Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Statues and Armor - Opal's Looks On the Runway

Not too long ago, the fashion club of Boston College hosted their annual fashion show. They featured Opal's Catharsis Makeup Artistry to end their runway with some couture inspired looks, and I was honored to partake in their event! Here's a look at the official photos from the show. 

on the runway: armor (white and gold)
costumes, hair, makeup and styling by cindy chen
photography by juha turalba

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snow Globes and Dying Colors: What I Did During Juno (The 2015 Blizzard)

This year’s winter in Boston has absolutely been brutal. The glass on my window has been fully frosted over, so that when I stare through it, I feel like I’m stuck in a snow globe and someone keeps shaking the damn thing. That is why it keeps snowing. That is why we keep slipping on invisible ice. All because we are secretly trapped in a gigantic snow globe. Cue apocalyptic screams.

In light of this situation, I must say, blizzards are the perfect scenario for impromptu photoshoots. I was pleasantly surprised (and a little terrified) when Arlo contacted me right after Juno (the snowstorm) happened, telling me to “be ready for knee-deep snow.”


I wasn’t mentally prepared, and even more hesitant when we snuck behind someone’s house. But eventually we dug our way in (meaning he shoveled a pathway) and he brought me to this breathtaking place down a slope where the entire garden-courtyard—draping foliage, disheveled leafless trees, thorn vines—was covered in a perfect thick coat of white snow.

Beautiful. Still.

Then I realized, I couldn’t feel my toes.

Our shoot was extremely time and temperature sensitive. The problem with impromptu trips into negative degree weather is that you ought to be well planned for any unforeseen obstacles. We obviously didn’t do that pre-production part very well and spent 40 minutes outside trying different things. My coat was coming on and off constantly, as we tried to capture the contrast between the nude hues of the background against the red clothes I was wearing. Neither of us checked how long we had been out there for, so when I felt the cold pain on my hands go numb, I called time. My advice for the daredevils (not that I am any of that sort) who do stupid, dangerous things for the sake of art: don’t spend forty minutes in the freezing cold. I had to be thawed like raw chicken.

death of color

photography by arlo perez
makeup and styling by cindy chen

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Maniac Doll

On another wonderful snow day named Juno, instead of simply sitting at home with a slice of pie and hot tea, I decide to pack as many photoshoots into one day as I could. The downside of doing this, however, is that the weather is unpredictable, timing is off and there is no time to plan anything. Good thing we love impromptu shoots. This time it turned out to be a Tim Burton-esque concept showing a girl's unhinging into insanity. 

Oh, and how did I get my face all smooth and shiny you ask? Well, originally I wanted to paint myself into a frosted glass sculpture. Needless to say, it was harder than I thought, as I am not very much human and not at all see-through nor translucent. Thus I turned to petroleum jelly to give my face the 'glaze' it needed. But the the texture of skin just couldn't capture the type of glassy effect I was aiming for and we altered the idea entirely into what you're about to see.

photography by juha turalba
makeup, costume design & modeled by cindy chen

Monday, January 12, 2015

Forest Meets Fantasy Series PII

The Meadow Prancer
photography, makeup & post-processing by cindy chen
model by karolin pflug

Friday, December 26, 2014

Patterns Series: Winded Gems

Edge and Elegance iii

modeled by pia weber
makeup, hair & photography by cindy chen

~ Soft curls pulled by the breeze as they lay on a bed of precious rock ~

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Makeup Tutorial: Edge and Elegance II


Start off with a clean face. Apply foundation all over. I decided to put in the highlights on top of the cheeks, right below the brow bone and on the nose.


Here, instead of shadow, I used three different shades of purple eyeshadow. Notice the cheekbone was more curved than angular. The jaw line and the sides of the face were darkened to add dimension and define the shape. The highlighted areas I enhanced with white eyeshadow. On the eye, I used the same colors as the rest, deep purples, violets and white on the inside of the eyelid. I added a little bit of brown to the eyelid crease to create more drama and some pink for the base of the lid.


Next, I lined the brow with some dark brown and applying mascara (extending those eyelashes as far as they will go). You can see the white eyeshadow more clearly in this photo.


