Laura Mercier

Worlds of swirl: Kathryn Beals for Laura Mercier

As soon as I laid eyes on the mesmerizing swirls of this Laura Mercier bronzing compact I knew it was a Museum must-have.  Only when I visited their website to find the official name of the compact for the summer exhibition label did I discover that this beauty was the work of California-based artist Kathryn Beals

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

I was hypnotized by the marbleized pattern well as the color scheme of celestial blues with ribbons of gold. 

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

I believe the bronzer is a cream formula so it began "sweating" a bit when I placed it the windowsill to take photos. 

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

Beals, a self-taught artist raised in British Columbia, is a third-generation painter who began selling her artwork at the age of 13.  Her love of the outdoors led her to pursue a career in forestry studying aspen trees.  She eventually switched to painting full-time, and both her professional background and camping adventures in the Northwest made landscapes her primary subject matter. 

Kathryn Beals, Death Valley Superbloom

Her technique changed in 2017, when she discovered "fluid pouring" in which streams of variously colored acrylic paint are poured onto a canvas to form abstract, yet organic-looking, imagery. "[I] immediately fell in love with the way fluid paintings come out looking like something in nature; from cells to rocks to aerial photos to galaxies," she says. In this way they function sort of as nature's inkblots in that the finished product can resemble different natural phenomena to different viewers: one might see a night sky or geological formation while another sees a microscopic organism or ocean waves, or it could be all of these simultaneously. Beals also credits her grapheme color synesthesia - meaning she sees words and numbers in color - and migraine auras as key influences on the patterns she creates.

Kathryn Beals, Pink and Yellow

Kathryn Beals, Ocean Colors

Beals began experimenting with incorporating metallic leaf into her abstract works to add a bit of structure and sheen to them. She pioneered a unique metal leafing technique by using liquid adhesive to outline natural details (trees, rivers, etc.) and applying gold, silver or copper leaf on top. The paintings are then topped off with a layer of shiny resin for a reflective, three-dimensional effect. Earlier this year she launched her own online course to train other artists in this technique. All of Beals' series are based on nature - riverbeds, forests, and glaciers seem to be her favorite sources of inspiration.

Kathryn Beals, Gold and Sunrise

Kathryn Beals, Gold Aurora Borealis

Kathryn Beals, Glacier series 2

Kathryn Beals, Glacier series 2 detail

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 7

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 11 - green geode

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 6

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 6 detail

To give you a better sense of Beals' process I've included this video. I love how it combines a slightly haphazard technique (acrylic pouring) with a more intricate one (metal leaf outlines) to create a perfect marriage of abstraction and traditional landscapes. It also looks like she's left-handed, and you know how cool I think lefties are.

I enjoy Beals' work, but I'm even more impressed by her charitable mindset. She is fully devoted to donating a good portion of the proceeds from her art sales to various nonprofits. She explains, "I want to remember my connection to forestry and the outdoors in my work, so I use my art to raise funding for conservation nonprofits. As a cancer survivor, I want to give back, so I plan to do a benefit series every year with my artwork." In the past Beals has given The Nature Conservancy, the American Cancer Society, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Doctors Without Borders, among others. Her most recent series this month raised over $5,000 for Leave No Trace, an organization that educates those who manage public lands and the public itself on reducing their environmental impact. From 2017 till now, Beals has donated over $20,000 to charitable organizations and hopes to raise $100,000 in her lifetime. I'd say she's well on her way! And, uh, I also know a museum she could donate to. ;)

Anyway, I was pretty excited to find that Beals had posted the original artwork that was used for the Laura Mercier bronzer at her Instagram.

Kathryn Beals

Of course I had to highlight the section that's on the case.

