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making faces :: three springs

this post comes with a bit of a preamble:

it's hardly surprising that i would eventually become fascinated by the sci-art theory of personal colour,
given that it's linked both with aesthetics and with psychology. i'm actually a little surprised that it took me this long, but i have been making up for lost time by reading through a lot of the posts on the fascinating 12 blueprints blog, after having gotten a taste for the subject from reading everyday beauty's adventures in being drapes.

for those not familiar with the concept, i do not claim to be an expert, but it basically stems from theories of how we perceive colours. for someone who has long been schooled in the concepts that there are certain colours that everyone perceives as "strong" or "relaxing" or "energetic", etc., it's a bit of a process of unlearning. or at least, learning that what you might have accepted as gospel before was somewhat limited.

it's certainly been illustrated that people respond to red and blue, for instance, in different ways, but unless you find yourself in a situation where you're completely surrounded by one or the other, that's really just a small piece of the overall equation. because the fact is that we see colours not in isolation, but in the context of other colours. and what we perceive as strong, exciting, calming or depressing has less to do with the individual shades and more to do with the overall palette of colours present.

for individuals, that means that the perception of others is largely based on the way that what we wear [clothing, makeup, accessories, hair] harmonises with the colours that are naturally present in our bodies. that's not to say that we can't push the envelope, but it is worth keeping in mind that the hard-wiring for this thinking runs pretty deep and isn't something that a winning personality can necessarily overcome. these aren't judgments that we're conscious of making, but reactions that our brain makes automatically. they're going to happen no matter what and a lot of those reactions happen because the connection between our visual system and our central nervous system is a lot faster than our conscious brain can process.

the net result of this is that there are absolutely ways in which everyone can present themselves that will positively [or negatively] effect others' reactions to them. while nothing is completely going to overcome behaving like a douche-canoe, it's worth keeping in mind when you have those situations when they opinion of other people becomes important to you. there will be moments.

taken to its theoretical extreme, this would mean that there is a specific, completely personalised palette of colours and textures that each of us should be wearing. but if we want to give ourselves some leeway and not walk around looking like we're wearing a uniform from day to day, it's easier to group people into broader categories. the most popular systems create divisions based on seasons of the year, based on undertones as well as eye colour and [less reliably in this age of chemical processing] hair colour. from there, the seasons are divided into further sub-categories. in a 12-group system, the skin's tolerance for colour is based on three different measures within each of the four seasonal groups- hue [warm vs cool], value [light vs dark] and chroma [saturated vs muted]. a 16-group system uses the same seasonal basis, but then judges tolerance to four variations: a fully saturated [pure] colour, the same colour adding white [tinted], adding grey [toned] and adding black [shaded].

confused yet? i am.

there are professionals who do colour analysis placing a person against a neutral grey background and seeing how the skin reacts to different colours. and yes, there is a reaction. you can check it roughly at home and chances are you've noticed it casually on your own. certain shades will tend to balance your skin tone, eliminate redness, disguise dark circles and brighten the eyes. the group of shades that accomplishes the most good is the palette that suits you best. a trained colour analyst will tell you that there is no guesswork involved. everyone has one palette that works better than all the others.

the bad news is, it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the colours you like. remember, you don't see the rest of the world in the context of your own appearance. unless you walk around holding a mirror in front of you at all times, you are continuously looking out,  so it's pretty easy to get tripped up.   you may have a sense of what colours work for you, but quite often we tend to say things like "i look good in blue". the human eye is capable of perceiving millions of colours. "blue" leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

i'm actually much less convinced i know what shades work on me than i was ten years ago. or twenty years ago. i'm perfectly aware that i have tried certain looks because i liked them when they were in front of me, that turned out to be less than appealing on me. but i do enjoy a good puzzle and, since i haven't been able to find any colour analysts in my immediate area, i thought i would have some fun trying to see if i could find my "proper" palette [which any colour analyst would say was an exercise in futility, since we're anything but objective about our own appearance].

and i'm taking you along with me on my process of elimination journey. over the next little while, i'll be trying out examples of each of the 12-season palettes and seeing what works and what doesn't. i've chosen to work with a 12-season system because it feels more natural to me. that's not to say that other systems are wrong, but when i judge colour, i usually do apply measures of temperature, saturation and depth.

general consensus has been that my skin leans a little cool [pink undertones], but, as a nars associate said to me recently, "you're about as close to completely neutral as it gets". this is part of my conundrum. my complexion is defiantly non-committal. when i wear foundations from mac, which are split into nc [yellow undertone] and nw [pink undertone], nc colours work better, whereas nw shades tend to pull too pink/ orange. in nars foundations, however, the slightly pink-toned "mont blanc" is an excellent match for me.

