Determined, clear, and passionate – that’s Catalina Sartor. However, her work is more challenging to put into words; you need to see what she creates to grasp why she's becoming the preferred makeup artist for your favourite artists – the latest to fall in love with her talent are Björk and Rosalía, who enrolled her in the team behind latest single Oral. I believe it’s that touch of performance art, the infusion of darkness, the flirtation with the sinister and the fierce, that distinguishes her. But let’s allow her to dispel any doubts.
Hello Catalina, it’s a pleasure to interview you. I’ve done a bit of research, but I’d like you to introduce yourself. Who is Catalina Sartor?
Born in Buenos Aires, Catalina Sartor is just a girl in the world with an endless curiosity and devotion about her craft.
When people ask me about the origins of my passion for makeup, I'm always open and honest. I tell them that I've been immersed in the world of glamour and beauty for as long as I can remember. From a very early age, I found myself drawn to the art of makeup and hairstyling, thanks in no small part to my childhood career as a professional rollerskater. That path demanded that I always had to keep my appearance on point, and it ignited my journey into the world of beauty.
While some MUAH are self-taught, others have formal training from professional makeup schools. You’re not only skilled in makeup but also deeply immersed in the world of FX. How did you initiate your journey into both of these disciplines?
Even before finishing school, I had a strong feeling that I shouldn't go to a traditional university but should instead build my own career. My journey involved a mix of experiences, including dance, theatre, art direction, and completing four makeup courses, topped off with a master's in Special Effects (SFX). It's this combination of experiences that has given me the skills I have today. I've found out that there's a real balance in learning. I've been lucky to learn from teachers and experts, but I've also been self-driven and disciplined in my learning. Surrounding myself with creative people has been a big part of my journey as well. I believe it's this mix of structured education, self-guided learning, and being in the company of creative individuals that has helped me gain the knowledge I need to grow professionally and stay creative.
I’ve heard that you’re originally from Argentina, but I’ve noticed that your initial work was based in Barcelona, and you’ve recently relocated to Paris. Both Barcelona and Paris, despite being undoubtedly cosmopolitan, have distinct cultural identities. Have you observed any specific cultural influences that have impacted your work in each city? How has your environment shaped your creative approach since you moved from your hometown?
I am grateful for the opportunity to start my career in Barcelona. It's a city with a vibrant art scene and a contemporary vision that has consistently inspired me. Barcelona is not only where I pursued my Master's in SFX but also where I established my identity as an artist.
Upon completing my studies in Spain, I began taking short trips to work in Paris. The city's rich cultural scene, including museums, exhibitions, and a dynamic social life, provided a constant source of inspiration. I found myself engaged in interesting projects with professionals who shared my creative vision, including collaborations with celebrities and other exciting opportunities. As a creative individual, I realised that the environment you immerse yourself in significantly influences the direction of your ideas. Given my appetite for creative challenges, I made the deliberate choice to relocate to Paris.
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Your Instagram serves as a portfolio showcasing your recent work. The photos of Erased face SFX on Yannis and Metallic body on Lilia are really impressive, and there’s a sense of performance in all your creations. Your aesthetic has often been associated with dark feminine energy and a ‘90s vampire vibe. How do you see these themes evolving in your recent projects, and do you envision any new directions for your aesthetic in the future?
Growing up, I honestly harboured dreams of becoming a performer, and I made efforts in that direction for several years. However, it gradually became clear to me that my true passion lays in creating different characters, and that’s when I discovered makeup as my means of bringing them to life. I would describe myself as a generally gentle and optimistic person, but when it comes to creativity, I often find myself drawn to crafting characters with a dark, feminine energy, reminiscent of the horror film genre. For example, you can see all of this in my new Les Mercuriales characters series.
Clearly there's something about the ‘90s vampire vibe that resonates with me. Makeup, for me, serves as a channel for expressing and perhaps even subduing the darkness that resides within me. The darkness that we all carry inside us can be a great source of inspiration.
