Our next A Few Questions With artist feature Ryan Burke is not easily forgotten, his work is both inspirational and unforgettable, and the creativity of his self portraits are mesmerizing. Ryan, a Pat McGrath ambassador, makeup artist, photographer and next a soon to be The Artist Summit 2017 presenter! Also check out the feature we did on Ryan in our Fall 2016 issue: Inspired by Ryan Burke for a more in-depth look at how Ryan comes up with his various looks and more on his makeup artist career.
Ryan Burke will be among the inspiring presenters at this year’s The Artist Summit produced by The Powder Group from October 1-6, 2017 in Provincetown, MA. We are looking forward to Ryan’s presentation, but in the meantime check out his interview below and #seeyouatthesummit. For more information about The Artist Summit visit www.theartistsummit.com
What inspires you right now? (and Why?)
Inspiration comes from anywhere – it could be architecture, it could be a plant. I get inspired by other people too occasionally, but I always take that piece of inspiration and pull it in my own direction. I think the important thing about “inspiration” is to spark an idea, not to replicate someone else’s work.
Who are three of the biggest influences in your career? (and how have they effected your career)
My first big inspiration in my career is my ex and close friend, Oscar Ambrosio. We basically started in nightlife together at a time when instagram was only retro film filtered pictures of scenery and pets and there were maybe a handful of people in the world who were turning conceptual looks. Both of us loved dressing up and it’s how I started getting into makeup and shooting myself. Nobody was really doing this yet – shooting looks and putting them on social media. Neither of us knew how to do makeup and because it wasn’t big on instagram yet there were hardly any tutorials or examples for us to work from so we inspired each other. We taught each other techniques that we’d figure out and pushed ourselves to try any and every idea that came to mind.
My next inspiration came when my friend introduced me to the work of Pat McGrath. I had been playing with makeup for a bit already but I knew nothing of major makeup artists. Seeing her work opened up my world. I was like “oh you can do THAT, you can take it THERE” so I started expanding on what I was doing and going more conceptual. My favorite was to do cut-out eyebrows because I couldn’t draw them on right at the time. I started with the regular eyebrow shape but it evolved to an obtuse triangle which became a signature shape for my style and has since been replicated by many people.
My third inspiration came when I moved to New York to be a more “serious artist.” I met Domonique Echeverria at Greenhouse and we became close friends. It was actually my intention to leave nightlife and makeup behind in order to actively pursue photography but her influence gave me new inspiration for looks and I started taking things to a whole new level – I added in better styling and began making headpieces. Her aesthetic influenced mine to be more refined and fashionable.
Can you tell us about a defining moment in your career? One that made you realize this was what you were going to do with the rest of your life.
To be honest, I’m not sure what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I’m not just a makeup artist and I’m pursuing whatever opportunities come to me in various mediums. However, as far as taking makeup seriously as a professional artist, that moment came when I began working on Pat Mcgrath’s team. I not only learned to refine my techniques to a more professional level but, I also got the validation I needed that I could be successful as a makeup artist.
What advice would you give to a makeup artist or hair stylist starting out in the industry?
Pursue the style you like to do the most but, also allow yourself to develop in other types of makeup and hair. Not only will this open up more opportunities and make you more valuable as a versatile artist but there can be a lot of crossover between different types styles.
What is more important to you the work (a makeup artist or hair stylists artistic skill) or the artist (the person themselves – personality, professionalism)
Work comes first in my opinion. In the age of the social media makeup artist, there are a lot of “personalities” who do makeup. While this is a career avenue that works out well for some people, being a skilled artist will most likely get you a more long-term career in the end. I also feel that as a matter of integrity as an artist, I would prefer to have the skills rather than being a personality who can’t actually deliver when it comes down to it or just puts out the same regurgitated generic ideas that have already been done hundreds of times over.
What is the key to a successful work-life balance?
If you love makeup and it is your profession then you should be enjoying your work as part of your life. But apart from that, make time to be in nature and disconnect from the world. I always have a need to do this in order to keep myself inspired and motivated. It is very draining at times to work a lot – even if you enjoy it and taking some time away from that makes you appreciate things more and keeps you sane.