my hope is that i'll at least provide some interesting palettes for you to look at and that i might [with your help!] be able to narrow down the palettes that are most appropriate for me to wear. keep in mind that i'm a rank amateur and the palette interpretations are my own. i don't claim to be an expert. i don't claim to be accurate. there is a definite subjectivity.

so let's start with the season that's currently upon us: spring.


spring is one of the "warm" seasons, distinguished by the presence of yellow in its palette. that's not to say that all yellows belong in the spring palette. they don't. variations of every colour exist in every palette. but all of the colours in a spring palette are touched by yellow tones.


within each season, there are those who fall into the "true" category and those who fall to either side. for spring, the groups are:

bright spring: an overall warm palette with elements of the cool winter palette. winter brings tinges of red and higher contrast levels, which means that these are people who can handle a lot of colour. their yellow tones are more white gold, rays of light on the snow in march [or late april if you live in montreal]. no amount of colour is going to overwhelm a "bright spring" person. in fact, softer or less saturated colours will tend to be a bit sickly on them- there needs to be at least some punch to their colours. it calls to mind andy warhol in his pop art heyday.

although i do feel like my skin is cooler rather than warmer toned, i have to say that one of my most surprising discoveries in recent years is that i can pull off fairly strong colours. this is helped by the fact that my hair has gone to extremes, but most people seem to feel that the pale blonde or black actually suits me. [to the best of my knowledge, my natural shade is a mostly brown mixture of ash blonde, hints of red and a base of coffee... more or less every colour that isn't pale blonde or black, but we'll get to that later.]

to work a bright spring palette, i went with something that seemed obvious from my makeup stash: a bright pink/ magenta lip. the shade i used was mac's "gulabi" [a limited shade- substitute "girl about town" from the permanent collection] and one of my favourite bold blushes- mac's "salsarose", a gorgeous vibrant coral that's predominantly red, with pink and orange undertones. both of these shades combine the high contrast of winter with the slight warming of spring. neither shade is truly cool [i could have selected a more coral lip colour like "fusion pink" or "party parrot", both of which i also love], but neither is what you would call warm.

to capture the white-gold glow of a bright spring, i used mac's "soft and gentle" mineralize skinfinish. it's a light beige shade that adds a great overall radiance. it's a really underrated gem in mac's collection and i find that it's a colour that truly makes my skin come alive. more than any other mineralize products, it looks completely natural on me, adding a glow rather than shimmer. it is a beige shade, however, so it doesn't have the moonlit chill of something like "lightscapade". i also used mac's champagne-coloured "i get no kick" eye liner along my water lines. i love how this brightens my eyes, but it's still noticeably different than a pure white liner.

for the eyes, i went with slightly earthier tones that are more typical of spring: on the lids, there's chanel's "beige lamé", which is a lovely neutral with a bit of white and blue sparkle [winter's influence] that was visible in person, but which my camera steadfastly refused to acknowledge. also used were inglot's yellow-tinged ivory highlight shade "351" and the lighter brown from guerlain's "terre indigo" eye shadow palette plus rouge bunny rouge's bronze-taupe "bohemian waxwing" in the crease. for a bit of winter's contrast, i used mac "on the hunt" liquid eye liner on my upper lash line and chanel's "le volume" mascara.

my thoughts? i have to admit that, warm vs cool arguments aside, this is a palette that looks pretty natural on me. of any of the springs, this is the one that seemed like it could work. there's a reason why i went back to my black hair and that reason is that there's something about strong contrasts that seems to improve my overall appearance. at the same time, i don't feel like the bold colours are overwhelming me. it's a possibility.

true spring: this is spring at its essence. everything is touched with a golden tone, but it's the sort of gold that you get as the strength of the sun is increasing. that means yellows and especially yellow-tinged greens [what's more spring-like than green?], but it also means that there's a lot of colour involved.

the palette is entirely warm here, but also bright. spring faces can handle a lot of colour. every colour, however, is kissed by the sun. not baked- it's still spring- but thawed.

for my interpretation, i made use of a lot of green on the eyes. mac's "lucky green", the pine green shade from nars "blade runner" duo and nars "night porter" to add a little depth. i also included rouge bunny rouge "golden rhea", which to me is the essence of a spring gold. above the crease, i used chanel "tiger lily" a shade that seems like the sort of juicy orange that melds with spring sun. topping it off, along the brow bone is mac "manila paper" [substitute the frostier "nylon" from the permanent collection]. i used gosh "alligator" a true green liner along my lower lash line and, for a little increased contrast, i lined both water lines with mac "smolder" a soft black. i used korres volcanic lash black mascara in black, which is slightly more than natural but less than dramatic.

on the cheeks, i combined the peach-apricot of mac's "ripe peach" blush with hourglass "dim light". i'm amazed at how much these two products amplify each other. "dim light" adds a glow and an intensity to "ripe peach" that emphasizes the latter's warmth and they just seem to glow together. believe it or not, this is not a particularly heavy application of either product.

