Carrie Strahle has been mastering the art of cosmetics since she got her start in the beauty industry. Now self-employed, she in considered one of the best make-up artists to have come out of Portland. Carrie’s experience has led her to cosmetic hot spots such as Tokyo, LA and, New York but she’s always considered Portland home. The 2015 Portland Fashion & Style: Makeup Artist of the Year award is just one of her several acclaims. Carrie continues to put passion and ingenuity toward her art on a daily basis.
Tell us your story, how did you come to do what you do?
I started with makeup in the early 90’s. My mom was a professional makeup artist and growing up, I loved everything creative. To be honest my family was not the most supportive of the arts. They really encouraged me to go to a 4-year school and get a degree and study something that would give me a stable future and some kind of cushy salary position with paid vacation, that kind of stuff. So, I did just that. I have a bachelors degree in food marketing and in Japanese. Over the years I tried going more ‘corporate’ with what I do. Essentially, I think makeup chose me. I tried many times to step away from it when other jobs came my way but it just kept falling in my lap. I guess I just never really stopped. When I first started in the makeup industry, I began working for Lancome Cosmetics. I pretty much worked every job position within that company. Fragrance modeling, makeup artistry, I managed multiple locations, multiple stores. I was an educator for them and developed the education and hiring of other makeup artists. And then I ran out of places to go up. At that time I was like ‘ehh, maybe I’ll use my degree’ but I just kept getting offered all these makeup jobs and this was even before I had a website. I was offered this big job doing a Vitamin Water commercial. After that I thought ‘huh, I wonder what would happen if I actually marketed myself a little bit.’ So I decided to start my own business and I’ve been doing it ever since. Being self-employed, this is only my third year. I’ve been snowballing ever since I started and I’m kinda in a sweet spot now.
You spent time in Tokyo right? I’ll bet that degree in Japanese came in handy.
It did! In my 20’s I used to model in Japan. I also taught makeup at a beauty school in Tokyo. I lived there for about 5 years, so I learned a lot about fashion and a lot about working on set with production. That experience working in front of the camera really helps me understand better working behind the camera.
I read on your site that you don’t believe in a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to makeup.
I feel that makeup should never be done the same way on every person. I think you should look at the persons features and decide the application techniques based on what will enhance their beauty. I don’t prefer the makeup styles that are completely transformative. Where it makes you not even look like you. Where after you wash off your makeup you’re like ‘who’s that?’ For me, I really prefer balance. If it’s some type of work for film or stage and you’re supposed to do character creation, then that’s different. But I really think makeup should be created for the person, not the other way around. If I see a client or I’m doing a photoshoot, I don’t preplan the makeup without knowing the model. I don’t say ‘I’m going to do bright blue eye-shadow and a nude lip’ and then wait and see what the model will look like. I observe the model first and then decide my approach and strategy based off of their features.
What is your creative process when facing a challenge in the field?
It really depends on the situation. My work is so broad, I’m doing a little bit of everything. In some situations I don’t always have creative control and in others I’ll have complete creative freedom. So it really varies. I’ve been doing makeup for so long that I don’t really have to think about it. Even for editorial spreads where you’re using one model and doing 4 different looks. You don’t start over every single time. You build in progression, so you really have to think about ‘how can I change the makeup for 4 separate looks without having to erase any of the makeup.’ I’ve been doing that for so long that I don’t even have to plan ahead of time. But there are other times where the project is more complicated and you have to plan in advance. Especially if you’re working with prosthetics. I started getting into that last year where I would sculpt things from clay, then make a mold, then pour the mold with whatever you’re using, latex or whatever, let it set, paint it, and then apply it to the client. That process could take 2 or 3 days of crafting. I am consumed by my work. I work seven days a week. That’s the sacrifice I make to do what I love, but I love it so it’s not really a sacrifice. In the same breadth, I feel that you have to experience life around you. You can’t have these blinders on where you’re not experiencing anything. Those life experiences, the things outside of what you’re doing, draw other creative influence. I just do what I want to do and create what I want to create and let my work speak for itself.
What do you think it means to be a creative in Portland today?
I think we’re lucky in a lot of ways that Portland is so open and supportive to creativity, but it’s not an easy path. I think you just have to do what makes you happy but regardless, no matter what path you choose, you’ll be sacrificing something. I feel super lucky to be able to do what I do and survive off of it. I don’t know how long Portland is going to be like this. The growth is really changing Portland rapidly. You have to focus on how to be sustainable because otherwise we might become Seattle or San Francisco where essentially the city outgrew the creatives.
So you’ve been all over.. LA, Japan What sets Portland apart as a city?
After high school, I left Portland for 10 years. I went to college in Philadelphia. And then of course, spent time in LA and Tokyo. Growing up here, I was kind of bored. The people are so nice and the pace of life seemed so slow. Granted that’s changed, but I guess I was just hungry for more. I wanted to explore and experience new places. But after leaving it helped me understand how awesome Portland is and how ignorant I was to the world. No matter where you go, you can name good things and bad things about a place. But Portland really has everything. It took me a while to understand, and even now I get job offers all over the place. I was offered a job in New York City where I would have to relocate, but I turned it down. I don’t want to leave Portland. I mean, I’ll travel anywhere for work but please don’t make me move away from Portland.
What do you love most about your work?
What I love most is that everyday is different. Being self-employed is super awesome! Every day I work with new people, new talent, new creatives, new photographers, new videographers, new directors… It’s really dynamic, and not only are the people I work with changing but so is my makeup application. Sometimes I’m doing really clean and fresh looks and sometimes I’m doing crazy things or prosthetics. That’s my favorite part, that it’s never the same thing twice. Never boring.