On Writing

Spotlight on Creative Goddess Stephanie Johnston

Stephanie is a make-up artist, cello-playing, puppy-loving creative force.
I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Johnston when she did make-up for a production at Suede, where I work, and then again when she did make-up for a wedding I was standing up in. Stephanie made me feel like a total *star*. I mean, look at what she did to my eyes!
I don’t usually wear make-up, so I was a bit nervous about getting my make-up done. I thought – why not get playful and trust this gorgeous woman? I showed her some photos of Rihanna sporting some very fancy, very sexy ‘smokey eyes’. That was all Stephanie needed…and with her skills and magic touch, she made me look like a diva. And feel like a diva. That’s not easy to do. Every time I looked in the mirror, I jumped. I was like, wait-whaaaat? Who are you, pretty lady?!
I’m all for a unique creative story, and showcasing creative people, and so – feast your eyes and hearts on Stephanie! Although you can’t see many of them, Stephanie’s art extends across her skin in a flurry of beautiful tattoos. I started our conversation with a question about her body as an art piece. We hope you enjoy our conversation!
VS:  I admit the first time I saw you, I was awestruck. Then I felt the heat of a girl crush dancing over me. Your look is so very unique. You’re like a walking art piece. I think we are always judging each other by our ‘outside covers’ – your ‘cover’ if you will, is full and robust with stories. Can you talk about your ‘skin’ – literally, as in your tattoos and piercings – when you got them and why as well as metaphorically – what motivated you to choose to use your body as an art piece…if that’s how it occurs to you?! Let’s get deep and vulnerable here, okay? (And, if you share about piercings on any of your ‘bathing suit’ parts – did they hurt?!)
SJ: Ok you are just the sweetest! Thank you for all those kind words. My “skin” has definitely been a journey for me. I started getting pierced and tattooed at 15, and then it just grew from there! I’ve had work done by a few different artists over the years. For me, my tattoos don’t have a whole lot of meaning. A few do, but most are just things I think look pretty! I’m actually terrified of bees (love them but terrified), and I have 2 tattooed on my left arm. My big meaningful ones are an “H” I have for my dog Hunter I lost last year and I have a few with things do with my husband.
I guess I was always drawn to tattoos from a young age. I was always artsy and different growing up. I don’t like the attention that comes with it though, strangely enough. And I think most tattooed people would agree. It was never really a style thing for me, I was getting tattooed and pieced before it was super trendy. As far as piercings go I only have them where they are visible. I had my my nipples and belly button before but they didn’t heal super good so they didn’t last long. I think a lot of people want to dress different but it’s hard because of criticism. You just have to do what feels right!
I think in the end nothing in my life is really boring and I feel like that about my appearance too.
VS: You did my make-up for a friend’s wedding. I requested that you make me look like a sexy rock-star and found some photos of Rihanna as inspiration. How long have been doing people’s make-up? Why did you start? Did you go to school? And, how do you know how to bring out the ‘rockstar’ or ‘insert request!’ in people? Do people ever say you made them feel more alive? Better? Sexier?!
SJ: You looked like a fox that night! You have such a great face for makeup.
I’ve been doing makeup for about 7 years now. I was always punked out as a kid and shaved off my entire eyebrows in grade 9 so redrawing my face and creating different looks happened quite young. My mom is a big makeup wearer as well which pushed me in the right direction. But what made me get into makeup professionally was monsters and horror. That genre has been such a big part of my life, I was in love with Elvira at a very young age (8 or 9 years old) and I was lucky enough to meet her a couple years ago, and I wanted to do makeup for monsters/actors for a living! I did not go to a school, I’ve done courses through the Dick Smith makeup school (he did the makeup for the Exorcist and godfather movies among many others). But for the most part I am self taught.
It takes a lot of practice and study to know each individual client. Working for MAC cosmetics has helped me tremendously. Being artistic in general (I paint and draw) is a huge advantage. Makeup is definitely about making people feel amazing. It’s a super rewarding career. Helping someone conceal a flaw they are self conscious about or bringing out features they want to celebrate. Confidence is something that is priceless and having your makeup done professionally and expertly makes all the difference. And it’s great spending time with people, it’s amazing the intimate conversations I have with people in my chair. I love it.
VS: Doing make-up is a creative endeavour. Do you get tired from it? How do you keep your creative juices flowing?
SJ: I do get tired sometimes, not of makeup in general but I like balance. Beauty and monstrous makeup, working for MAC is awesome but I can only flex my monster makeup muscles around Halloween. I do work full time and have lists of other creative things I do on a daily basis so I miss out on freelancing a lot. And that’s where I can usually get pretty creative!
