Skip to main content

making faces :: wherein i fail at fall

when people tell you that they love fall, chances are what they love is the fact that they can walk outside without incurring heat stroke and that everything just suddenly erupts in a volcano of colour. i know those are the things that i like about it, which is amplified by the fact that i'm lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood with lots of deciduous [leaf-shedding] trees. but when i say i love those colours, i mean i love them in a position where i can stare at them and appreciate their beauty. put them on my face and i'm less of a happy camper, as i found out when i ventured into the autumn season of my sci/art colour analysis series.

to be fair, i knew going in that true autumn was likely to be a disaster on me. autumn is a season of warmth and fire and while i'm not entirely without warmth in my complexion, it's pretty subdued. a proper autumn should glow with an inner fire. when i try to imitate that, the closest i can get is looking vaguely like i'm glowing with heartburn. but i'm getting ahead of myself.

i came up with a way of thinking about the seasonal wheel that serves me well that i thought i'd share. i basically thought of water as it moves through all the seasons: ice in winter- frozen and still, rushing in spring- full of kinetic energy, vapour in summer- a return to relative stillness, but light and floating. so where does that leave autumn? truly, it's influence on autumn is through its absence. the shades of autumn are hot and dry, all the coolness and moisture burnt out of them. there is some residual wateriness in soft autumn [summer's waning influence], but afterward it dissipates.

the colours of autumn are also earthy and hefty. they ground as opposed to uplift, which was what we saw in summer. on the wrong person, that will look heavy. on the right person, it will look pleasantly cosy, comfortable, inviting. key colours are the opposite of summer- rich browns and oranges. although there are two warm seasons, i always think of autumn as warmer than spring, perhaps because its palette is deeper and a bit more muted. there is no such thing as a neon brown. [and while there is neon orange, i actually think it would belong more in the spring palette than in the autumn one.]

getting the fall season started, we have what's called the "soft autumn". this is the neutral-warm equivalent of the neutral-cool "soft summer".  christine scaman, a colour analyst whose book "return to your natural colours" i've been reading for the last week likens the landscape to an ideal terrace in the late afternoon sun, where you sip a glass of wine. just close your eyes [well, finish reading the sentence first] and imagine a sun-baked terrace in a small village in italy, terracotta pots of dark green herbs [rosemary, basil, oregano], perhaps an aged glass and stone mosaic tabletop, a few small brown birds hovering nearby in the hopes of finding a few scraps of fresh-baked bread. that's soft autumn, right there.

like the soft summer, this season is defined by its muted palette. because of the warmth, i find it actually looks lighter than soft summer, though. there's less of that fogginess and more sunlight filtered through a glass, which makes the difference. salmon pink, terracotta, herbal greens, smoke blues, wood browns, shell tones of beige and coral, honey and amber shades... it's an extremely comforting group of colours that radiates comfort. reading about it, i immediately thought of certain paintings by renoir.

there's a reason for that, too. a lot of women can wear these shades in some way or other. a lot of "my _____ but better" colours would fall into this range [seasonal pun not intended]. but there is a big difference between being able to wear some of these colours and having them truly be your best options.

a little while ago, i played makeup artist for a video dom was shooting. the woman whose makeup i was doing was clearly at home in autumn colours and, i guessed from the softness of her general colour and the way her skin looked trying out different wardrobe choices that she was a soft autumn. and let me tell you, i felt very clever for figuring that out. the thing is, figuring that out didn't let me perceive the way that colours would look different on her skin than, say, on mine. so when i chose a lip colour, i reached for mac "apres chic", a lovely muted clay red on me that i thought would add a little colour. i applied it with a brush to give a lighter effect, but the second i saw the shade on her lips i immediately became aware that i'd done something. very. wrong.

a shade that was red but relatively muted on me looked like a horrid, nearly-neon mess on her. kate, meet a true soft palette. colours don't read the same.

from that, i guess it's fairly easy to deduce that i'm not a soft autumn. although i- probably like a lot of women- have items from the palette in my collection for those days when i need to look fresh and innocent, they're not the best match for me.

and indeed, when i tried using this palette exclusively on my face, it came up a little wanting.

on my eyes, i used rouge bunny rouge "bashful flamingo", a soft natural peach that i reach for often and combined it with the rosy brown "neutral pink" [a limited mac shade from several years ago] and mac "paradisco" a gorgeous soft peach with a slight gold sheen to it. in the outer corners of my eyes, i dusted a little of mac "russian blue", a very soft grey-blue shade. to highlight, i used the lightest shades from edward bess "south of france". i used a brown liner from the sephora + pantone collaboration to line my water lines, but on the lash lines themselves, i wanted something a little less sharp than a pencil liner so i used urban decay "buck", a muted saddle-brown from the first naked palette. [as a side note, i think that the first naked palette is something that should be a staple in the vanity of every woman with autumn colouring.] finish off with a light application of givenchy noir couture mascara in "satin brown" and we're done. well, the eyes are done.