the lipstick is yves st. laurent rouge pur couture shine in "blood orange". i purposely chose an orange shade with a lot of pink in it, because i felt that it was more appropriate to my colouring. i'm trying to do each season's palette in a way that seems appropriate for me. i could easily have gone with a softer, more peach shade, but i really thought that this look could handle something a little brighter.

my thoughts? i actually got some compliments the day i wore this look, but it was more compliments on my technique. i'm guessing that that's because these colours look very intense on me. they stand out from my own colouring. it's a bold palette, but so was the last one. the difference is that this one just looks heavier on me, because i don't find it meshes entirely well with my undertones. there are elements that i like- the colours really make me look invigorated and the lipstick is a really wonderful colour- but there are some that just don't seem right. the tipping point for me is the blush: look how much heavier it looks than the bright spring makeup. neither shade comes close to the brightness of "salsarose", which looks flat-out intimidating, but somehow the end effect feels heftier. why? because there's actually less contrast going on in the second look and contrast on my face seems to equal balance. yes, there are other interpretations of a true spring palette, but as my best face forward, it's highly unlikely.

[note: for the sake of accuracy, i'm trying to align my outfit and accessories with the season, but the black turtleneck is clearly inappropriate for spring. in my defence, i had a yellow-green skin on that i love, but i had absolutely no tops that fell within the spring palette. there might be a reason for that.]

light spring: this is where the colours of spring start to shift towards the hazy, gauzy heat of summer. this is again a union of spring's yellow-gold tones with a cooler season, but in this case, it's the blue hues of summer. summer is the cool of water, not ice. it flows but doesn't glint. it is light and diaphanous and translucent, not hard and reflective. the light spring palette still contains the colours of spring, they're just a little bit overtaken by the light.

lightness is a big feature of the transitional seasons between spring and summer and so i concentrated on imbuing my skin with lightness. note: after four decades, skin does not naturally channel lightness. in order to do this, i used nars radiant tinted moisturiser, which does live up to its name. i used the new shade, terre neuve [newfoundland if you're an anglo!], which is the slightly pinker cousin to "finland"... either actually looks ok on me, just to be confusing, although "terre neuve" does seem just a little lighter and brighter. being a tinted moisturizer rather than a foundation, i also find that it adds a little translucency to the overall look. you can definitely see my freckles peeking through. i combined that with hourglass "diffused light", which is the ultimate spring highlight shade, combining white with just a touch of spring yellow. and yes, the effect was very light, bright and spring-like.

on my eyes, the biggest departure from what i normally do is that i used brown to frame them rather than black- i have gosh dark brown eye liner pen on my upper lash line and givenchy noir couture mascara in satin brown on my lashes. once again, i'm wearing mac "i get no kick" pencil along my lower water lines, to give a little shimmer that isn't too bold. for colour, i used the salmon pink mac shade "perky" to add a bit of colour, but i kept things mostly neutral. the other shades i used were mac "cloudy afternoon", "silver birch" and the warm grey "copperplate". the overall effect was very soft, weightless and, because of the mineral texture of two of the shadows, somewhat hazy.

the colour on my lips is chanel's "antigone", a semi-sheer strawberry pink-red that looks appropriately juicy without being too bold. like everything else, it's about lightness. pretty much nothing i used here is opaque. the pigments layer one over the other like veils.

my thoughts? i loved the effect on the skin, which was really glowing in person, without looking in the least unnatural. the problem- which i think is evident in the photos- is that rather than looking fresh, it seems to look faded. i didn't feel any differently in any of these pictures, but i find i look a little tired in these. i definitely think that the brown mascara makes the inner rims of my eyes look redder than they do in the other shots, although the eyes themselves don't appear bloodshot. pretty but probably too plain.

so... of the three springs, do i feel like i've truly hit on something that matches my natural colours? i can't say that with any certainty, because there's still much to investigate. i'll hold on to bright spring as the only strong possibility from the group as i keep looking.

winner :: spring round
please feel free to share your thoughts about these looks, my palette choices or about your own adventures finding shades that work for you.


Grace London said…
I don't want to spoil your adventures....but my money is on Bright Winter for you. I would bet you a dollar.
morelikespace said…
Hmmm... At the outset, I would have taken that bet in a heartbeat, because I was certain that the Bright Winter palette was too saturated for me... But now I'm wondering if it might be a possibility.
Shawna McComber said…
I've just stumbled across your blog and haven't yet searched for an update but as another colour junkie and 12 Blueprints devotee, my first reaction was Bright Winter, just like Grace, above. :-)
morelikespace said…
Thanks DoA! After testing out a number of options, I've come to the conclusion that Grace (and you) are right: I'm a Bright Winter, although I can pull off a lot of Bright Spring options.

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