Paint­ing beauty

Cel­e­brated im­age maker Francesca Tolot is more of a painter than a make-up artist.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FASHION - By JUNE H.L. WONG

Cel­e­brated im­age maker Francesca Tolot is more of a painter than a make-up artist.

IT’S easy to for­get that Francesca Tolot is a celebrity make-up artist. She cer­tainly doesn’t look nor act like one. Her own face has very lit­tle make-up; she wears sen­si­ble heavy-framed spec­ta­cles and has no airs about her.

And, by the time she’s fin­ished mak­ing up two mod­els, her hands are smeared with mas­cara and eye­shadow. She looks more like a painter than a make-up artist.

But fans of E! Chan­nel will know she is the highly re­garded make-up artist to go to for in­sight­ful com­ments on the style and looks of Hollywood stars. That’s be­cause she has worked on most of their faces, in­clud­ing A-lis­ters like Bey­once, Shakira, Madonna, Jen­nifer Lopez, Eva Men­des, Jes­sica Biel ... the list goes on.

It’s her abil­ity to cre­ate stun­ning looks for these faces that CeCe Cof­fin, the vice-pres­i­dent for global com­mu­ni­ca­tions for cos­met­ics brand Clin­ique, says Tolot is not just a make-up artist but an im­age maker.

In­deed, it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to watch Tolot at work, which was what a group of in­ter­na­tional me­dia did last July in Los An­ge­les.

Us­ing Clin­ique’s Big­ger, Brighter Eyes In An In­stant Fall 2010 Colour Col­lec­tion, she trans­formed the sepet (slant) eyes of the Asian-look­ing model into smoul­der­ing, al­lur­ing peep­ers.

She deftly stroked in the plum eye­shadow to blend with the pea­cock blue shade to achieve a strik­ing ef­fect, much like a painter would.

That she should ap­proach makeup like an artist is not sur­pris­ing. Her first love, af­ter all, was paint­ing. As a young woman in the 1970s, she en­joyed us­ing make-up and “hav­ing fun with colours”, she rem­i­nisced, but didn’t think any­thing of it. Then she met a make-up artist and de­cided to take up a six-month course with him.

As fate would have it, one day he was un­able to take up an as­sign­ment and asked Tolot, who was born near Venice, Italy, to stand in for him.

“I was very ner­vous and I hated it,” she re­called.

A few months later, she again stood in for her friend, this time for Ital­ian Vogue mag­a­zine.

“I fell to­tally in love with the work. I was very lucky (it was Vogue) and I have been busy ever since,” she said.

Tolot was based in Mi­lan but re­lo­cated to Los An­ge­les af­ter she and her hus­band went to Cal­i­for­nia to visit relatives.

“I loved it in LA. It was very dif­fer­ent then (in the 1980s) when there were blue skies and maybe only one car on the whole street!”

It took her two years to legally ap­ply to em­i­grate but when she got there, her ca­reer took off with a bang. Her first job was a Madonna mu­sic video shoot.

She’s BFF, face-wise, with a galaxy of stars; her port­fo­lios on her web­site (francesca­ fea­ture plenty of cover shots of Bey­once, Shakira and oth­ers who are ob­vi­ously re­peat cus­tomers.

Part of her suc­cess can be traced to her use of paint­ing tech­niques.

Dur­ing the LA demon­stra­tion, she ex­plained that the “lay­er­ing of colours” tech­nique used by Re­nais­sance artists gave a 3D ef­fect.

“Never use a sin­gle colour as that comes out flat. You should layer; for ex­am­ple, if you want a peach colour, use pink and then add orange. That way, you will get peach that is warm, trans­par­ent and soft,” she said.

This lay­er­ing tech­nique is also why women in Re­nais­sance paint­ings al­ways look healthy and glow­ing, a look Tolot loves.

Clearly, she has come a long way, and not just in the dis­tance trav­elled.

That first Madonna video shoot for Burn­ing Up lasted 24 hours. “Madonna was very nice but there was no col­lab­o­ra­tion be­cause I didn’t speak a word of English then. I guess she had to­tal con­fi­dence in me. She left the look to me.”

That was the start of what Tolot laugh­ingly de­scribes as “a beau­ti­ful re­la­tion­ship”.

“I was at her first wed­ding (to ac­tor Sean Penn) and the sev­enth wed­ding of El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor,” she added.

She re­vealed that she was in­tro­duced to the ac­tress by the late renowned pho­tog­ra­pher Hel­mut Newton, and has been do­ing Liz’s make-up for 25 years.

In per­son and via e-mailed ques­tions, Tolot proved to be a thought­ful and gen­er­ous in­ter­vie­wee.

Asked what she en­joyed work­ing on the most (mag­a­zine shoots, fashion shows, mu­sic videos or Red Car­pet) she replied: “Mag­a­zine shoots be­cause the fi­nal re­sult re­sem­bles a paint­ing.”

She finds Red Car­pet make-up Tolot us­ing her hand like a painter’s palate while mak­ing up a model’s eyes. the hard­est be­cause “it’s the com­bi­na­tion of the other three.”

“You have to get the per­son ready three to four hours ear­lier. She has to look good in per­son, in pho­tos that will be taken in all sorts of light­ing and then later, on TV when there’s no way I can be there (to touch up). The make-up has to be per­fect when she leaves (me).”

With high def­i­ni­tion tele­vi­sion (HDTV), get­ting the make-up just right has be­come even more prob­lem­atic, she added.

“HDTV is per­fect for sports, trees and but­ter­flies, but not for women. In the last five to 10 years, all the celebri­ties are sold on the dewy, glow­ing, oily look. Un­for­tu­nately, that doesn’t work on HDTV! It’s most im­por­tant to keep the face matt be­cause any­thing shiny will mul­ti­ply or mag­nify the prob­lems.”

With so many clients, Tolot is in great de­mand for ev­ery Red Car­pet event. She has a sim­ple method of

Lay­er­ing al­lure: ‘Never use a sin­gle colour as that comes out flat. You should layer,’ says Francesca Tolot.

Deft hands:

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