READY, AIR FIRE! MAKE ROOM IN YOUR VANITY BAG FOR AN AIRBRUSH GUN, TOMORROW’S TOOL FOR APPLYING PERFECT MAKEUP.
Makeup, unlike DNA cloning or global warming, isn’t the type of thing that shakes up the world order. That’s why, when something really new happens, we have to put down our PalmPilots and pay attention. We’re not making any guarantees, but it’s just possible that you will be using an airbrush to spray foundation on your face in the near future. That some high-tech machine can make you gorgeous in a matter of seconds sounds like a very Judy Jetson idea. But this isn’t about gliding into a Glamatron capsule to wash your face, give you a beehive and tie your shoes. The future is here, disguised in a sleek metal pen through which thousands of microdroplets of makeup blow, propelled by pressure from an attached air compressor, giving you Cameron Diaz’s perfect brows or Cate Blanchett’s ivory pallor. Like pointillism, the result is one dot of pigment next to one dot of skin, allowing your own natural color to blend with the makeup.
Evidence of paint spraying can be traced back more than 35,000 years, when Paleolithic cave dwellers blew pigment through hollowed-out sticks and animal bones to trace around their hands. American Abner Peeler invented the first modern airbrush in 1878, and versions were then used on everything from Man Ray’s artwork to Alberto Vargas’ pinup posters and, more recently, on nails and T-shirts. A basic tool of photo production, airbrushes are used by art directors everywhere to spray away a model’s stray hair or trim a celebrity tummy. So, evidently airbrushing is something that’s part of our cultural makeup, like hoarding Manolo Blahniks or watching the E! channel.
Airbrush makeup, though, has just started to pick up speed among beauty insiders. “It gives you results that you really can’t get by hand,” says British makeup artist Sharon Dowsett, who airbrushed models for Issey Miyake’s spring/summer ’98 show. “The machine has a light touch and can make skin look both flawless and natural. Plus, it’s quick and sanitary, because you don’t handle the makeup; it just pours directly into the pen.” Joanne Gair, the makeup artist who painted Demi Moore in her birthday suit on the cover of Vanity Fair, uses airbrushing on models for ad campaigns and magazines, such as Sports Illustrated’s latest swimsuit issue, for which she spray painted make-believe swimsuits on the models. Movie makeup artist Michele Burke also airbrushed characters in the recently released Austin Powers sequel, and the Baywatch babes have their tattoos (and, yes, a few imperfections) airbrushed out by makeup artist JoAnna Connell. Even makeover king Kevyn Aucoin is a recent convert. “I love it,” he says. “You can achieve a really unique effect with very little makeup – a thin layer of color that’s opaque but doesn’t look heavy.”
Airbrushing has even proven itself to be a most macho form of makeup (maybe it’s the gun). Christina Brice, a makeup artist for CBS, sprays Dan Rather and all the male reporters on 60 Minutes. “Men love it because it doesn’t feel like makeup,” she says. Her guys will often go to lunch, for example, with their TV faces still on – without worrying about resembling drag queens. The technique appears to be the best option for high-definition television, whose clarity not only reveals its subject’s every flaw but makes a regular makeup job look crude and heavy. Tests on Jay Leno at NBC have proved airbrushing is well geared to this new TV medium, so NBC is considering using airbrush systems for all of its high-definition television programs. But perhaps the biggest endorsement comes from the President himself, who is reportedly a fan of airbrushed makeup.
Still virtually a professional secret, airbrush makeup and machines can’t exactly be found at Bloomingdale’s. M.A.C. appears to be the only mainstream cosmetic company currently investigating airbrushing products, with plans to have a prototype within a year. Mostly, though, airbrushing is a realm filled with names of obscure companies like Reel Creations and Morris Costumes. Dinair Airbrush Makeup Systems Inc., based in Van Nuys, CA, is pioneering airbrushing among makeup artists – and has a lot riding on becoming a household name. To Dinair, airbrushing is the mother ship, and the owners are almost cultlike in their devotion.
