Book Club: "Face Forward" by Kevyn Aucoin

Posted by Meghan
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(R) Gwyneth Paltrow as Faye Dunnaway in "Bonnie and Clyde".

The world of makeup instruction can be very daunting for those who are inexperienced with makeup (this is most unfortunate since they’re the people who crave instruction the most!). There are seemingly many rules, lots of variables, and the inevitable fear of looking terrible. Kevyn Aucoin, however, is here to dispel your fears. Kevyn was a makeup artist who was immensely successful in the 80s and 90s doing commercial and high fashion makeup. Throughout the course of his short career (he passed away in 2002) he made many, many celebrity friends with whom he became close. Kevyn wrote two books on makeup instruction, “Making Faces” and “Face Forward,” and both are pretty similar in style. Kevyn commissioned some of his closest friends––famous and otherwise––to model his work for his books. In “Face Forward,” Aucoin sections the book off, starting with basic makeup techniques and more “everyday” looks, followed by vintage and historical looks from Ancient Egypt to Barbra Streisand, to looks which Kevyn considers to be the future of makeup.

Aucoin’s text is playful and inviting with a distinctly 90s feel that embraces the diversity and uniqueness of each individual photographed in the book (Kevyn peppers his text with nothing but glowing things to say about each of his friends and includes personal anecdotes from moments he’s shared with them). He is very much about celebrating the fun of makeup and rejects any and all rules which take it too seriously. Aucoin is sparing with the details of his instruction as well as with the brand names of products and tools. Rather than lead the reader too heavily with overly specific instruction, he’s very good at drafting a rough outline of how to achieve each look, allowing the reader to adapt it and make it their own. This is really just an extension of his philosophy of makeup without rules and embracing individuality. No set of instructions can account for the unique attributes of each individual face––Aucoin is adept at recognizing that and encourages his reader to do so as well.

Every face he creates in “Making Faces” is beautiful, but the obvious highlights for me were the vintage looks he created on his celebrity friends. This is mainly because Kevyn’s real skill as a makeup artist reveals itself through these images. He takes many familiar faces––Winona Ryder, Gina Rowlands, and Susan Sarandon, to name a few––and completely transforms them, some of them unrecognizably so, into the image of yet another famous face. Perhaps the most astonishing transformation is Martha Stewart as Veronica Lake, whose likeness to her in uncanny with Aucoin’s touch. Kevyn’s love of movies, music, culture and people really translates through these pages and you can’t help but be inspired, his energy is simply too infectious.

(L) Christina Ricci as Edith Piaf. (R) Julia Roberts as Julie Christie in "Doctor Zhivago".


(L) Christy Turlington as Marissa Berenson. (R) Kiara Kabakuru as Dianna Ross.


(L) Gina Gershon as Barbra Streisand. (R) Winona Ryder as Elizabeth Taylor.


(L) Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis. (R) Karen Elson as Queen Elizabeth I.


(L) Tina Turner as Cleopatra. (R) Martha Stewart as Veronica Lake.

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