PAINTING OUTSIDE THE LINES WITH AYAMI NISHIMURA
Screengrabs talks to prolific make-up artist, Ayami Nishimura on creating unforgettable looks with a brush stroke
Make-up artist Ayami Nishimura’s career spans magazine covers and photoshoots, fashion films, campaigns, a colour direction role for POLA B.A., exhibitions in international galleries, and the publishing of her own beauty book titled Ayami Nishimura by Rankin. Nishimura’s work has a true signature gracing the covers of various Vogues, Dazed & Confused, Elle and more.
Born in Japan, Nishimura moved to London in her twenties. “Growing up in Japan wasn’t so easy for me,” she recalls. “Now I see Japan very differently because I haven’t lived there in a long time. It’s a beautiful country. It’s different from anywhere else. But growing up was very strict, very conservative. I’ve always felt, I’m a little bit different.”
“By hanging out I was meeting new, young photographers, stylists and designers and they were openminded. Then I wanted to do make-up too.” - Ayami Nishimura
Nishimura felt free and comfortable in London. In the beginning, she did not focus on make-up, but started her career in hairdressing in the early 90s. “By hanging out I was meeting new, young photographers, stylists and designers and they were openminded. Then I wanted to do make-up too, so I was doing both in the beginning. Then I found myself- I think I only want to do make-up because I’m into colours. It’s more like I’m painting them, creating sculptures. So, I decided to only do make-up. I just wanted to express something; I’d suggest my own ideas and just create my own style, so that’s how I started” Nishimura adds that she would also go to the Central Saint Martins library for make-up research to look at magazines such as The Face, i-D, Vogue, W, and Harper’s Bazaar.
Though it is obvious that make-up is a form of art, Nishimura’s signature style is vivid and almost looks as if it was done with paint-like brush strokes. She is dynamic and versatile, not limiting herself to one style. One of her favourite shoots that she’s done is a Dazed & Confused December 2008 cover with Kate Somers and Nathan Sutherland in vibrant, drawing-like make-up that was done in 10 minutes by Nishimura and shot by Daniel Sannwald.
Dazed & Confused December 2008. Photo: Daniel Sannwald, Models: Kate Somers and Nathan Sutherland. Image courtesy of Ayami Nishimura.
Ayami Nishimura by Rankin book cover. Photo: Rankin, Model: Hollie-May Saker, Hair: Angelo Seminara. Image courtesy of Ayami Nishimura.
As for her published book, the cover was inspired from HR Gieger’s Alien Design, which she wanted to express through make-up, creating a strong visual imagery for its cover.
Ayami Nishimura’s stunning work can also be seen in short form video for Vogue Arabia, Dior Make-up, Steve Madden, Numéro and more. When asked whether she thinks her artistic process changes when she works in video format versus a print medium, Nishimura answers that though the make-up itself does not change, a level of perfection is required as retouching and adjustments are rare in this format.
“I like working and playing with colours. I like expressing something by colours, in the combination of colours and how I use it and emphasise something. I’m good at it and I’ve been doing it for a long time. I really like the New Romantic period and Punk. Usually, I want to do a colourful version of that or take ideas of the shapes from that period. Gothic as well” she expands enthusiastically.
“You are in the mountains and lakes and it’s just really amazing to walk around. And then leaves change colours and all the different animals and the farm, the colour of the sky… I think I learn a lot.” - Ayami Nishimura
“I get inspiration from nature as well” Nishimura adds, and though she is greatly inspired by the natural world, she is also a fan of urban life, moving to New York in 2013. “I like going Upstate, a couple of hours drive from New York and then you are in nature. You are in the mountains and lakes and it’s just really amazing to walk around. And then leaves change colours and all the different animals and the farm, the colour of the sky… I think I learn a lot.” Similarly, when it comes to research, Nishimura doesn’t have one specific method she explores, rather she is inspired by the books she has at home, galleries, museums, installations, her make-up room and of course, talking to other individuals.
Nishimura’s references also include cinema, which she is passionate about from older films to contemporary works. Her favourites include Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange and other Kubrick films, Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Psycho, Tokyo Story directed by Yasujirō Ozu, the Coen Brothers’ works and many more. Both Jane Fonda’s Barbarella and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde serve as inspiration for unique character looks. As for fellow colleagues and make-up artists in the industry, Nishimura enjoys the work of various creatives, “Diane Kendal is an amazing make-up artist and Peter Philips and Pat McGrath. This young make-up artist who is new and upcoming, I really, really like her make-up. Her name is Cécile Paravina. I really respect Serge Lutens. I have two of his books. I think what he did for Shiseido was amazing” describes Nishimura.
Vogue Czechoslovakia. Photo: Guillaume Roemaet, Model: Lily Nova. Image courtesy of Ayami Nishimura.
ISSUE Magazine. Photo: Jason Kim, Model: Kyla Ramsey. Image courtesy of Ayami Nishimura.
“I’d love to do my own make-up line. That’s my next ambition.” - Ayami Nishimura
Photo: Danielle Saint Laurent, Model: Joony Kim. Image courtesy of Ayami Nishimura.
Ayami Nishimura was the colour director for POLA B.A. for four years, her introduction into the production process of cosmetics and the business market of products, which encouraged her to develop her own product line in the future. “It was fun going to Japan and visiting labs. I’ve never been to a lab before. I learned how to work with corporate people, because you know, it’s not like a photoshoot and everyone is creative, so it’s great to deal with. It’s a different field, with people from different fields and different conversations. They are obviously thinking about sales and marketing as well, so I think it was great to work on and that’s now my huge dream, I’d love to do my own make-up line. That’s my next ambition” she expresses.
With such an incredible career already, we truly cannot wait to see what Ayami Nishimura does next. Whether that is her own make-up line which is bound to be full of colour and unique hues or her next cover or short film, Screengrabs will be paying close attention.
Vogue Japan. Photo: Lacey, Models: Hannah Locsin, Bomi Youn, Manami Kinoshita. Image courtesy of Ayami Nishimura.