Vivienne Lynn and Makeup Artist Richard Sharah

Richard Sharah

written by Becca Gilmartin

In 2014, the world said an unexpected and heartfelt goodbye to one of the makeup industries most prolific and iconic talents, Richard Sharah. Responsible for some of the most iconic and creative looks with his creative New-wave-meets-glam-punk aesthetic, Richard’s creative genius helped David Bowie step out of glam rock into his Pierrot inspired look for his 1980 album cover ‘Ashes to ashes’. Fashion Icon and long-time collaborator of Richards, Zandra Rhodes, describes Richard as “one of the most influential makeup artists possibly ever. He lived and died his art.” Often also described as the ‘Picasso’ of the makeup world, Zandra goes on to say “He was the leader (in the Makeup Industry), at the time beauty ideals were limited, he broke the boundaries of what you could or should put on a face.” Richards larger than life persona oozed his passion for this industry when later in his career, taking under his wing and mentoring some of today’s best makeup artists, teaching them their roots from his home in Bronte, Sydney. In this Nostalgia Issue, we spent some time with close friends, colleagues and artists whose lives were lucky enough to have Richard in their lives, to fondly remember one of the Makeup Industries greatest artists, and a phenomenal human being.

Richard Sharah

written by Becca Gilmartin

Vivienne Lynn and Makeup Artist Richard Sharah

In 2014, the world said an unexpected and heartfelt goodbye to one of the makeup industries most prolific and iconic talents, Richard Sharah. Responsible for some of the most iconic and creative looks with his creative New-wave-meets-glam-punk aesthetic, Richard’s creative genius helped David Bowie step out of glam rock into his Pierrot inspired look for his 1980 album cover ‘Ashes to ashes’. Fashion Icon and long-time collaborator of Richards, Zandra Rhodes, describes Richard as “one of the most influential makeup artists possibly ever. He lived and died his art.” Often also described as the ‘Picasso’ of the makeup world, Zandra goes on to say “He was the leader (in the Makeup Industry), at the time beauty ideals were limited, he broke the boundaries of what you could or should put on a face.” Richards larger than life persona oozed his passion for this industry when later in his career, taking under his wing and mentoring some of today’s best makeup artists, teaching them their roots from his home in Bronte, Sydney. In this Nostalgia Issue, we spent some time with close friends, colleagues and artists whose lives were lucky enough to have Richard in their lives, to fondly remember one of the Makeup Industries greatest artists, and a phenomenal human being.

 

Ursula Hufnagl from Chic Management in Sydney remembers Richard as an “Extraordinary human being… I guess because he was so in touch with not only his spiritual needs but everyone else’s as well. That has to (be important) when you’re doing makeup. It’s such a private thing I think when you have that feeling of spirituality, it not only naturally has to make you a better person, but also a better makeup artist.” “Richard was always very sensitive to other people’s needs, and that wasn’t just on the talent he was working on, that was everyone in the room. To share that is sometimes very draining, yet he was always the one to give. I think that shows the kind of human he was, he was always giving. It wasn’t just about his makeup and his talent, it was also beyond that. You know the industry well enough, we’re in a people business. It’s important to be gracious and it’s important to have manners, be respectful and sometimes, it’s not there, and it’s sad that it’s not there! You look at some people out there now and it’s like everyone is fighting for their five minutes of glory. I think all of that’s very difficult, but Richard always made sure that everyone was happy around him and he made the day a pleasure, it was a pleasure to work with him! I think that’s a very important thing with Richard, he always wanted everyone feeling good about being on the job, and that wasn’t even his responsibility! You would like to think that came with the client, or the photographer, or the editors etc, but he always took on that responsibility. He always went up to people asking “Are you OK? What can I do for you?”… that I think is what made Richard and set him apart and it’s something I will always remember Richard for.”
No one is ever just the sum of other people’s memories or impressions, but it is very clear that Richard was not only a passionate artist, he lived and breathed the Makeup Industry, influencing it with positive energy in an unmeasurable way. Long time close friend of Richards, fashion stylist Alethea Gold, spent a lot of time with Richard when he moved back to Sydney from overseas. “He was such a talent and sometimes I would come home from work… and he would just come and just sit and paint my wall! And then when he’d finished painting it, he said “well what am I going to do now?” At the time of speaking with Alethea, she had just found out that her humanitarian efforts had just seen 5000 solar powered lights delivered to Puerto Rico. If it’s true you can judge a person by the company they keep, Alethea is a shining example of the kind of person Richard chose to spend his time with.