Now we need to sketch on the pattern. The lines are drawn on with a light orange-brown cream and a straight edged brush. The contrast of edge and elegance is apparent in the wavy and straight criss-crossed lines.


Using a black makeup cream and the fine brush, carefully line the sketches and thicken them.


Use the straight edged brush to blend the black inwards to create this effect.


For the crystals, pick up the small stones with a pair of tweezers and work both sides at the same time to keep the design more or less symmetrical when placing them down on the skin. I used eyelash glue, as usual, to stick them on. Normally I would suggest dabbing the glue on the skin directly and then putting the stone on the spot, but because you are using a lot of black, the glue brush will quickly become dirty (and they are hard to clean), so I suggest simply putting a blob on the back of the gem and then placing them on the forehead.


Make sure you’re satisfied with the final touches and you’re done! (I did add an orange-brown line around the nose at the end, which I unfortunately forgot to photograph, but you can see it in the final product)

To see the full photoshoot, click on the final image below!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Mindset of An Unconventional Makeup Artist on a Fastforward Track

 It begins with a feeling. A few disconnected ideas strung together by pieces of scrap. How should I describe it? It's like ripping off a section of lined paper where a raw, unrefined doodle was drawn, or nibbling on the breadcrumbs before biting from the sandwich. Then I unfold the ripped page and examine the casual fiddles of pen. I always draw a face. The features are platonic. It is a scrawl of colorless design that is added to a hidden collection of other doodles, which would eventually serve as the preliminary sketches for a grand photoshoot.

Why is this so important to me?

Why, as a child, did I spend hours arguing with my parents just to defend my little cardboard box from being thrown away? I firmly believed my container of textured buttons, glossy gift wrappers, colored ribbons, abandoned watercolor paints, and shiny rocks were fallen gems that accumulated to become necessary tools of some big artistic endeavor. I didn’t know how to explain that gut feeling, which showed me that in the future, these seemingly useless parts would unify for a purpose. But at that particular moment, I could not find clarity in describing what I envisioned, nor did I have the skills to complete these proposed apparitions. Needless to say, these repeated, heated debates about whether anything should be considered 'garbage' never got anywhere. That is, until I learned how to create accessories from the contents of cardboard box to complement my makeup art.

Now I can articulate my thought process.

I want to live in the present. But I am constantly engaged in conversations about what the past has taught me and what the future beholds. What will benefit my distant self, years from now? How may I overcome all possibilities of failure, avoid regrets and outsmart potential mistakes? I had to understand the trajectory of action very early on. I was taught that my behavior must be calculated so that I am granted with success. All this time, I’ve been running through the motions, thinking that this is how to enjoy the present. But my mind has a hidden agenda. It was trained like a professional to tap an algorithm into the system and automatically spew an analysis of pros, cons, threats and opportunities, short and long-term, yeses and nos.

This was the case, until I discovered a specific type of art. Because of the age gap between my sisters and I, I am used to playing the part of an only child. My playmates were mister pen and paper. I would draw disproportional figures of humans on blank pieces of paper, dampening the corners with my little sweaty palms. I talked out loud in what I thought would be the voices of these characters as I drew them. I became more and more enveloped in the fantasy that was their lives. When the paper no longer had any space, I would simply ball up their world in my small fists, crumple up the hour’s work and dispose of it without second thought.

These were the times when I wanted to be a writer. It gave me the same thrill to come up with stories with characters as interesting as the ones I once drew. A decade later, I found the same pattern of flow in doing makeup with its accommodating costumes and graphic designing. Throughout the one to three hours it took to finish a look, I lost myself in the magic of creation. I no longer threw away my doodles, as they soon became primitive versions of bigger dreams.