Co-owners George Lampman and Dina Ousley have been working on their dream since the ’80s. In true entrepreneurial form, their professional titles can’t be reduced to a simple job: Lampman is a mad scientist/musician/creative suit, while Ousley is a hairstylist/actress/makeup artist. After working as a stylist in New York, Ousley moved to Hollywood to act. Her 15 minutes were spent playing Warren Beatty’s assistant in Shampoo, along with a few other minor roles, but she soon realized that doing makeup for her friends was going to bring in much more cash. Ousley’s airbrushing epiphany occurred after she saw a poster of a huge airbrushed fingernail. “It struck me that if a nail technician could do it with nail polish, then I could do it with makeup,” she says. “I was fascinated by airbrushing in the ’60s, when all the guys in high school were making T-shirts.” (In its latest incarnation, by the way, this look is now considered high fashion: Airbrushed tanks and bikinis are available from Chloe this season.) Ousley bought a C[O.sub.2] tank and an airbrush from an art store and started to play. She soon had makeup jobs on little-known films and rock videos for bands like Genesis and Cheap Trick. But Ousley couldn’t get anyone interested in working with her to modify a traditional art airbrush and to create makeup specifically designed to pass through it. Until Lampman came along. The two of them became “partners in every sense of the word,” says Ousley, falling in love and developing a quick-drying ultrafluid makeup sheer enough to glide through the pen. “it’s the consistency of milk. It’s sheer enough to let skin show through but can be layered for more coverage,” says Ousley.
Their big break happened when the two found an embalmer, who was not only duly impressed with Dinair but also had connections in the film industry. This guy figured that the machine deserved a shot onscreen if it could make jaundiced octogenarians look good. Hence, Dinair’s cinematic debut, playing itself, consists of a mortuary scene in an upcoming Jim Belushi film. Ousley has since used the airbrush on stars such as Leonard Nimoy and Catherine Zeta-Jones and for the Laugh-In-inspired scenes in the Austin Powers sequel, where she sprayed words like shag onto girls’ bikini-bare bodies. Despite all the celebrity face time, Ousley is hardly starstruck; she is much more concerned with what the machine can do for mere mortals than for movie stars. After all, this is a woman who can’t even remember Leonatrio DiCaprio’s name: “Who was that kid in Titanic?” she muses, trying to recall DiCaprio, whom she airbrushed years ago.
“This is going to take off and be big for regular people, too,” says Naimie Ojeil, the founder of Naimie’s, Los Angeles’ famed beauty supply store, which sells the device to Hollywood makeup artists. Thousands of people are already using Dinair, and the company’s goal is to move it into the hands of millions of makeup artists and consumers around the globe. “We plan to see the whole world airbrushing,” says Lampman. When I tried Dinair’s new airbrush for nonprofessionals, I felt a bit unsteady, but there was also something quite natural about moving the pen and “making passes” (that’s airbrushing lingo) across my face. (By the way, don’t try this at home with an air compressor not designed for makeup: Its spraying pressure would be too high – more than three to six pounds per square inch – and could do some serious damage.) Ousley believes that anyone can learn in three tries. That might be pushing it for those who find achieving unclumped mascara a creative impossibility, but her current instructional video is helpful – if not a little hippie-dippy, Wielding my pen, I also felt artistic, cool and even a little naughty. The pen resembles some sort of chic drug paraphernalia, and the whole activity seems slightly renegade. (Brice once almost had her airbrushing kit confiscated on a flight to Los Angeles. A distressed stewardess was afraid that Brice was going to start freebasing in coach.) I kept having flashbacks to Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner, airbrushing a black mask across her eyes, doing lanky back handsprings and squeezing the life out of Harrison Ford with her bare thighs.
Ousley says that if you keep the airbrushing pen constantly moving about five inches away from your face, you can get it all: Makeup that looks natural but that also gives great coverage, is long-lasting and water-resistant, and can stick to superslick surfaces like scars or newly laser-resurfaced skin. “I’m constantly amazed by airbrush makeup,” says Lampman. “We can make an average person look like a model. This product is an equalizer, because the things that make one person less attractive than another are actually very small. I believe that the idea of who’s beautiful and who’s not will dissolve in the next century.” And, if he’s right, what a beautiful world it will be.