As an educator, Richard was selective with who he took on as a student. Artists such as Dotti, Rae Morris, Craig Beaglehole and Aimie Feibig we amongst some of his protégé’s. Alethea goes on to say “I want to tell you a story about Richard and Rae. Rae was the hairdresser on a shoot, well, she was doing everything. And the first night of our shoot in Byron Bay, we were in some lodge in the mountains and it was a kids shoot she was booked on for Hair and Makeup even though she didn’t really do makeup at the time (she was a hairdresser). The first night she had to share a room with me because they didn’t have enough room. We were in our room, in the dark, and she said “You know, my dream is one day to come over to Sydney and work for free, anything, to learn from this famous makeup artist.” I was lying there half asleep saying ‘who?’ She said “Oh, I don’t know if you know him, his name is Richard Sharah.” Well I near rolled out of the bed! I said “Oh my god! You have no idea he is one of my best friends! I can introduce you!” I pulled over my phone and I called him, in the dark, it was about 10 o’clock. He said “Booba, I’m asleep call me when you’re back.” Anyway, I called him when I got back from the shoot and said “There’s this gorgeous hairdresser and she wants to learn makeup and you HAVE to teach her.” Richard said “Well she has to come here then! I’ll teach her, but she has to come here.”
He was giving makeup lessons one on one at the time, but ONLY if he thought someone had talent otherwise he wouldn’t do it. So Rae moved and came to Sydney and started learning from him. One day she came banging on my door, crying, sobbing, and I said “what’s the matter?” She said “He’s so awful to me… and he yells at me, and, and…” she was sobbing! I said “WHAT?! Stay here, I’m going to him.” He wasn’t answering his phone to me, so I drove over to Bronte to his house. I marched in. Richard was like 6 foot 4, a large man, with big hands and he had a big, larger than life energy. Anyway, here I am, just a little red head standing on his doorstep with my hands on my hips saying ” How dare you treat Rae, who’s a sweet innocent girl, like the way you did!” And he stuck his finger in my face, and he said “Don’t. You. Tell. Me. How to teach! That girl, is going to remember EVERY WORD I say for the rest of her life. She has got what it takes to be the best.” And I stood there and I started to cry and HE was crying, this big, big Lebanese guy whose energy was so big I can’t tell you, with his finger in my face. I had to go home and tell Rae to just keep doing it as he wants her to remember everything and to this day I think she does certain things where she can still hear him.
He said that ‘she was the most talented girl who ever walked across his doorstep.’ Those were his words.”
It’s a true testament to the kind of artist and teacher he was to know so many of today’s successful and admired artists started out under the mentoring wings of Richard. The integrity in his education is unquestioned. As well as Alethea Gold and Zandra Rhodes, we spoke with Makeup Artists Dotti, Rae Morris, Craig Beaglehole and Aimie Fiebig to learn more about their time with him. Here’s what they said:

 

How did you come to be introduced to Richard?
RAE MORRIS: Through the amazing legend, Alethea Gold. When we were on that shoot together and I was talking to her about how much Richard inspired me as an artist, and she looked at me at said “Oh Richard, yeah, he is a dear friend of mine, and did you know that he teaches now here in Sydney?” You had to lift my jaw off the floor, I had no idea this incredible master “Mr Sharah” was dead or alive! All I knew was that for years I’d collected images of his work (especially the Ziggy stardust stuff) and had them glued all over my makeup kit.
CRAIG BEAGLEHOLE: I was working at Mecca Cosmetica in 1998 at the Georges on Collins St store, the hottest make up store in Australia at the time. We would get all the top makeup artists from Sydney coming down to shop which is where I met Dotti who recommended Richard as she had been trained by him as well. That was enough me, before I knew it I was booked in!

