Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a happy, warm, and peaceful holiday season.

Art:  Fairfield Porter; The Christmas Tree, 1971; Lithograph in colors. Via Rago Auction House in Lambertville, NJ.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

FotD: Shimmer Green Eye Shadow

I need a short break from the pile of NARS products and from reviews in general, so let's see what I've done when let loose with some green shimmery stuff. I've been doing variations on this look with different products, including a toned-down one that's darker yet significantly muted than what you see here using YSL Eye Duo Smoker in 02 Smoky Green, which is dual ended shadow stick (one side is a cream hunter green while the other is a shimmer sage green). What I've learned is that I get the best results (in my opinion) by using as few eye shadows as possible. One cream/stick shadow and a brighter powder one are my ideal combination. It's definitely a look and makes a statement, but still very much in my comfort zone.

Edward Bess Precious Pearl Black Sea Primer
La Mer Soft Fluid Foundation SPF 20 (20? why even bother?) in Neutral, which I think is a great match. Applied with a Beauty Blender.
No concealer
Guerlain Météorites Pearls in 03 as my finishing powder. Mine is the old version, Beige Chic, now called Medium.

Etude House Proof 10 Primer
Bobbi Brown Cream Shadow Stick in Forest. This color is now discontinued and I'm trying to finish the last dregs in mine, but Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Jungle will do (it's more khaki), as will Kiko Milano in #10 if you want to go brighter. Or the YSL. In any case, I blended it all over the lid and into the crease, then reapplied a little more over the outer part of the lid.
Strobe Cosmetics Alchemy eye shadow applied with a dampened flat synthetic brush all over the outer 2/3rd of the mobile lid.
Clinique High Impact mascara.

Burberry Silk & Bloom blush from last year. Did you get this year's version? I'm sure it can do just as well. This blush has enough glow that I skipped highlighter in the name of getting out of the door on time.

Rimmel Exaggerate lip pencil in 070 Enchantment
I also made a messy mix of Kevyn Aucoin Bloodroses lipstick and MAC Cremesheen Glass in Deelight and applied it on with a brush when it looked right to me. These concoctions are why I take so long to get ready.

Other Stuff
Denim jacket is my trusty and soft snap jacket from Current/Elliott. They still make it and it looks the same online, just beware that the jacket runs small if you're busty. I had to size up significantly.
Brooch- vintage Kenzo
Earrings- another vintage find.
SotD- Memo Italian Leather from a sample. I think I prefer Irish Leather because it's punchier, but this one is interesting for the tomato leaf note.

Monday, December 04, 2017

NARS Man Ray Collection Holiday 2017- Eyes (Swatches & reviews)

NARS Man Ray Collection for  Holiday 2017 includes two limited edition eye shadow palettes,  Glass Tears (in the photos above), and Love Game, which is only available in the UK and several European countries. The specific shades in the Glass Tears palettes are also limited, even though you can find similar ones in the permanent collection. The point here is the set as an artistic choice and the various looks you can expect to get from them. There's something very NARS about the Glass Tears palette. Just like in this collection duos see below) as well as in the large permanent NARS line, it does not shy away from pairing strong dark colors together. It can go editorial or tame, bright or soft, and you don't need to use more than 2-3 colors for your eye look, no matter what statement you're making.

Glass Tears offers two matte colors and four satins. They're generally softer in texture than many NARS duos which are usually best applied by  patting them on the lid with goat or pony hair brushes before blending them softly. The shadows are somewhat powdery but not messy  (I didn't clean up the swatches above, done with my trusty old Paula Dorf flat eye brush). 

The shades are (top row, l-r):
 Cry Baby, an ivory creamy matte. On my skin it's more like a soft and very fine face powder. It shows no pigment even on the darkest part of my lid (no chalkiness, either), so I use it lightly over a primer to perfect the base, and it definitely helps in blending.
 Heartbreaker, a blackened teal green. It's the star of this palette, naturally, and can be used by itself easily, or paired with gold. You can also create a smoky eye worthy of a silent film star.
 Loverboy, a matte black. Does anyone need another black matte eye shadow? No. But the artistry of this palette and the looks it's meant to create would be incomplete without it.
(bottom row, l-r):
 Tryst, a shimmer gold that leans somewhat green on an olive-toned skin. A lid or inner corner color, a great companion to most  eye shadows in the palette.
 One & Only, a shimmery olive. Tryst might be its natural partner, but using it along with the teal color is very very NARS.
 Vengeance, a classic warm medium brown with a low shimmer finish. Perhaps the most versatile but it would be a shame to stick with neutral combination. So again, go teal.

