Most makeup artists do pretty. Mark Carrasquillo, a makeup artist’s makeup artist, prefers to explore character and meaning, to tell stories and defy convention. (Upon request, he can also do pretty.) Here, he shares some of his favorite work.

Modern Disco

Blue, pink, purple, metallic, shiny—this mash-up of gaudy makeup, above, has no business existing on one face, even if that face belongs to model Imaan Hammam. But the excess is part of its appeal. The eyeliner is electric blue and winged. The cheeks are a bright opalescent pink painted all the way to the temples. And the mouth is covered with a mix of purple and pink metallic lipstick. The result clearly takes its cues from disco, but what makes it right for today is the lack of mascara and heavy foundation. “Mascara would date it,” says Carrasquillo. “Back in the day, she would’ve worn full foundation. Instead, the skin looks real.” In the end, “good taste doesn’t always make a good picture. Usually, it kills it.”

Extreme Minimalism

This glamorous beach look seems like the no-makeup-makeup idea in the extreme, but looks can be deceiving. Carrasquillo gave the model, Edie Campbell, a fake tan and flushed cheeks to create an outdoorsy feeling. The tan comes from “my secret concoction, which I’ve been mixing and tweaking all my life,” he says. “I figured out a way to make it stick to her skin even when it’s wet.” Carrasquillo rubbed on a cream blush and added a plump cherry lipstick. “I put sunblock in all the products I use,” he says. “When the models leave the shoot and clean off their makeup, they tell me, ‘Wait, I’m paler now than when I got here.’”

Dolphin Skin

You’ve heard of dolphin skin—the glossy, seemingly poreless effect that’s taken over Instagram and TikTok. Here, the idea is literal. Carrasquillo, yearning for more joy from makeup, shopped at an arts-and-crafts store, bringing paints, pens, and glitter to the photo shoot. He imagined a look for a music festival and started playing after the shoot was finished, drawing dolphins on the model Rianne Van Rompaey’s face, circling her eyes with a wash of pale blue but leaving all her freckles exposed. It’s not coincidental that this photo shoot happened in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. “Makeup,” he says, “is about more than just being beautiful.”

Linda Wells is the Editor of Air Mail Look