IN-YOUR-FACE MOMENTS FROM AIRBRUSH HISTORY
33,000 B.C.: A SHOW OF HANDS PALEOLITHIC CAVE DWELLERS IN FRANCE TRACE THEIR HANDS BY BLOWING PAINT THROUGH HOLLOWED OUT STICKS AND ANIMAL BONES TO CREATE SPOOKY WALL ART (1).
1878: BABY BLOW AMERICAN ABNER PEELER INVENTS WHAT IS TO BECOME THE MODERN AIRBRUSH MACHINE, WHICH IS EVENTUALLY USED TO RETOUCH PHOTOGRAPHY AND CREATE PAINTINGS.
1900S-1920S: RAY DAZE ARTIST AND PHOTOGRAPHER MAN RAY GOES DADA FOR AIRBRUSHING, INCORPORATING IT INTO HIS WORK (2).
1930S-1940S: POSTER GIRLS ALBERTO VARGAS WORKS WITH THE AIRBRUSH TO CREATE PINUP ART FOR LONELY G.I’S EVERYWHERE (11).
1960S-1970S: ROCK STEADY AIRBRUSHED ROCK T-SHIRTS, FROM LED ZEPPELIN TO PINK FLOYD, RULE THE SCENE (10).
1982: 21ST-CENTURY FOX DARYL. HANNAH BUSTS A MOVE IN BLADE RUNNER, SPRAYING A FIERCE – IF NOT FLATTERING – MASK OVER HER EYES WITH A FUTURISTIC AIRBRUSH BEFORE SHE GOES TO WAR (3).
1991: LOVE CONNECTION DINAIR CO-OWNERS GEORGE LAMPMAN AND DINA OUSLEY MEET. FALL IN LOVE AND EMBARK ON THEIR AIRBRUSH JOURNEY. CREATING THE FIRST LOW-COMPRESSION MACHINE DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY FOR THE APPLICATION OF MAKEUP (7).
OCTOBER 1997: RUNWAY DEBUT MAKEUP ARTIST SHARON DOWSETT USES AN AIRBRUSH ON MODELS FOR ISSEY MIYAKE’S SPRING ’98 SHOW.
1998: AIRFORCE ONE FOUNDATION THE STATE OF THE UNION WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. OUR SOURCES SAY PRESIDENT CLINTON VETOES EVERYTHING BUT AIRBRUSH MAKEUP (8).
APRIL 1998: NEWSBREAK DAN RATHER GETS READY FOR HIS CLOSE-UP WITH AIRBRUSH MAKEUP APPLIED BY CHRISTINA BRICE.
OCTOBER 1998: BRUSH WITH GREATNESS STELLA MCCARTNEY AIRBRUSHES TANK TOPS AND BIKINIS FOR HER SPRING ’99 CHLOE COLLECTION GET ON THE WAITING LIST WHILE YOU CAN (4).
OCTOBER 1998: CENTERFOLD SECRET MAKEUP ARTIST JOANNE GAIR PERFECTS THE PERFECT, AIRBRUSHING A TAN-LINE-FREE GLOW ON THE COMPLETELY NUDE CINDY CRAWFORD IN PLAYBOY (9).
OCTOBER 1998: GRAFFITI CLAM MAKEUP ARTIST KONSTANZE ZELLER GOES FREESTYLE WITH THE MAKEUP AT THE SPRING ’99 P.A.K. RUNWAY SHOW. AIRBRUSHING A COOL BLAZE OF SUPERNOVA SHADES (6).
FEBRUARY 1999: FAKE OUT MODELS FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’S ANNUAL SWIMSUIT ISSUE FROLIC AROUND IN SPRAY-ON, 100 PERCENT MAKEUP “SWIMSUITS” THAT MATCH THE GLISTENING (BUT VERY FAKE) TANS AIRBRUSHED ON BY MAKEUP ARTIST GAIR.
JUNE 1999: GROOVY, BABY CHARACTERS FROM THE AUSTIN POWERS SEQUEL ARE GORGEOUS A GO-GO. OUSLEY AND MAKEUP ARTIST MICHELE BURKE AIRBRUSHED WORDS ON POWERS’ BABES (5).