The image used on the palette's cover is Man Ray's Les Larmes from 1932 (or 1934, depending on the source). While the model was unnamed and I could not find any information about her other than that she was probably a can-can dancer, the theme of the palette seems to be the breaking of Man Ray's relationship with fellow artist Lee Miller. The need for revenge and vengeance was behind many Man Ray works that cut and frame the model (often Miller herself) in a violent way.

NARS Glass Tears Palette ($49, made in US) is a limited edition item for Holiday 2017. available at most NARS retail points. I bought mine at Ulta.

Left: Montparnasse, right: Debauched





The two eye shadow duos from the NARS Man Ray collection are Montparnasse and Debauched. They could not be more different. Montparnasse is a classic combination of a shimmery very pale gold (the left side) and a pearlescent very brown plummy color with somewhat of a reddish base. The colors are easy to work with, and my favorite way to wear them is by blending the dark shade obnoxiously all over the lid and beyond, topping it with the gold in the middle of the lid. No transition shade, no seven layers of crease colors. I've also used the gold under the lower lashes, where people whose eyes aren't sunken halfway into the skull would use the plum.

Those crying for transition shades would not find their relief in Debauched. Here the left side is a browned out purple and the right is made of scattered red micro-glitter in a dark off-black (or charcoal) base. I'm guessing it's an inferno reference. I can wear dark color on my eyes but I don't always want to go that deep. It's a welcome challenge for those of us who think they've seen and worn it all. Of course, one can always use either one to jazz up a neutral palette, but I think it's meant to evoke looks such as these ones of actress Theda Bara (nothing to do with Man Ray):

If you're trying to decide between the duos my suggestion is Debauched. You can easily find approximations and equivalents for Montparnasse in most makeup collections, but Debauched is unique. Is it a must have? I'd go out on a limb and say that nothing that contains red glitter is a necessity. But it's a look.

NARS Debauched and Montparnasse ($36 each, made in Canada) are available from all NARS sellers. While the website labels them as limited to the Man Ray collection, I understand from the press materials that they'll join the permanent line. Both were sent for my consideration by PR (for consideration=no obligation to endorse or even mention).

Artwork in the photos: Untitled, 1936, and The Witness, 1947.

The last eye products in the collection are two velvet eyeliners in Nagoya (straightforward purple violet) and Santiago (a coppery brown). They're a different formula than the much-beloved Larger Than Life eyeliners, softer, smudgier, and not quite as long lasting, but the don't migrate as much as a kohl would move around. They seem to have been designed to go with the eye shadow duos and are definitely great for expanding the range of looks they create. Neither one has the Man Ray lips logo or any indication that they're part of a limited collection, but the site clearly states that they're limited

NARS Velvet Eyeliners ($24 each, made in Germany) are available from and most other retailers.  Both were sent for consideration by PR.

Artwork used: Man Ray, Barbette Making Up, 1926.

NARS Man Ray Makeup Collection For Holiday 1917- A Quick Overview

Man Ray, 1932

As you probably know by now, NARS released a Man Ray-themed collection for holiday 2017. NARs usually goes big and impressive on holiday collections, especially when Francois Nars chooses a personal favorite as the inspiration (remember the Andy Warhol collection?). I was extremely excited about this one because while surrealism is not necessarily my thing Man Ray's fashion photography and portraits have been part of my mental landscape for many years.

The PR box I received found me doing a not so flattering jaw-meet-floor because everything in it was so beautiful and right, doing justice to both artist and customer. It was definitely the cure for my cynicism towards makeup collections (and brands) of late; the artwork was good for the soul. While I was sent most items from the Man Ray collection it was not everything, so I promptly hopped online to get a couple more that I knew I wanted. Like many other American NARS fans I was deeply disappointed to learn that one of the jewels of the collection, the Love Game eye shadow palette was exclusive to Space NK UK and the countries they serve. US Space NK was not included. I was examining the hoops necessary to jump in order to get it anyway, but eventually decided that it was a bit much, considering the number of palettes I have in general and NARS eye shadows in particular. I still sulked.