because i was aware that i was aiming for a complexion that was warmer and likely a little deeper than my natural skin, i used a foundation that's a little deeper than my skin right now, the lightest shade of korres quercetin and oak foundation. for the cheeks, i used mac's browned-plum "darkly my dear" as a bit of a contour and "dainty" mineralize blush, a gorgeous yellow-pink. because both of the soft seasons are supposed to have a little dustiness to them, i avoided a highlight or bronzer of any kind- nothing to add shimmer [other than the small amount afforded by a mineral blush].

chanel rouge coco in "jersey rose" seemed like a perfect complement to the whole look [although i could easily have chosen nars "mayflower" or mac "viva glam v" or "plink!"]. it's a delightful shrimp pink that came out with their 2011 spring collection that is still available [and popular].

my thoughts? i love all of these colours, but i'm not sure i love them together on me. even with a contour, my face looks a bit doughy and puffy, like i'm retaining water [which i wasn't] and my eyes are visibly smaller. even stranger, they look less deep set than usual, less defined. what's truly shocking to me is that despite the fact that i'm not extremely cool-toned, i just seem to have sucked the warmth out of these colours. i look milkier than ever and these photos were taken in the glorious morning sun that hits our front windows. i don't hate it, but it doesn't seem that autumnal on me. i feel like i should add that after a couple of hours, i found that i looked very faded and tired. the makeup hadn't faded, but it seemed like somehow i had.

true autumn :: fire with a side of fire please. this isn't beach bunny territory, which comes more naturally to spring colouring. this is molten metal. shades aren't pure and warm and bright, they're earthy and tarnished and burnt. i'm picturing a woman with wild auburn hair who rolls into town on a harley and smokes cigarillos and leaves the scent of tom ford's "tuscan leather" in her wake. [note: "tuscan leather" is one of my favourite scents on me and is probably the only thing from this tableau that i could pull off. although i have smoked a cigarillo.]

orange, brown, maroon, bronze... warm colours with character and presence. which isn't to say that there can't be hints of cool colours, just that they won't be typically cool: dark teal, eggplant and plum would work. one of the keys to autumn seems to be the elements of depth and texture that are found in their colours. what you don't see are primary shades- true red, blue or yellow. everything has a complexity.

i knew from the outset that this was going to be a disaster on me. but isn't the point of this experiment to see what works and what doesn't?

on my eyes, i once again turned to the urban decay naked palette, using half-baked, darkhorse and virgin. for good measure and to get some orange in the palette [since i know i wear orange better than bronze], i also used the coral-orange and light copper shades from guerlain's "les fauves". to line the eyes, i went with stila "lionfish", a warm brown with copper shimmer. everything is warm and autumnal here.

no season is more at home in bronzer than autumn. and no human is less at home in bronzer than me, but i did use my one bronzer love [which is quite pink to count as a bronzer], guerlain terra inca radiant powder and to amplify the warmth, added a rusty red blush, guerlain "red hot". [you can see that blush here in a look i would also qualify as true autumn that i think worked better.]

i went back and forth between brown and orange for the lips, because a true autumn will find the bulk of their shades within those groups [and among warmer nudes]. i settled on chanel's sadly discontinued rouge allure laque in "mandarin", because it is a fascinating colour with elements of terracotta, orange, pink rose and hints of brown.

my thoughts? bewilderment. for starters, i'm always fascinated by the fact that orange toned lipsticks make my skin look greasy. it's a fact. unless they're heavily blended with something else- pink or brown usually- this always happens. it's true that i'm not wearing any kind of powder, but i wasn't in the previous photos either.

second, how did a very muted orange-toned lip shade get so bright on me? it's bordering on loud? even more surprising, it's bordering on cool, because all that warm-toned makeup seems somehow to have drawn all the pink elements out of the shade [which are pretty subdued when seen in the tube]. even more than that, look at how much pink there seems to be in the eye colours. how the heck does that come about? there is nothing pink in there, but my skin seems to want to create it.

trying to figure out the whole change in the lipstick colour thing, i switched in the evening from "mandarin" to mac "spiced tea" a well-named soft brown shade. because these photos were taken in the evening, the light is different, but it still doesn't give the idea of warmth.

the one thing that i did expect, especially given my true spring experience, is that the elements on my skin look heavy and a little gritty. proper autumn skin loves texture. apply bronzer to it and it looks like velvet. on my skin... more like coarse sand. all the colour seems oppressive. moving on...