At the point of pure focus, I found myself enjoying these moments most.  I felt present. My head was clear, time became absent and my hands became mechanical extensions of a body that provided a heartbeat. This continued through the process of editing later on. The most soothing environment, besides bath time of course, was to be sitting on a leather rolling chair, or a velvet sofa, computer in my lap, lounge jazz music softly audible in the background and a flavored latte in my vicinity (pumpkin spice for autumn, gingerbread for winter and cinnamon for spring, with whipped cream and the occasional sprinkle of caramel syrup or cocoa powder). With this and the white noise of chatter surrounding me, I can go for an average of six to eight hours, tweaking the finest detail on editing software. Erasing a stray hair from the model’s head, or adjusting, for the thousandth time, the luminosity of each hue in the photo—these are the things that I strangely find pleasure in, no matter how frustrating it gets to undo and redo things (or the frequent case of forgetting where I had saved my work from the other night).

Finding the right filter is like choosing candy. Innovating a tailored preset (a set of photoshop actions to auto-edit a collection of photos) is like baking homemade cookies on a wintry evening (forgive my clich├ęs, I’m having a moment). When I’m done, I show my models the photos before anyone else, to garner some opinion, which is usually (but not always) positive. It is understandable that due to the nature of my aesthetic, my models get a bit weary of the outcome of the shoot as I do their makeup in production, because at times it is borderline…alien. Quite frankly, I think some of my best works have come out of allowing improvisation to take its course and I divested so much from my initial sketches that I created a completely different look. So it is rewarding to see the remarkable reactions of my models after they go through the processed photographs of themselves.

Often, they start off pleasantly surprised, followed by a humbled expression such as, “Oh, is that really me?” “I actually look like a model!” and “I can’t believe how good this looks.” My theory of where this gratitude comes from can be explained with an analogy. For a girl who walks around day to day without makeup, the one morning she decides to put on some eyeliner and lipstick, people take notice of the accentuation on her features. Sometimes this helps increase her self-confidence and sometimes it doesn’t make a difference. Then the one-day I decide to go to the extreme and paint on her face, does she finally notice something different about herself. How her cheekbones are defined, how her eyelashes frame the eyes better than falsies do, or howthe shape of her face presents a stunning profile when photographed from an awkward angle. We stare at the mirror everyday, blind to the details in our faces that make us unique and wonderful. Words can’t always show us that these little things exist. We have to discover it ourselves.

Now, I must admit the many flaws in my work. I will tell you that I cannot, for my life, draw symmetrically on a face, or on paper for that matter. I failed when I tried to practice ambidexterity in order to get better at painting myself. I will confess that I don’t know everything about creams and powders as a makeup artist is expected to. My photoshop skills save my amateurish photography skills. I’m just lucky I have a nice camera. Sure, through practice, I can look at a photo and know what looks good, what angles to avoid in modeling, how to hide the fat rolls, the double chin and how to crop, adjust or cover blemishes that I couldn’t hide with makeup. From the editing process, I can pull together a professional editorial with my favorite avant-garde style makeup (or full-blown non-fashion-related body art) inspired by paradoxical, abstract and/or literal concepts. But I compensate where I can for the lack of skills, which many self-taught artists experience. I am still learning the techniques and experimenting on my own. However the biggest benefit gained from all this is learning how to appreciate living in the ‘now’ and finding meditation in what I love to do.

With love, 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Makeup Tutorial: Edge and Elegance Look


Start with a clean, bare face.
Apply foundation a slight shade lighter than the model’s skin tone for areas that want to be highlighted and darker around areas that need to be shadowed i.e. under the cheekbones, sides of the face, under the jaw line. This is very soft contour without using contrasting highlights and shadow cream makeup.

 Olive tan and golden spice were the most versatile color for a variety of skin tones.


Fill in the eyebrows with a shade of brown that matches your own eyebrows. Then apply a smokey eye effect.


Begin to pattern the face at the top middle section of your face.
Concentrate on making big swirls, making some lines thicker and thinner. Be careful to wait until the drawings are dry as you work your way down because I have, on many occasions, been frustrated by accidental smudging of my palm on her forehead. 

I used this fine liquid eyeliner to draw the lines. 


Keep continuing the swirls down the side of her neck and over one shoulder until you get the desired effect.

That’s all! This is the final result:

To see the full shoot of this look, click here or the photo above.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pattern Series: Clashing Lines

Edge and Elegance ii

modeled by pia weber
makeup, hair & photography by cindy chen

~ Pixels of jewels find consonance in the amity of blurred edges. ~

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