The Skin Canvas

June 26, 2016 , by Jerusha Rai, Leave your thoughts
Shradha Maskey is a self-taught makeup artist creating bold and beautiful works of art on the human face. Not one to shy away from globs of glitter or even UV neon makeup, her experiments with surreal beauty has led to collaborations with famed contemporary fashion photographer Sanjog Rai and actors Jharana Bajracharya and Anmol KC. Her work has been featured in the international Elegant Magazine, ECS Living, and has graced the runways at Parcha Fashion Show.


Just one look at Maskey’s portfolio makes it clear that she is a prolific and versatile artist. Be it a cubist camouflage reminiscent of Chagall, or a lace veil drawn directly onto the face, Maskey keeps exploring variety and questioning the very idea of beauty.

“Whenever I see paintings, masks, or even simply color combinations in my everyday surroundings, I am curious to see what it would look like on the human face,” shares Maskey. “I used to draw a lot when I was a kid. I used to lie in bed and let my imagination flow, and I would see these images that I would immediately get up and draw. Even now after I put my little son to sleep, I light up the two showboxes I have at home and experiment with makeup on myself”.

Maskey’s interest in makeup in particular started fairly early. When her younger sister Shilpa participated in dance programs, she would do the makeup for all her little dancer friends. As she grew up and moved to London, Maskey would peruse heaps of fashion magazines and start learning techniques through YouTube tutorials.

It was when she started posting her own work online that she was contacted by Parcha Productions London to work on some of their fashion photo shoots. Maskey was then featured as a makeup artist at Parcha Fashion Show, one of the most anticipated annual events among the young Nepali diaspora in the UK.

She has now worked with models and photographers from various backgrounds both in London and Kathmandu, but her proudest project to date is ‘Divine Apathy’, a collaboration with photographer Sanjog Rai, which portrays the actress-model Jharana Bajracharya as a regal goddess. The stunning image indeed shows a harmonious chemistry between the talented team members.


“I also enjoyed working with Anmol KC on his portfolio. One of the concepts was to present him as the Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland) for which we didn’t have any materials whatsoever,” shares Maskey. “We made the hat from chart paper, collected my little sister’s hair clips and extensions; we had to get real crafty and it was a lot of fun.” She is currently researching Lakhe (a demon in Nepali folklore) for a fashion editorial with designer Ashok Awal, which promises to be yet another visual treat as she increasingly finds inspiration from her traditional roots.

“In Nepal, makeup is limited to commercial and glamour work. I’d like to spread the idea of makeup as an art-form, and change attitudes towards it,” says Maskey. “Wearing makeup is sometimes assumed to be vanity; people say they would much rather ‘be a natural’. But makeup is not about concealing yourself, or wearing a facade. It is a way of expressing your own identity, enhancing your unique features. I feel more like myself when I am wearing makeup and sense a huge difference in the way people approach me”.


Apparently, it is not about being trendy either, as Maskey relates how she despises the current makeup trend of sharp contours and block eyebrows. “This kind of look was actually started by the transgender community and it just is not for everyone,” says a frustrated Maskey. “I always advise brides who want me to do their wedding-day makeup that way. You don’t want to look back at your wedding pictures and feel embarrassed, like we do when we think about our ‘fashionable’ look from our younger days. Trends come and go, your individuality is what you will always have”.

Maskey is currently writing for M&S Vmag, contributing regular features on makeup tools and techniques. Come August, she will revisit Nepal to conduct makeup workshops and tutorials. She hopes to spread the fashion industry know-how she received during her four months course with the iconic makeup artist Val Garland (Vogue, Mac). “The course gave me a better idea about the practical sides to professional makeup work, for example, what constitutes editorial makeup, how to get published with pro photographers, networking, challenges you might face backstage and so on.”


Sensing increased work opportunities for makeup artists in Nepal, the artist advises interested young people to make their hobby a profession. “When you work on something you love, you never run out of energy”, she says – full of advice for upstarts. “Get the most use out of social media. Make your Instragram profile should look professional and organized. Also, think of your identity as a makeup artist when creating your social media profiles. If you want to go for fashion editorial makeup, refrain from advertising your commercial services in the same place. For example, bridal makeup may be your main source of income, you can always make a different profile for that.”


However, she acknowledges that it is rather difficult to survive as a make up artist in Nepal or elsewhere as even the connoisseur had her own doubts and her moments of uncertainty. “Sometimes I get stressed thinking about where I am in life, whether I can continue in this field without a ‘normal’ job,” she says but she is quick to point out that when she looks back and sees how much she has grown, the responsibilities people have trusted her with, she says that she feels like she is doing well in life. For this, she thanks her family and friends for their support and encouragement along the way.

“Making mistakes does not mean you are bad at it. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Its just makeup! You can wipe it off and try again,” are her words of encouragements. In fact, she says that, at times when she makes a mistake and she’s scrubbing it out, she stumbles upon an entirely new look.

“You can discover beauty in unexpected ways.”

Words & Photos by Jerush Rai.
Read more from Jerusha here.

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Categorised in: Arts

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