Why, Francois, why?

My original intention was to drop the swatches and reviews gradually,  but it's too much and we're getting closer to the holidays. So I'll do it in large consecutive batches, mostly by function. What you need to know is that in NARS usually splits big collections to Gifting collection (sets and other jaw-droppers) and Color collection (smaller and usually cheaper items). It doesn't really matter (try asking a store employee that wasn't trained by NARS and you'll see what I mean), so I did not make the distinction. One of the great things about NARS limited items is that they make enough of them. They don't completely sell out for quite a while. However, a few items are supposedly exclusive to certain retail doors. It only partially true, as looking in the press material and online has proven to me. I bought one of the NARS stores/online exclusives from Sephora weeks after it was labeled unavailable on My advice: look online for whatever it is you want, and if you don't see it call your local stores directly (that includes but not limited to Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, and other department stores, as well as the brand's regional standalone locations).

So let's start unpacking the collection.

Bonus: recommended reading for art and fashion photography enthusiasts. 

I've used two books for research and as background  in my photographs:
Man Ray, Lee Miller- Partners in Surrealism by Phillip Prodger, Lynda Roscoe Harigan, Antony Penrose,  2011, Merrell
Man Ray in Paris by Eric Garcia, 2011, Getty Museum

Friday, December 01, 2017

Currently- November/December 2017 Edition

Is it me or does the image above, Vanity Fair's December 1917 cover oddly and appropriately creepy?

Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas. None of my usual comfort rereads wasn't doing it so I've gone prairie. It's cute and better for peace of mind than Philip K. Dick.

Ryan Adams covering Tegan & Sara's Back In Your Head. Actually the entire  The Con X: Covers is excellent and all proceeds from it benefit The Tegan and Sara Foundation, which fights for health, economic justice, and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.

Binging on art documentaries.  Every show made and written by Waldemar Januszczak is excellent: informative, thought-provoking, and wonderfully entertaining. The Renaissance would never be the same for me (and some things cannot be unseen). I need to look at his books.

I'm supposed to have a good re-sniff trying to think about the year's best releases, but it just makes me want more vintage. Not that there weren't a handful of things I truly loved and joined my collection, but the disappointments were many and colossal. Do I have enough pre-reformulation Miel de Bois backups?

Lancome Monsieur Big mascara. Hate the name, love the lashes.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Scarves and the various accessories that hold them in place just so. See below.

How to use a penanular brooch. I saw an antique(ish) Scottish penannular on eBay and wanted to know how it works. I lost the auction but gained a couple of ideas for accessories I can use in a similar way.

I'm ok with guacamole as a food group.


Right this moment Sophie and Olivia are playing "Mouse for Cats" on my iPad together. They seem to take turns catching the mouse, and Sophie is somewhat better at this game. Occasionally they slap each other, but somehow it works out.

A new year.

A week without what the writers on call the "Perv of the day advent calendar".

Random Thought
Do you believe that Meghan really "knew nothing" about Prince Harry before their blind date? Regardless, I love her and the two of them together.

How are you? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

Pat McGrath Labs- Mothership I: Subliminal Palette Swatches & Review

Here’s the bottom line: I can’t use the old cliche “if you only buy one palette/makeup item this season let it be this one”. Not in good faith. And it’s not because Pat McGrath’s Mothership I Subliminal isn’t the most exciting release of the year, in my opinion. It is. It’s also gorgeous beyond anything my pictures show. And incredibly versatile, offering in only ten shades various options for understated neutral elegance, award show glamour, creative editorial looks, fun and fashionable, edgy and dark... you name it and it’s right there waiting for your brushes and fingers. The quality is superb in every way, from what beauty bloggers call “buttery” and Pat McGrath refers to as “emollient”, to pigment saturation. The Subliminal palette is easy to apply and blend if you know what you’re doing; and have I mentioned it’s gorgeous? The packaging, too, I mean. Heavy, luxurious, with a beautiful beveled mirror that you will actually use.

It costs $125.

