From fashion campaigns to smash hit singers and from runway shows to being the first UK ambassador for Dior, ANDREW GALLIMORE is blazing a beauty trail. TWENTY6 speaks to him to find out what makes him tick.
“I want to push the boundaries. I never want somebody beautiful to look anything less than that when I do their make up, but I want to be able to play with the whole idea of beauty.”
Pushing the boundaries might mean black diamond lips, Clockwork Orange eyelashes made from plastic bags, crude impasto smudges of pigment and Kabuki-style flourishes– and as extraordinary as it looks, Andrew Gallimore’s make up never detracts from the real beauty of the faces underneath the make up.
Andrew Gallimore has imagination to spare, but he also has the dogged determination to turn it into reality. He’s the type of dedicated worker who doesn’t take holidays because he knows that the moment he steps on a plane is the moment the call for a career-changing job comes. He’s the type of guy who loves having days off when everybody else is at work because it means he can go to the latest exhibition and imbibe a host of new ideas. His work is his play, his pleasure, his passion – and that’s why he’s so damn good at it.
Andrew Gallimore grew up in the Midlands, in Stoke-on-Trent where, he says,
“there wasn’t a lot to do - Royal Doulton, Robbie Williams and Oatcakes is what it’s known for!”
But although his hometown must have seemed at times to be a creative vortex, Gallimore’s childhood was rich with artistic expression.
“For as long as I can remember it was always the same thing underneath the Christmas tree for me, year after year: sketchpads, crayons, craft sets – my whole family really celebrated and cultivated my artistic leanings from a very young age.”
Indeed he cites his mother,
“a very hands-on woman who was always working in textiles” as one of his earliest influences. Mum always “put her face on, and I was pretty fascinated with that from an early age.”
But it wasn’t until Gallimore was a couple of years into his Interactive Arts course at Manchester Met that he realised that swapping a canvas for a face was the step which would bring out his true creative talents. He’d been asked to help out on a multimedia club night and had rushed in, all brushes blazing, to paint the girls for the fashion show part of the night.
“The only make-up I had was fancy dress clown stuff, and I had to use the brushes I normally paint with, but surprisingly, it ended up looking great! From that day, I have always approached my work with the eye of a painter.”
Gallimore sees makeup not as a craft but as an art form: the colour, texture, line, composition.
“I don’t see that what I’m doing now is any less creative than something you’d hang in a gallery – I approach my work in exactly the same way, the only difference is that it’s art on demand.”
When you look at something like his American Lips - shot for the America issue of 125 magazine - you can tell that he approaches the face in the same considered way that a fine artist might approach the canvas. Thick with texture and dripping with slodgy, waxy paint - so tactile you want to reach out and lick it off the page – the lips are without doubt the work of an artist.
“They’re so sleazy aren’t they?”
“I think they’re pretty symbolic, you know, all that glitters isn’t gold. They asked me to do America and that was how I thought of it.”
His frame of reference is vast – during our conversation he cites influences from medical illustrations to Rene Gruau’s linear drawings, from Marlene Dumas’s washes of colour to John Water’s Pink Flamingos. His artistic training has taught him to scavenge his surroundings for inspiration, collecting references to pile into his scrap books and save for a rainy day.
“I really get a kick out of seeing something go from an idea into a research file or sketchbook and then into a reality – there’s great satisfaction to that process.”
This scholarly approach has earned him editorials in Elle, Harper’s, V, got him campaigns with big guns like Agent Provocateur and Boots No 7, and has allowed him work with photographers from David Bailey to Rankin. Perhaps the greatest accolade of all was becoming the first UK makeup artist to get a contract as a Dior Makeup Ambassador, a huge honour in the profession.
Gallimore’s great attention to detail and professionalism made him an easy choice for Dior, but he is always quick to say that if it wasn’t for Sharon Dowsett – a fellow CLM make-up artist and the person who opened the door into professional make-up for Andrew – things might be different.
“God, if it wasn’t for her I’d probably be working up in Granada studios caking foundation onto Liz McDonald!”
Gallimore had contacted Dowsett for quotes for his final year dissertation,
“Make-up as an Art Form”.
She took a shine to him, brought him on for a shoot at Dazed and the rest, as they say, is history. Gallimore packed up and moved to London and for the next four years he was her first assistant.
“Meeting Sharon and moving to London were the two big catalysts for my career. I’m still learning from her, and being in London is my biggest inspiration – I don’t think I would want to be doing my job anywhere else in the world right now.”
But that’s not to say he doesn’t mind the travelling. His work has brought him to far-flung places across the globe, and he’s worked on faces as diverse as Elizabeth Hurley and Marilyn Manson.
“Yeah, I did Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese in the back of a caravan!” he recalls, “I used to always say that making up Marilyn Manson would be the pinnacle of my career, but then I did it. So now I’ve got to find a new aim. Funny how that’s always changing.”
Gallimore is particularly attracted to the unusual faces, the renegade beauties that allow his creative impulses to run riot when he’s doing their make-up. His relationship with Beth Ditto is one that really allows him to go where he wants to go.
“With her I can just go mad. She’s up for anything, and that’s a breath of fresh air.”
Gallimore’s artistic energy clings to Ditto’s pores in the freaky black slashes of eyeliner and the neon smudges of shadow that we have now come to associate with the genre-defying singer.
But he’s not all about the freakishly fabulous, admitting that often there’s nothing more satisfying than
“doing a full, good old-fashioned face – blending the eyeshadow, lining the lips and contouring the cheekbones.”
He’s smart enough to know when to hold back too.
“Sometimes making skin look beautiful means putting nothing on it. And just because I’m being paid to do make up doesn’t mean I should slap a whole load of product onto something that’s already perfect.”
It’s clear that whatever he’s doing – whether it’s perfecting a young model’s already flawless features for a Vogue Fashion shoot or twisting the boundaries of beauty on hot new popstrel Jessie J – Gallimore loves his work.
“I don’t want to sound like a candy-coated twat and say I love working with everybody, because I don’t love working with everybody. But 9 times out of 10, whether it’s creative shoots on models or just a bit of lip balm on an actress, I get so much out of my job – its diversity, the people I get to meet. I’d never want to do anything else.”
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INTERVIEW / Alannah Sparks
IMAGES / TWENTY6 / 125 Magazine