What would you say was the greatest thing you learnt about makeup from Richard?
DOTTI: Richard was slightly colour blind and he saw this as gift. One that he shared openly about as it allowed him to teach us to be freer in our use and choice of colour. He loved to take the face to another place. I remember a shoot we did together we took Vladimir Tretchikoff as our reference. We painted 2 models green/black and blue/black in the layering and the use of tones was free and artful … it was a moment as he created, I have always in my memories. He said “Let go and be free booba with your imagination.”
RAE: The time it takes to make up a face, and attention to detail. I remember he said “If the client doesn’t give you 2 hours, Don’t take the job!” The only piece of advice I’ve had to slightly tweak!!
AIMIE: Richard made foundation look like skin, I had never seen that before. He showed us how to create this with his special technique by warming the hands and massaging the face, a trick that I still use to this day. He could do a whole face of makeup and it would look like it’d been retouched, his attention to detail was a treat to watch. Skin will always be in, but making it look natural, healthy and beautiful was Richards forte. And blending, layer upon layer, he was the King of blending whether it was a smoky eye or blush. He was strict about it and it showed.

What would be your favourite memory of Richard?
ZANDRA RHODES: His excitement and his big hands. He would hold the models face with these big hands and skilfully apply the makeup. In a way he formed me as he formed my look, my identity was shaped by him.
RAE: When he called me Booba, a name he only gave to those he loved or endeared! And when I arrived 10 minutes early to my first lesson, he opened the door and said “YOU’RE TO EARLY!” So I returned 1 min past … he again opened the door and shouted “YOU’RE LATE!” OH! Also when he said ‘pack up and move to Sydney and be my assistant!!’ WHOA! In that moment my life had changed!!
DOTTI: I have so many memories and some are personal as I spent a lot of time just hanging out with him at his place talking on so many subjects. There was about 4 to 5 of us who would go once a week to his house for meditation he would talk us through the journey. I still to this day practice some of his techniques. Also, I would love sitting and cleaning his makeup bags rearranging all his colours and products as he would also make his own and would explain the process to me. I still to this day have some pigments he gave me, and I mean pigments beyond colours of vibrancy! One of my favourite memories was how big his hands were, so huge, but he would pick up the smallest and finest brush and paint with elegance and precision.
AIMIE: The makeup classes were in Richards home, so it felt like a visual cocoon of photos, art, books, silk kimonos and music. He would tell you stories as you worked. Adventures on movie sets, celebrity clients, and of course makeup tips. Coming from New Zealand it all felt exciting and inspiring. His voice, which still sits crystal clear in my mind, was loud and you would hang onto every word he said.

How would you describe Richards impact on the makeup world?
DOTTI: There are so many iconic images and artists he worked with that are still referenced to this day and are relevant. That in itself speaks volumes.
CRAIG: Richards impact on the makeup world was huge, he really was one of the first ‘international’ makeup artists. Travelling the world, doing Vogue covers and some of the most iconic David Bowie images. These were the days before email or the internet. You got the job through recommendation, or your last tear sheet.
RAE: He took risks and he is a true artist, he is a legend! – Always was and always will be. He treated every face as if it was a Picasso painting and he saw beauty in everything. He was able to transform any face and I’m sure he was the one Keyvyn Auicon looked up to.
How do you think Richard influenced your career?
DOTTI: He gave me a compliment when we first met. I had done a shoot and used hooks and eyes and cotton to create glasses on the models face. He said he wished he had done it that was his gift to me -to trust in myself. He shared his knowledge, so yes, his sharing is a huge part of my career.
RAE: He is in my head every single day. He always said (and it’s now in my DNA) “If you think something is blended, ITS NOT, so 100 more strokes. Your eyes are not made as perfect as a macro lens!”

What piece of advice did Richard give you that you treasure?
RAE: Probably my favourite was “a great makeup artist knows when to put the brush DOWN”.
AIMIE: I came into the course very heavy handed. I would layer concealer so thick Richard would laugh and throw his hands in the air. My hand next to his looked like a toddlers, yet he had the lightest touch as though it was magic. Every time I put concealer under the eyes now I hear his advice. “Third finger, never over work it, a touch here and setting it with a cotton pad.” It really makes a difference.
DOTTI: Let go and trust yourself.

