Gina Robinson - visual artist, make up artist and beauty consultant
Bethesda, Maryland / United States
Gina, you hold a BA in Fine Art with an emphasis in Graphic Design. In what way do your studies influence your current work? Can you tell us about your journey into the art world?
I love this question! My decision to study graphic design was made by a college counselor in high school. At that time, I was told that the only way to make any real money in the art world was to go into graphics and learn all these fancy new (at the time) computer programs. This was 1998. All I had done in HS was fine arts, and my favorite medium was oil painting. So with the advice from a college counselor, I decided to major in FA with an emphasis in graphic design. As it turns out, I didn't enjoy working in front of a computer at all! I loved the design education that I received, but I always struggled with the whole getting it onto the computer part.
All of my projects took loner because I was creating them by hand first and then trying to translate that work onto the computer. I even took a summer internship with a design firm in hopes that I would find something about graphic design that I really was good at or just loved doing. Sadly the place that I interned at had me in a tiny cubicle using photoshop to edit photos that had been scanned onto a computer (I mentioned this was the late 90's).
What I wished I was doing was sitting in with the clients, learning about the design process and working more creatively. As a result, I returned to school totally defeated and kind of confused as to what I wanted to do.
That year I packed my schedule with classes that didn't require me to use any computer programs. I took figure drawing, design, layout, and animation. It was so fun, and I learned a ton. That's when I fell in love with charcoal and drawing portraits and figures. I wish I still had some of these drawings!
Over the next few years, I bounced around taking all kinds of art classes. After college, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do or even if there were jobs that I'd enjoy. A friend from HS recommended that I apply at MAC since I always used to do her makeup before her sorority events. I took her advice and got hired at MAC Cosmetics!
You’ve always been passionate aboute about make up artistry. You started working as a professional make up artist right after college. What was the transition from an art student to a professional make artist like for you?
Professionally speaking, I applied for the MAC job because a friend suggested it, and it sounded like a fun idea. Looking back, I'm actually very grateful that she suggested that because I had always done makeup for friends, but I never really considered it my art. My art was with brushes or charcoal on paper and canvases, and makeup was makeup. Separate categories to me. I remember going to Nordstrom and being enamored by the glamorous MAC girls all dressed in black with all kinds of fun makeup.
I had one friend who had really bad acne so we would go to the makeup counter together and the MAC artist would create a look for her to help her cover up the acne, and I'd watch. Then we'd take the face chart (the paper they used to show you how to recreate the look) back to her house and I'd redo her makeup with all her new products. We did this a lot, her mom was very generous to sponsor this activity! Of course, I eventually started shopping for myself and then doing makeup for other friends, it kind of evolved naturally. My mom even bought me that big heavy silver makeup kit from MAC to store all my stuff in (which I brought to my MAC interview, and even used it when I was starting out as a freelance artist. So I guess I was a makeup artist before I even went to college for Fine Arts, I just never knew it was a job I wanted!
I should add, I didn't work for MAC for very long. I was there little under two years. When you apply to the company and are hired, they place you where they need you. So you could be in a department store or a flagship MAC store. Everyone wanted to work in the flagship stores because they were known to foster more of that creative spirit that MAC was really known for. I was placed at Nordstrom, and let's just say it was not a great fit for me. I had a very "MAC look" I was told - tattoos, piercings, and my hair evolved into a mowhawk with bright red streaks in it while working there. It was not something that Nordstrom liked, but they tolerated it because of their longstanding partnership with MAC. Eventually, I was let go - not from MAC but from Nordstrom, but let go all the same. It was such a crazy turning point for me because I remember just not even caring. I had been very interested in becoming a freelance makeup artist, but never took that step. On the day I was let go I went home and started working on creating my business as a professional freelance makeup artist.
What inspires you the most?
This is a tough question! SO MANY THINGS! I guess my earliest memories of artistic inspiration are a mix of nature, fantasy art, and movement. I used to take my dogs on long hikes and road trips to take pictures. Sunsets, abandoned and rundown buildings, plants and insects with a macro lens, old cars, all kinds of things. And I've always loved fantasy and science fiction books and movies. The colors, and the creative creatures and sceneries you could create always drew me in.
Movement is my current inspiration. I love yoga and dance and the way the human body can move. I also really love working with materials that create their own movement. Being able to either manipulate that natural movement or to just let it do what it is going to do naturally is really fun and fascinating for me.
Last year (2020) gave you a chance to dive into painting. Your technique is quite unique since you use mixed media as well as cosmetics. Could you please describe your art process?
Yes! So I was not sure what would happen with our industry or if we'd ever be able to work in the same capacity again. I cleaned out my makeup kit and found all kinds of extra products that I didn't use much. Great colors, but not ones that I used frequently on jobs.