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer/work by Kathryn Beals
(images from and @kathrynbeals)

I'm still itching to know how the collab came about and why Laura Mercier selected Beals for this piece.  I left a comment on the artist's Instagram to no avail, but that's par for the course I suppose given how infrequently artists actually respond to my requests.  Oh well.  I think the company may just happened to have been one of the over 6 million views of this 2018 viral Facebook video/artist interview, and approached Beals for a collab.  But I'd like to talk with the artist and get her views on makeup and beauty, especially since she looks to be bare-faced most of the time - I'd be curious to know if she'd actually use the product her artwork appeared on.  I also think it would have been really cool if Laura Mercier had added clear acrylic on top of the case to make it resemble one of Beals' finished pieces even more.  (Check out NARS's Man Ray lipstick coffrets if you can't picture what I'm talking about.)

What do you think of this bronzer and of Beals's work?  If you had to choose, would you buy this one or MAC's Electric Wonder collection?

Makeup illustration mysteries with Urban Decay and Laura Mercier

Today I'm playing detective to decipher who's behind the packaging of a couple recent releases.  First, I spotted these two Urban Decay palettes at Chic Profile over the summer.  They are exclusive to the French Sephora website and bear the tag of "Pboy", ostensibly the graffiti artist who created the designs.

Urban Decay France-exclusive Naked palettes
(images from

I searched high and low but could find zero information on this artist.  (There is a group of graffiti artists collectively called Poster Boy, but given their anti-consumerist agenda and their collage style I highly doubt they lent their work to Urban Decay.)  I've emailed the company and if they provide any info I will update.

The other designs I was curious about come from Laura Mercier.  Several recently released items - the Flawless Contour palette, the Candleglow palette and the Reflections of Hope mirror - all have the same illustration style.  The windows of Laura Mercier's boutique in Paris are also decorated with these sorts of designs.

Laura Mercier Flawless Contour palette

Laura Mercier Candleglow palette

Laura Mercier Reflections of Hope mirror
(images from

Laura Mercier illustration

Laura Mercier boutique in Paris
(images from

At first I thought the artist might be Izak Zenou, who, in addition to illustrating a Sephora collection, also did the illustrations for Laura Mercier's book.  But his signature was nowhere to be found on any of the designs for these more recent palettes.  Actually, there's no signature at all.  I decided to watch this video I found on the company's Facebook page to see if it could provide any clues. 


And it did!  Look at the lower right at the 1:30 mark, the word "Chesley" appears.  One quick Google search yielded the full name.  According to her website, NYC-based Chesley McLaren is obsessed with anything French, earning her the nickname of "the French illustrator in New York".  She has done illustrations for the likes of Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Henri Bendel as well as a campaign for Bloomingdales called Vive La France.  So it's quite appropriate that she's been partnering with Laura Mercier.  I do wonder though why none of her work, save for the video above, bears her signature.  Anyway, I'm still debating whether to get any of these latest Laura Mercier items for the Museum.  They're cute but I don't know if they're a necessity.

Do you like figuring out packaging mysteries?  And if anyone knows anything about the graffiti artist for Urban Decay, do let me know!

April is the cruelest month...for Guerlain, anyway

Just a quick post to point out how similar Guerlain's spring Cruel Gardenia highlighting powder is to Laura Mercier's Rose Rendezvous palette from the holidays.  What's going on here?  How did these two items with a nearly identical design manage to get released?

(image from

Compare to Rose Rendezvous:


Really, the only difference are the petals in the center:  Guerlain's are more clustered while those in the Rose Rendezvous palette features a star-like pattern.  (Although I find it funny that one calls it a rose and the other a gardenia when it's the same floral design!)  These two are virtually twins so they weren't even worth a classic Makeup Museum smackdown, sniff.  But don't worry, one is coming tomorrow.  ;)

Roses done right: Laura Mercier

Laura Mercier stealthily put this lovely little highlighter on the table for the 2011 holiday season.  Now we all know my feelings on rose patterns in makeup design, and I do find it strange to do flowers for a winter release rather than spring, but this time I think the roses are executed beautifully. 




