup. Makeup artists use so many disposable products everyday (wipes, sponges, cotton swabs, etc). The majority of cosmetics come in plastic containers, and around the holidays in these unnecessarily extravagant packaging. Something I’ve been trying to speak about as well as the cruelty free subject, is how to be as zero-waste as possible as a makeup artist. This includes buying products in tin, bamboo, or glass packaging. Washable/reusable cleansing pads. And donating old mascara wands to Wands for Wildlife. I actually find it to be a fun challenge finding and sticking to these eco-friendly alternatives.

LDZ: What is your dream project? If you had an unlimited budget, any talent and resources in the world and no time constraint, what would you do?

CM: Something that reaches down into the pit of your emotions to tickle something in hiding. I’d like to make a video that makes others feel the way I do when I watch a really great film.


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