Did Richard have any products that he swore by?
RAE: I loved his techniques. He made most of his own products and was never swayed by brands or the ‘latest trends’. I used to help him make his own powders (he would put “Max Factor” pancake base into a blender). He had a brush for everything, and they were always much larger than imagined.
DOTTI: Still to this day have a certain product it’s a Kryolan white face paint that he left to dry out then broke it down in a mortar and pestle. A tricky product to apply and you must use a certain size brush and be swift in its application, but the finish is stain white skin that’s beyond anything to shoot!
CRAIG: Product wise, Richard wasn’t into the most expensive. I still use Simple Toner before most make ups to get rid of any excess oil and debris before moisturising. We used a brilliant powder called Cornsilk which you can still buy and a lot of Prestige. There are great products across all ranges and he taught me what to look for.

What products exist for MUAs today that you think he would be super excited about?
CRAIG: I think he’d definitely love Georgio Armani Luminous Silk, along with Nars Sheer Glow Foundation. They provide such flawless coverage while looking like skin. When I was taught by him we were using Shinto foundations which are gorgeous but we’ve come a long way since then.
RAE: My brushes, pardon the plug, but he was obsessed with Japanese shaped makeup Art brushes. He was never really about brands, or fads, but loved the true craftsmanship of the tools of the trade.
AIMIE: Makeup has become bigger than ever so I think he’d be loving the bold rich colours and the vibrant palettes available that were not around until recently. Also the wide array of textures and highlighters, the variety is endless.

This is quite a speculative question… but what do you think Richard might want to say to the current new Gen of makeup artists if he were alive today?
CRAIG: I think Richard would want the new generation to learn about making their clients look more unique, and beautiful in their own way, rather than the ‘one make up fits all’ approach we see nowadays. I also hear him saying ‘blend blend blend!’ And ‘clean those brushes! they don’t clean themselves.’
RAE: It’s not how you make yourself look, it’s how you make people feel. Until you can make all women (and men) of ALL ages look so beautiful, the best they have ever looked, “EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU DO THEIR MAKEUP”, maybe don’t use the word “professional makeup artist”… maybe artist applier only!
What would you like the makeup world to remember/know about Richard?
ZANDRA: I think he has inspired many. The brilliant British makeup artist, Andrew Gallimore and I have worked together more recently and it’s hard not try to repeat the past. I feel Richard created such signatures for me, but there is no point in trying to copy, but to try and be inspired by his spirit and his freedom.
DOTTI: I’d like them to remember his work and the relevance his vast range of work has – to explore his work and get to know the mark he made on many people’s lives.
RAE: That he didn’t care about the material word, the parties, the “who you know”. I know for sure he would never have had an Instagram account nor a blog. I want everyone to know that he was the real deal, he was mastering contouring and highlighting before I was even born. His work was before the days of retouching, nothing was airbrushed. I would put him in the same league as Picasso, Monet, I’ve seen his illustrations, OMG!
CRAIG: Before Kevyn Aucion and Francios Nars there was Richard Sharah! He paved the way with his incredible vision, artistic eye and hands and made his subjects look incredible!

It’s certainly clear that one article in a magazine is never going to be able to paint a complete picture of the genius and love of Richard Sharah, however it’s evident that his spirit is still alive in the minds and hearts of so many he came in contact with. To this day he still has influence over the world of Makeup, and whilst his voice may still be talking in the back of the minds of artists around the world, the world may never again see an artist quite like Mr Richard Sharah.

Laud would like to thank Alethea Gold, Zandra Rhodes, Ursula Hufnagl, the Robyn Beeche Foundation, Rae Morris, Dotti, Craig Beaglehole and Aimie Fiebig for their contribution to this article.
Images Courtesy of the Robyn Beeche Foundation and Black Eye Gallery

Robyn Beeche’s book ‘Visage to Vraj’ including a vast array of Richards work is available from online retailers or direct from the Robyn Beeche foundation.

Richard Sharah 1977

Craig Beaglehole and Richard 1998

Vivenne Lynn 1980

1979 Richard Sharah Makeup Sketch

1981 Zandra Rhodes Poster

1979 Sue Purdy wearing Zandra Rhodes

1980 Richard Sharah Visage Album Cover – Steve Strange

1980 Richard Sharah Doors

1980 Vivenne wearing Zandra Rhodes