With flash:


They almost look like they're sprouting from the palette itself, and they're not "traditional" roses - these look more like big ruffly garden roses (of which I am a huge fan).  Between the soft rose-gold hue and the slight 3D effect, Rose Rendezvous presents a pretty new twist on floral makeup design.  What do you think?

Just gorges: Canyon Sunset palette from Laura Mercier

Laura_mercier_canyon_sunset_cheek_melange I thought this was a nice offering from Laura Mercier for fall.  While I didn't buy it (yet), the more I look at it the more I think it would be a good acquisition for the museum.  The reason: it's reminding me of all the lovely canyon and mountain landscapes done by the Hudson River School.  Let's take a peek at some of their work, shall we?

In a nutshell, the Hudson River School was an East Coast-based group of artists in the mid-19th century who focused on capturing the American landscape.  Heavily influenced by Thomas Cole and European Romanticism, these artists forged both the rise of American tourism and a foundation for an artistic style that was distinctly American.  If you're so inclined, the Met and PBS both have good summaries on them.1

Let's start with Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900).  This artist traveled all over the world, visiting Ecuador, Columbia and most of Europe.  He is probably best known for his representations of the Andes - at least, that's what I remember him for!

The Andes of Ecuador, c. 1876:

(image from

He also did a magnificent sunset at Grand Manan Island (a Canadian island in the Bay of Fundy), which I think best relates to the Canyon Sunset palette out of all his works:

Grand Manan Island, Bay of Fundy, 1852:

Grand_Manan_Island,_Bay_of_Fundy(image from

Then there's the German-born Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) who went west and painted the Rockies and the Yosemite Valley.

Looking Down Yosemite, 1865:

(image from

Deer at Sunset, c. 1868:

(image from

Finally, British-born artist Thomas Moran (1837-1936) also traveled out west (at least 7 times, in fact) from his home in Philadelphia, and completed many beautiful paintings of the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon with Rainbows, 1912:

Thomas Moran Grand Canyon with Rainbow, 1912 - Final AssemblyALT(image from

Under the Red Wall, 1917:

(image from

So now that we've had a little art history lesson, which of the Hudson River School artists mentioned here is your fave?  Or are you not digging any of them?  And which of their work reminds you the most of the Laura Mercier palette?  I personally am not into landscapes, but for the Hudson River School I make an exception.  The fact that these artists traveled so far at a time when travel for the sake of travel wasn't done very much (unless you were an actual explorer) is extraordinary.  The role they played in creating the notion of American tourism is significant as well.  Anyway, I think my favorite of these three is Church, since he traveled the farthest.  And I think the Canyon Sunset palette most closely resembles Moran's work in terms of color and the fact that you can really see the canyon striations in both his paintings and the palette.

1 For more on these artists and the Hudson River School, check out Frederic Church, Winslow Homer and Thomas Moran:  Tourism and the American Landscape, The Hudon River School:  Nature and the American Vision, and Different Views in Hudson River School Painting.

An African odyssey: Moroccan-inspired design

Several recent releases are taking their cue design-wise from Moroccan architecture and patterns.  The raised surface of Laura Mercier's Moroccan Bronze palette looks to be inspired by the amazingly intricate stucco work in the Bahia Palace in Marrakech:


Bahia palace stucco
(photo from

And the interlocking pattern of the Sephora Moroccan collection palette is reminiscent of the door to the Mohamed V Mausoleum in Rabat:

Sephora moroccan
(photo from

Mausoleum rabat

If you can't get to Morocco any time soon these items can suffice.  Pretty!

Laura Mercier Gilded Garden shimmer bloc

I was surprised and pleased to see this little number from Laura Mercier's spring collection.  Normally this understated line doesn't go into patterns on their items (with the exception of a basic diamond pattern on their shimmer blocs) so this is a nice change.


Gilded garden 2009


I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, however, given that the brand had previously released violet-embossed eye shadow palettes last spring.


Violet quads

As with Estee Lauder's floral palettes from this spring, we'll have to wait and see if Laura Mercier continues with these designs.