dark autumn :: well, if there was one autumn that i thought might look ok, it was this one. i think of dark autumn as " the steampunk season", because it's got the elements of the warm autumn palette, but with the light drained from them. think of rich tapestries, or burnished antiques. think of gypsy encampments seen by the light of their communal fires some time in the distant path. shadow has descended and now the riot of spice market shades that dominated the true autumn landscape are harder to distinguish. deep brown, brass, evergreen, burgundy, navy, bronze, pewter, plum... you get the idea.

rousseau :: the sleeping gypsy
this was a hard look to pull off for daytime, but since dark autumn people must go out in daylight fairly often, i figured i owed it to the spirit of experimentation to have a go at it. i had in my head a palette of semi-precious stones- topaz, dark lapis and jade, garnet... which is what i took as my starting point.

for the eyes, i used le metier de beaute "chameleon" and "jade", along with armani "obsidian black seaweed"[in the outer "v"] and buberry "pale barley" [in the crease]. fyi, if you think you might be a dark autumn, go check out le metier de beaute shadows now. i can't think of a better selection of colours that would fit you than what they have available. i also used mac "prized",  a warm neutral highlight colour under the brow bone. i kept the eyeliner dark brown, since i think of dark autumn as encompassing a lot of "almost black" shades rather than true black, although i did go with black mascara. i also used yves st. laurent's "gold star" liner on my lower lash lines for a hint of metallic shimmer.

the cheeks were once again bronze-y, once again with guerlain terra inca, this time combined with the matte splendour of mac "fever" [once described to me as "the perfect pinched flesh red", which is dead on] and i used a rusted rose shade of lip gloss, mac's "girls at play" to finish things off.

my thoughts? i'm not really a stranger to this palette. it's essentially what i was wearing for about 80% of "conversion" when we filmed it. [not the same products, but drawn from the same palette of colours.] ultimately, i find that this suffers from some of the heaviness of the "true autumn" look, but less so. my skin still looks coarse, but i kind of like the slightly yellow tone these colours pull out in my eyes. despite the fact that the colours were darker, i found that they wore better throughout the day. despite having my share [and someone else's share] of crow's feet, my eyes seem to tolerate a lot of colour around them, provided that there is some contrast. i find i actually look less fatigued in these photos than in the previous set and i will say that these particular photos make the effect look worse than it did in real life. i don't love the look, but i don't hate it either.

to conclude, i'll go back to what i said earlier: i know that i'm not an autumn season. i don't have that glorious radiance that an autumn of any stripe should have and my skin responds to autumn colours by trying to force them to be cooler than they actually are. when that doesn't work, skin and makeup just turn their separate ways and i'm left looking like i'm wearing a mask.

i don't think that any of these is truly a match for me, but in the interests of continuing with the template i've established, i would say that the one of these that worked the best on me [might not be evident in the photos, but trust me on this one] was dark autumn. [note: in the photos, this might not be obvious, because i think that the soft autumn look photographed better than it appeared in person and the reverse was true of dark autumn. i'm basing my decision on what i saw, rather than what the camera saw.]

winner :: autumn round
only one season left... will my childhood prediction that i would turn out to be a winter woman be validated or disproved?


as long as you're here, why not read more?

do you not know what you do not not know?

i've been meaning to get back on the blogging bandwagon for ages but i've been lousy at focusing. i mean, i'm never great at focusing but it's been particularly bad lately. i've also made the horrific mistake of following the news too closely, not just in the last few weeks but in the past several months. i realize now that that isn't healthy. [no pun intended.] my head has been so wrapped up in politics that shifts from moment to moment, half-baked debates about social policy, trying to track what's happening behind the smoke and mirrors of the biggest news stories because we all know that those are the things that are really going to affect how we live. there are few things worse for anxiety than knowing that your dark fears about the chaos of the world are actually pretty close to the truth; and the thrill that comes from being able to say "i told you so" is remarkably short-lived.

however, it's pretty much impossible to deny that we'r…

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [winter edition]

it seems oddly canadian to have two posts in a row about winter/ cold/ snow, but they're obviously unrelated. after all, for most people winter is a season, but in colour analysis terms, winter is part of what you are, an effect of the different wavelengths that comprise the physical part of the thing known as "you". this might be getting a little heady for a post about lipstick. moving on...

if you've perused the other entries in this series without finding something that really spoke to you [figuratively- lipsticks shouldn't actually speak to you- get help], you may belong in one of the winter seasons. winter, like summer, is cool in tone; like spring, it is saturated; like autumn, it is dark. that combination of elements creates a colour palette [or three] that reads as very "strong" to most. and on people who aren't part of the winter group, such a palette would look severe. the point of finding a palette that reads "correctly" on you…

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…