A welcome addition to London’s avant-garde scene, MUA Luke Harris seems to tick all the right boxes. Beside a friendly personality and an accent that couldn’t sound further removed from “Sarf” East London where he claims he grew up, he also possesses an innate talent for the old maquillage. As each and every one of his outré appearances prove, he indeed lives and breathes his art. We’re talking way of life here, not just working a look for an odd night out. No one will argue that his attention to detail borders on perfection, which only leaves other make-up artists green with envy.
So how does he do it and how did he get started?
“One of the reasons I started painting my face and going night clubbing was because I got alopecia,” he explains. “I was 21 and it was my way of dealing with this new look and finding a way to celebrate it. The first time I appeared anywhere in full face was at the Black Cap’s Meth Lab. I wore a milk carton on my head and soon realised I was doing something right when people began clapping and snapping me. That was the validation that I needed. No hair means you can work on a blank canvas and paint as much as you want.”
Later on, he started making his mark with more idiosyncratic looks at Ultra Violet, the short-lived weekly night at Shadow Lounge. That’s when he got into the habit of creating a new look every week. “That’s also where we launched the Haus-Bound creative collective of club kids,” he goes on. The posse included mainly Carlos Whisper, Prince Jason Jason, Eppie, Elli$e and Ellis Atlantis, and all of them made an impact on the scene from then on. “We hosted events like Room Service, Pride 2015 and, later, the Milkshake festival in Amsterdam,” he reminisces. “The Ultraviolet days were the times when we would be in looks almost 5 days a week and hungover for 6. It felt like we were reviving the club kid scene by taking our looks everywhere. Likewise at the time when Sink the pink was held at Bethnal Green’s Working Men’s Club, the dive where we didn’t mind sweating off the makeup and behaving debaucherously.”
Nowadays, apart from patronizing regular events like Sink The Pink, Wut?Club and Dollar baby, LH tends to save his looks for the clubs he actually works for. He hosts regularly at Berlin Berlin and Gold Diggers at egg, not forgetting the Life Ball event held in the main City Hall, a palace notoriously named the Rathausplatz.
When asked about the decline of London’s club scene, he disagrees by stating that there are quite a lot of new faces cropping up which makes it more exciting. “These people are having a go at being creative,” he insists. “A bunch of young faces are coming over from all over the place, which refreshes the scene. I understand that it’s not what it used to be, but people are feeling more free to express themselves. There are new events popping up as they close old ones down. There’s a slight worry that things are starting to get saturated and becoming corporate, like for example companies buying out tickets for office dos in places that are normally reserved for punters who actually live it. That sometimes makes me feel like a tourist attraction on my own turf. That’s why it’s important that people take their looks to the street and start new things and new events.”
The makeup thing was born accidentally when he started painting his friends’ faces and people asked him to do shoots. It snowballed from there. He didn’t have any formal training as he originally intended to go into costume and menswear design with the degree he got from Ravensbourne Uni. “That suited me because I like to create a whole character from head to toe,” he observes. “I regard it as one of many paths leading to something bigger as long as the final goal is creating something. I don’t mind how I get there. I get bored doing one thing so I tend to dip my toes in many ponds. I’m happy being a Jack of all trades so long as I am master of all. The more I do and the less I mind which the direction I’m taking. I have to say that makeup is very much my yellow brick road at the moment and it’s working out really well for me.”
“The process of how I do my makeup, as people always ask me, is I pull it out of the bag a couple of hours before the event. I don’t plan, I do. Unless the event calls for a specific theme which means I can narrow all my ideas down to one. I’ve been drawing since I was 3, so it’s just a matter of turning the pencil from paper to someone’s face. Technique-wise, I’m a perfectionist, so I just draw the line and then clean up. It’s all down to practice and the obvious thing of trying and trying again. Sometimes being your own worst critic also helps. The opportunities that I’ve had and prospects that I’m working on could take me to a whole huge career. Funds are needed!”
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