One day I decided to pull out my brushes and start using these eyeshadows on paper. Most of it was just therapeutic. It felt good to use these products on paper, and they look so different than on skin, it was really fun. Because I had no real purpose in what I was doing, everything was super abstract. I started adding in shapes with other materials that I had like gouache, color pencils, pens, and then I'd go back to my makeup and squirt out old foundations and concealers. I realized I was breaking these strange little self-imposed rules that I had. Silly things like - oh don't waste that it was expensive and you might need it! Or, what if you can recycle it and get something else that you could use. Just these strange little barriers I had created to keep all my products neat and tidy and to not waste them. But at that point, I wasn't using them, I didn't know when I would use them again, and some stuff was just old and needed to be replaced anyway. I can't even explain the freedom I experienced being able to just aim a bottle of foundation at a piece of paper and squirt it out all over the place. It sounds silly but it felt SO GOOD! From there I started thinking about all the materials I had wanted to play with but had never tried for some reason or another. I continued to pull makeup products, bought loose charcoal, and even spray paint. I always thought graffiti artists were the coolest and that I was not nearly cool enough to work with spray paint until I just bought them and started. I started spraying water on things or just smearing them around, it was a lot of play until I found shapes that I liked.
Since this is a group of artists and moms I feel comfortable also adding that so much of the experimentation or need for little freedoms came right around the time that I was going through a miscarriage. It was a really strange period because of covid, but losing a pregnancy and being so detached from friends and family as well felt even more isolating. My husband is amazing and supportive, but nothing quite replaces my sisters and girlfriends, especially with things like this. So I do think there is a direct connection between what I was doing creatively and a need to feel unrestricted and maybe in some way in control of something. Whatever it was, it has opened up the floodgates for me creatively speaking.
You also offer Beauty Consultations. What are these typically about?
Beauty Consultations. These might be some of my favorite things to do as a makeup artist. I started offering these a few years ago. I kept being asked if I would consider teaching people how to apply makeup, or what products people should be using, so I decided to create sessions for this. First I started working with a local talent agency teaching classes to young aspiring models on how to come ready for a photoshoot, and how to do a soft natural makeup look in case there was no makeup artist on set. I did these every few months for about a year until the agency stopped offering these courses. I had already put together my format for lessons and from there I would adapt them to each client. I offer a makeup look refresh based on what you are looking for. We go through your existing makeup and see what's working for you and what you love or don't love and I make product suggestions. I also offer application with instruction. So I will put makeup on one side of your face and you do the other or something like that. I create face charts for reference, I make product lists and recommendations, and I have even gone shopping at Sephora with some of my clients. It's really a lot of fun!
Do you include your little one in your studio time?
I do! Well, I should say we try to, lol. Usually what ends up happening is she works much faster than I do and needs my attention so I don't get much work done, but I still love it. She will sit with all her paints and play for a little bit before losing interest. She's even tried spray painting but didn't seem to like the end result so stuck with her paint. I think my favorite time was when we were painting her wall with rainbows and she wanted to help. I gave her her kid paints and set up a drop cloth and she stripped down naked and painted her wall in the nude! It was way too cute.
What’s the message behind your art?
Since my return to fine arts came through a need to create freedom for myself, I hope that people experience some of this freedom and empowerment when viewing my art as well. I feel like the use of bold colors and the movement of the materials embodies this. I would love for viewers to feel the power as well as the softness of my art. The addition of cosmetics adds a playful and unexpected element to the work. As my work continues to evolve, I hope to express more of the beauty and strength that women embody, both physically and mentally. I aspire to fully embrace my own powerful femininity and I hope to inspire that in others as well.
What does your art do for you?
My art does so many things for me! It is a release, it is a therapy, and it is a way for me to express myself without words. I mentioned earlier that when I first started, breaking down little self-imposed barriers was a huge part of my creative process. I continue to do this both with my art and in my daily life. I try to think about why I make the decisions I do or feel that I should or shouldn't do certain things, and then I try and figure out why. Is this something that I really believe or is this some silly little rule that I created that is wholly unnecessary and may even be blocking me from doing something that feels more natural?
What are your dreams, plans and goals?
Dreams! I dream about living somewhere along the coast of Italy or Northern Spain, painting, working remotely, and playing in the garden with my family. It sounds like a lofty ambition, but I do believe it will be a reality for us one day! My short term goals are to continue to paint and create art when I can. I hope to expand into a shared studio space and connect more deeply with my local art community. I've been making steps towards this, and I feel like I'm on the path. I just need to keep going and see where it leads me.
What is your advice to fellow art mums?
Advice to fellow art mums - keep at it, it's all part of the process! Especially the periods of lost inspiration, the deviation from your original plan, the missed studio time, all of it. Just keep going. Everything that you do is just adding to what makes you you, and to what makes your art unique. And, if you ever find yourself following some self-imposed rule and you're not sure why try ignoring it and see where that takes you!