When an outstanding creation crosses our screens, we take notice. Introducing Dr. Flux, neuroscience student by day, genius makeup artist by night. For the face-painting pro, makeup isn’t about creating the perfect smoky eye or finding the right shade of lipstick—it’s about pure creativity, expression, and the courage it takes to paint an imaginative, beautiful, and perfectly executed piece of art on your face. We spotted Dr. Flux’s work on Beautylish and had to know more. From his humble beginnings with a container of glitter to his now in-demand skills, no subject went untouched.
B: Your looks are absolutely incredible! We all love them at Beautylish. How long have you been creating them for?
The first makeup I bought was a small container of purple Mattesse glitter and two Ben Nye Color Wheels from a Manhattan Ricky's on October 1, 2010. It's all been downhill from there!
B: You're working on a PhD in neuroscience. Do you see makeup as a creative outlet? Or do the two interests intertwine?
Throughout most of my life there’s always been a battle between the creative and analytical side of my brain. One of the things I've learned was that in order for me to feel fulfilled and happy, I need to keep both sides of my personality well fed. My makeup work has definitely helped my creativity thrive while enduring some more arduous stretches of my PhD research. That being said, I don't always feel like my artistic side and scientific side are separated. I think one of my major strengths that helps me in both areas is my ability to think conceptually. In science, I'm able to understand and explain ideas well because I have a firm grasp on the unifying concepts behind them. Similarly, with my makeup work, I've been able to bring together a variety of techniques and stylistic elements to communicate concepts on myself and others that are bold and eye-catching. As for combining my research with my makeup skills, I have done it a few times. There's a photo I've posted on Beautylish called Gratings and Plaids. It's based on two stimuli I use in some of my experiments. I have a few other science-inspired projects in the back of my mind that I keep meaning to work on, but honestly, when I'm working on myself I often get so caught up in the moment that I just let things emerge as they will.
B: Can you share some of your inspirations with us?
Nightlife, nightlife, nightlife!! I have a folder on my desktop where I drag and drop pictures from Facebook from all of the parties and shows that make up up New York’s fabulous nightlife scene. During my first year of grad school I wasn't as busy as I am now with my research and I was quite the club kid—which is how Dr. Flux was born. That's what got me into makeup in the first place. The drag queens, the hosts, the performers—everyone looked so FABULOUS! The reason I bought makeup for the first time was so that I could have glitter lips just like Misty Meaner, a drag queen who worked at one of the bars I frequented. I was absolutely determined to have purple glitter lips for Halloween that year, and of course it didn't stop there. The more I went out the more dissatisfied I became with the looks I was turning. There was always a queen or club kid with something better or more innovative than what I could do, and it pushed me to work harder.
B: Anyone in particular?
A few people in nightlife whose makeup makes me violently ill with admiration: Petrilude/Misty Maven, Darrell Thorne, Acid Betty, Krystal Something Something, Karl Giant, Taylor Mac... I know there's more. I'm constantly inspired by the raw talent that seems to be crawling out of the sewers every night in this town. I pay some attention to the professional makeup world now and then, though I'm not as up on it as I was a year ago. Anything that Billy B. does with Lady Gaga kills me—every time. Kabuki will always be my muse. If I ever enter the makeup world as a more serious career—which I'm still not ruling out!—I would forever be in his shadow. I was so sad I couldn't make it to IMATS this year to hear him speak. Derrick Little's body painting skills literally give me chills whenever I see something new. Ve Neill's work in Hunger Games was phenomenal. Her work in any of her films is stunning really. I also greatly really admire James Vincent. His usual style is a lot less outlandish than what I generally prefer, but his work is, of course, amazing, and he has been a bit of a mentor to me at times. I also am greatly inspired by a variety of FX makeup artists, but don't even know where to start and as this list is already getting long I will gracefully end it now, profusely apologizing for all of the people I've missed.
B: Your skills are amazing! Have you had any training or experience?
I'm mostly self taught. Over the past year and a half I've taken a few seminars here and there, but a lot of my skill has come from practice and YouTube tutorials. I spend hours in my bathroom experimenting or trying out new ideas, which is where the majority of my expertise has come from. However, the first lesson I ever had that really helped me to improve was at the Sephora in SoHo, NY. I had started to realize that there was a lot more to creating a complex look than eye liner and lipstick. I needed to learn how to contour my face in order to take my work to the next level. In late November of 2010 I walked into Sephora because I knew that they were in the habit of giving in-store tutorials. Timidly, I asked one of the store associates if she would teach me how to do theatrical-style makeup. She gave me a look like I had just stumbled down the wrong street in the Bronx and needed to march my sorry ass back to where I'd come from. But instead of pushing me out the door, she turned her head and yelled, "RUSTY! Get over here, you're gonna have fun with this one." Rusty spent over an hour with me showing me how to contour my face, and how to work within the limits of my facial hair. I bought a Make Up For Ever Sculpting Kit that day, and things were never the same. I continued to refine my technique. In the winter of 2011 I decided I needed to get an airbrush compressor. I asked around and eventually made my way into the Make Up For Ever studio boutique in Union Square, and then the Temptu store a little further north. Everywhere I went I would show people my work and start up conversations. It helped me to develop working relationships with certain brands and allowed me to take discounted seminars. I took a few classes at the Make Up For Ever boutique, which lead to volunteering at last year's Makeup Show. I was making many professional contacts, but had to cut back to focus more on my research. However, the skills I learned from seminars given by the likes of James Vincent, Orlando Santiago, and even Dany Sanz herself have been invaluable in aiding me to improve on my own technique.
B: What do you love most about creating these looks?
The process and the display are why I live for makeup. There is something I find incredibly soothing about being able to stand in front of my bathroom mirror for hours and turn my blank face into a painted canvas. Being able to harness the raw creative energy that is constantly pulsing through my mind and turn it into an outward demonstration of my thoughts is one of the most immediately fulfilling and gratifying experiences in my life. The process is very Zen. I generally try to check with my roommate to make sure I can close off the bathroom for that long, then I shut the door and let myself go. After the creative process, I love showing off what I've created. I live for the public display. I love riding the subway in full face. People don't quite know what to do with me. My work definitely doesn't fall within the confines of traditional drag, which I think forces people to take more notice of me. I have a lot of fun with it; I really enjoy talking to people about the looks I create. I always have time for someone who's sincere. I like being able to use the makeup as a way to start conversations.
B: Any advice for someone just learning to create these looks?
The three P's: Practice, Patience, and Paying attention. I've reached my level by paying constant and close attention to other people's work, and not being afraid to ask questions. Nothing works the first time, roll with the punches and be okay with making mistakes, because you'll make a lot of them. Good technique comes from constant repetition. The more you work at it the better you'll be, and people will start to take notice. Continuously push yourself to be better, because there's always room for improvement, and staying on your toes keeps your work fresh and original. Don't get discouraged, and follow your vision.