And that’s why I can’t say that Subliminal is a must-have and feel right about it. But the palette does bring me joy when I use it (I don't mean to sound like Marie Kondo who doesn't have monopoly o feeling joy), as well as inspiration. I’ve done a one color look, a two, three, and four shade looks, and there’s still room for exploration there. It reminds me again and again why I fell in love with makeup all those years ago. If you’ve read my big palette post from earlier this week you know that’s a lot.

So what do we have inside Pat McGrath’s packaging? What is it about the ten eye shadows that creates the magic? I think it’s the combination of taupes, the bluest blue, the duochrome colors, and that stunning special effect topper that isn’t exactly white and isn’t exactly opalescent (and is nearly impossible to capture on camera) that deliver beautiful looks.

Here are the colors and my notes about using them.

Top Row (top of wrist downward)
Skinshow Nude- Shimmery/pearly pale golden beige. It's a long description for a deceivingly basic color. It can be the main lid color or an inner corner highlighter. Also works for me under the lower lash line since I've learned on Pat McGrath's site that you can use it wet or dry.
Depth- A cool dusty earthy brown matte. Blends seamlessly on the outer v and can become the star of a soft daytime smoky eye.
Ultimate Taupe- The name says it all. A pale greigy matte taupe.
Pale Gold 002- A true yellow gold metallic color. It's another wet/dry formula, but I have yet to feel a need to dampen my brush for it. It brings a lot of life the inner corner of the eye on a gray day.
VR Violet-  Apparently the VR stands for virtual reality. I'm a sucker for duochrome and this violet with a reddish shift is a stunner. This one has to be applied with your finger (or a dampened synthetic brush as a second-best option).

Bottom Row (from he wrist down the arm)
Xtreme Black- The obvious use for this darkest mattest sootiest of blacks is an eyeliner, either with a dampened small brush or dry. However you can create a magnificent evening look by covering the lid in this black and topping it with Astral White or various sheer glitters (those Stila liquid ones).
Lilac Dusk- I didn't think I'd love this shimmer grayed lilac as much as I do. Pat McGrath describes it as an "intense multi-dimensional crystalline lavender" and that's probably the secret of this unique lid color that can be easily worn during the day. This is the most powdery (=messy) eye shadow in the palette, but I don't mind it.
Substance- It's sort of the shimmer version of Depth from the top row. The texture is so creamy it almost feels wet (see: emollient).
Blitz Blue – You know that this is was the initial reason I chose this palette out of the three Mothership sets. It's the satin blue to end all blues. The opaque pigment goes on the lid so perfectly I'm kind of speechless.
Astral White – If I remember correctly, this is the color that was part of a couple of Pat McGrath's original kits, those that came in bags full of sequins. I was certain they were neither environmentally sound nor cat or vacuum cleaner friendly (Lizzy and Georgie who hang out with me during makeup time would have covered my entire dressing room and themselves with sequins). I still lusted after Astral White and now I have this opalescent white topper with an icy blue shift that you pat on with your finger over just about anything (other than the cats) and see what happens. The most dramatic effect is over black, obviously, but you can create the softest tonal look with Astral White, and it can go anywhere, any time. Does not work with a brush. At all.

About the swatches: they were done over a random eye primer (Lorac, in this case, because it was right there in front of me) using an ancient workhorse flat brush, Paula Dorf Eye Glimmer circa 2001, which is a synthetic brush wider than MAC 242. Except of course where it was specified to use my finger. All of them are one swipe of color, unblended and not cleaned up.

Some nitpicking:
1. I already mentioned that there's some powder falldown varying between the colors. It's not ABH Subculture level (a palette I actually like. One shade at a time), but I would not do my under-eye base first.
2. The outer cardboard packaging is artistic and pretty, but the gold print on its back came all blurry on mine to the point it was impossible to read the ingredients.
3. Speaking of which, I've tossed the cardboard box but I'm pretty sure that it said "Made in the USA", while the small sticker on the bottom of the palette itself declares "Made in Italy". Which one is it?
4. The palette comes with a separate card stating the names of the eye shadows. I wish they were engraved or at least printed on the palette itself. How long do you think I can keep it safe from George and Lizzy, not to mention Lilian who's also developed a fondness for makeup?

Bottom Line: See Above. Still, you'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands.

Pat McGrath Labs- Mothership I: Subliminal Palette ($125, probably made in Italy. Or maybe in the US. Ask Pat) is available from Sephora, where I bought it back in October and on

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