Make-up artist and art director Natalie Vest-Jones: from practicing with friends to a shoot for Lazy Oaf
Already passionate about make-up artistry, Natalie Vest-Jones got a job at Sephora as soon as she turned 18. There, she found herself curious about the unique vision and story of brands she encountered, discovering the part art direction plays in the creative process and later moving to Southampton to study the discipline at uni. Having created a fantasy-inspired coffee table book for her final project, she’s since launched its spin-off as a standalone magazine, Sanxtuary, which seeks to platform BIPOC and queer talent. Outside of her personal work, she’s also spent time as a make-up artist and art director for brands such as Lazy Oaf, working on their latest spring campaign shoot. Here, Natalie chats with us about the importance of networking in her creative disciplines and how to make a name for yourself in a new, big city.
Make-Up Artist and Creative Director
Sanxtuary Magazine, Lazy Oaf, New Look
London Fashion Week: Ozwald Boateng, Robyn Lynch, Zeynep Kartal
Creative Intern, Jaime Perlman Studio (2022)
Make-Up Artist, Sephora (2016–2018)
Place of Study
BA Fashion Styling and Creative Direction, Solent University (2018–2021)
What I do
How would you describe what you do?
I am a London-based make-up artist and art director. I am also the founder and creative director of Sanxtuary Magazine. As a makeup artist, I mainly work on different editorial projects such as London Fashion Week, Sanxtuary and Dreamingless Magazine, as well as e-commerce jobs for clients like New Look. Within art direction, I mainly am working on Sanxtuary, conceptualising and organising shoots for each issue.
What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
For me, inspiration can come from anything, such as any beauty I may find in my surroundings and everyday things, sociopolitical topics that I want to investigate deeper, or certain lived experiences that I want to tell the story of through image or beauty.
Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
Yes. As a make-up artist, you can definitely be self-taught, but that still encompasses multiple things, such as:
- training yourself
- seeking out knowledge on how to do certain techniques
- how to approach different skin types, tones and face shapes
- colour theory
- which textures and products can or can’t mix and in what order they should be applied
- hygiene standards
And so on. But on the other hand, I also believe that make-up has no rules – you should definitely experiment with it and create whatever you think looks cool!
In terms of art direction, I’ve been very happy with my choice to get a degree in that field – university definitely develops your taste. Through it, I also learned necessary practical skills in photography and Adobe Creative Suite. Outside of formal education, I would say that you need to be a strong storyteller and have strong creative visions – you can then learn the skills needed to bring your stories to life.
What’s been your favourite project to work on from the past year, and why?
In 2022 my favourite project to work on was definitely putting together the first print issue of Sanxtuary! It was very stressful, but I am very proud of the outcome of it, so it was all worth it! I also got to meet so many talented BIPOC and queer creatives while creating this magazine.
Tell us a little about how and why you set up Sanxtuary Magazine.
I set up Sanxtuary as I was frustrated with the lack of genuine representation and inclusion for BIPOC and queer creatives in the fashion world. BIPOC and queer creatives consistently have their work stolen, and we also see that BIPOC communities continue to have their cultures appropriated in fashion – usually by out-of-touch brands and fashion institutions that have few to no BIPOC members in their boardrooms.
I wanted to challenge this by creating a space in the fashion and beauty world which is completely dedicated to featuring the work of BIPOC and queer creatives. Everything done in Sanxtuary – from front-of-camera work, to behind the scenes in our shoots and digital spaces, is done by BIPOC and queer creatives.
This past year, we launched our first print issue. It took a lot of collaboration, dedication and planning, but I’m very happy that there is now a magazine where you can see some of the best creative visions brought to you by amazing BIPOC and queer talents – without any of it being stolen or white-washed!
“With Sanxtuary, there is now a magazine where you can see creative visions brought to you by BIPOC and queer talents – without it being stolen or white-washed.”
Can you tell us about your experience participating in the Lazy Oaf campaign shoot?
The Lazy Oaf campaign shoot was really fun! The concept was DIY, so all of us creatives who are usually the crew on a set got to work our talents on each other! It was really nice to meet other emerging creatives, and it was amazing that it was for one of my favourite brands! I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Lazy Oaf, and I think the campaign is going to turn out amazing because they really let us be as creative as we wanted for the brief.
How I got here
What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
As soon as I was old enough, I got a job at Sephora – I had to be 18, so before then I was practising make-up on all my friends and family! I worked there while I was finishing high school and developed my skills over time.
While working there, I was always so intrigued by the campaign images we had for the different brands, and I loved how each brand had its own vision and story! I wondered who got to make these images – not the actual photographs, but their story and aesthetic. I found out that it was the job of a creative director. So as I was finishing high school, I searched for uni courses, and found the fashion styling and creative direction degree at Solent University – and I chose that!
During uni is where I developed most of my [make-up and art direction] skills. For my final major project I made a coffee table book called Sanctuary, which is the origin of the magazine. After that I moved straight to London – where I’ve now been for about a year and a half – to immerse myself in the world of fashion and beauty.
“As soon as I was old enough, I got a job at Sephora – I had to be 18, so before then I was practising make-up artistry on all my friends and family, and developed my skills over time.”
How did you go about landing your first clients?
When I moved to London, it was tricky because I literally didn’t know anyone. But I just put myself out there, emailing different make-up artists who [I thought] might need an assistant, and a couple of them replied. From there, I continued assisting different artists, networked, and eventually built good relationships and get to show your skills at different jobs, and one day someone I assisted recommended me for a gig that they weren’t able to be at. In terms of art direction, I’ve also assisted a couple times, and that networking helped me land my first art direction-related role.
“When I moved to London, I literally didn’t know anyone. But I put myself out there, emailing different makeup artists who might need an assistant, and a couple of them replied!”
What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Getting my first entry-level role. I think we all know the annoying cycle of ‘entry-level’ roles wanting you to have two years of experience – but how do you get that if you’re looking for an entry-level role? Even when you have a good portfolio and got great grades at uni, you’d have to wait for someone to take a chance on you!
If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
The Mentoring Matters scheme has helped me a lot. I also love Babes on Waves on Instagram and The New Black Vanguard coffee table book!
How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work?
If you work in any visual field, then I think social media is super-important to be able to show off your work, network, and let people find you!
What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
It depends on your financial background and living situation. If you’re able to live at home while pursuing you creative goals, I would advise you to do that. But if you’re like me and that isn’t an option, then I recommend that you get a part-time job that gives you a secure income, but also the freedom of having time outside of work to do your creative role! I currently have a part-time role at Mac cosmetics, which is nice because I get to keep doing makeup. This gives me some income stability since the rest of my family lives overseas, and freelance work can have quiet times.
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Sounds cheesy, but networking is so important! Also, never turn down an opportunity because you’re thinking “they probably won’t pick me”: you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Network! Go to events happening in your field. Also, get a relevant education for what you want to do – nobody can take your skills and knowledge away from you!
Mention Natalie Vest-Jones
Interview by Lyla Maeve