I hope to get back into freelancing more in the future, I have some exciting monster stuff in the works!
To keep thinking creatively and to keep motivated I love reading about makeup and watching horror movies and thinking to myself how I would have executed that. I think it’s important to study makeup artists that have come before us. Whether it be beauty or blood. I love Dick Smith and Tom Savini. Jack Pierce was the makeup artist that worked on some of the universal monsters. Reading about their work and learning how makeup has evolved gets me excited and eager to get my hands dirty.
VS: What else do you do creatively? I know you play the cello – when did you start? Why? What does it mean to you?
SJ: My list of hobbies is a long one!
Cello is a giant love of mine and October was a year that I’ve been playing. I always wanted to play a classical instrument and thought piano would be it when I was ready but I came across a young woman named Tina Guo playing cello on a Facebook post and I was mesmerized. Although I still plan to take piano in the future- cello is my first love.
I love things that are older or have a really rich history, and cello did it for me. The sound is so melancholic sometimes and soulful. It made me cry. Still does. And to play a classical strong instrument is such a challenge, and I love a challenge.
Along with cello, I paint with oils and draw a fair bit. I’ve drawn and painted my whole life.
VS: Are you a feminist? If yes – what does it mean to you? If no, what do you think of feminism?
SJ: Equality is a huge thing for me and for a lot of women. I love being a woman and I just want the same opportunities and a chance to prove my self, my skills. I love reading about woman pioneering the makeup scene and art scene (especially when being a woman in almost any industry was tough). It’s so inspiring, and I feel I owe it to them to keep things moving!
VS: Are you living your dreams? What dreams are you working on?
SJ: I feel like I am, there are certain areas I know I need to crack down on. Like I mentioned previously, special effects makeup/monster makeup is where my heart lies. And I’m such a procrastinator, and I usually have a bunch of things on the go. I want to focus more on that in the future.
I would also love a farm! A small hobby farm I guess, I’m a big animal lover and we are outgrowing our current place pretty quickly!
And MAC is a dream job that’s for sure, it’s a great place to work and I’m so thankful for that. Living my dreams comes down to being happy and I am. I’m happy if I’m creating something or learning something.
VS: Where would you like to travel to? Why? Do you even like to travel?!
SJ: I haven’t been too many places so travel is something I plan on doing more of! I would love to visit France and Germany. And exploring more of the east coast in the United States is a big one for me! I loved Massachusetts’s when I went a couple years ago and need more time to explore there and the surrounding area!
I always wanted to visit Salem as a girl and it was a big dream of mine to go. I’ve always been fascinated by the Salem witch trials so visiting that city was extremely special.
VS: What book(s) are you reading? What music is rockin’ your ears?
SJ: Right now I’m reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s a hard read, and since I’m such a big fan of the movie and monster it’s only natural to finish this wordy (hahah) and beautiful book!
As far as music goes I’m not a giant music person. I like older rock if I listen to it or classical. I am a big Marilyn Manson fan and Rob Zombie, those guys never get old. I’m more of a movie person though I guess!
VS: What television/Netflix shows do you watch? Are you a binge-watcher?
SJ: I’m a binge watcher that’s for sure! But I really have to find a show I like. The show Salem was so good and I watched that and finished the few seasons pretty quick. And I’m a Stranger Things fan for sure! Right now the Santa Clarita diet is a good one! It has lots of gore, funny and the acting is great!
VS: Choose three words to describe your favourite day. A difficult day (three more words).
SJ: Halloween, candy, monsters 🙂
Procrastination, deadline, late (lol!)
VS: Are you a spiritual person? Does this motivate/inspire/affect your creativity?
SJ: I think I am, I feel like I’m just starting to figure that part of my life out. I grew up Roman catholic but it’s something I don’t really jive with. I love hearing and learning about older religions, I feel like those nature based religions speak more to me.
And even though I don’t call myself a Christian doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy all the interesting things that are involved with Christianity.
Lots of blood shed and intriguing artifacts and paintings as associated with it which really inspires me.
VS: What would you say to your 12-year-old self about confidence?
SJ: All the stuff you worry about at this age like looks and popularity is a fucking joke. Be yourself and don’t worry about other people. The people that matter stay. Love yourself.
VS: What would your 80-year-old self offer as advise to your self today?
SJ:Take risks and stop worrying so much.
Take more time for yourself.
If you’re interested in getting your make-up done by Stephanie, take a stop by the MAC counter at the MAC store in Devonshire Mall!
Thanks Stephanie! May your creative juices continue to flow!

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