In your post about “heart-shaped hickey”, you mentioned being inspired by Nan Goldin’s photography. She captured the zeitgeist of NYC from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, portraying people at their rawest and tackling subjects such as drug addiction, abuse, or HIV. What about her work speaks to you?
Nan Goldin's work has an almost mystical or even mythological quality to me, which might sound contradictory since her art is incredibly real and honest. Yet, it's precisely this authentic quality that deeply resonates with me. Her work has the power to move me, and that, in my view, is the essence of what I seek in art – a connection that stirs my spirit. I recently had the chance to watch her documentary, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, with friends at the cinema. It was during this screening that I was struck by the raw beauty of her heart-shaped bruise. In that moment, the idea to recreate it in the form of a hickey flashed into my mind, taking only a second to materialise.
Alicia, the model I chose for this project, is a photographer and a friend with a unique artistic sensibility. I see echoes of Nan Goldin in her, and that connection played a significant role in my decision to collaborate with her.
As a makeup artist, I’m sure you also pay attention to film, music, painting, etc. What other works inspire you? Is there a particular artist you consider a significant influence on your work?
I don't have a specific artist who significantly influences my work. My creative process is more eclectic. While I've occasionally drawn inspiration from specific films or paintings, what truly fuels my creativity is engaging with various art exhibitions, listening to artists whose work I resonate with, and admiring their careers. I've also discovered a wealth of inspiration in unusual places, such as books on mummification, animal textures and colours, the anatomy of peculiar deep-sea creatures, and even unconventional images from meme accounts. Archive pictures, including mugshots and fashion designs from the '90s runways, have also left their mark on my creative process.
I believe in immersing myself in anything that resonates with me and evokes a particular feeling. As a result, my ideas seem to spring to life randomly, almost like visions.
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The interplay between fashion, music, and visual arts has become increasingly evident. How do you see the role of makeup and special effects evolving within this interdisciplinary landscape?
As makeup artists, we're on the cusp of some truly fascinating and challenging years ahead. I see adaptability as a crucial skill for our evolution in this dynamic field. I'm genuinely excited about growing alongside the industry, and I'm eager to bring fresh, innovative ideas that bridge the gap between a modern perspective while staying true to the unmistakable essence of Generation Z and the generations to come. It's an exciting journey, and I'm looking forward to the ride.
In June, Arca DJed for the opening of Beyoncé’s show in Barcelona, and you did her makeup. You’ve also recently worked with her for the cover story of Pop magazine. Also you did Sevdaliza’s cover for Antidote. What do you believe draws such notable artists in the music industry to have you on their team?
Working with Arca for Beyoncé's show was undoubtedly a career highlight for me. Several factors have contributed to our ongoing collaborations, including my approach to each project with an objective perspective and a strong emphasis on innovation and exploration. My work consistently strikes a balance between bold, subtle, and elements of dark feminine energy, aligning well with their artistic vision.
To gain opportunities like this, it's not enough to rely solely on your artistic identity. A deep commitment to fulfilling your role within the team, demonstrating professionalism, efficiency, kindness, and adaptability is essential. Creating an energetic synergy, especially in such an intimate moment as doing an artist's makeup, is what keeps them coming back for more.
Which work do you think has had the greatest impact in terms of opening new opportunities for you? Personally, I came across your work approximately a year ago when you were doing makeup for Caroline Polachek in Geray Mena’s photoshoot.
Working with celebrities is undeniably a significant door opener in this industry. It not only increases your followers but also fosters trust among people when they approach you for new projects. While I wouldn't single out a specific project with a great impact, it's the combination of consistently creating strong looks and images as personal projects that indirectly communicates to potential clients the ideas I can bring to the table.
It's quite fascinating how occasionally someone will reach out, mentioning that they were recommended by someone I collaborated with a year ago. This continuous cycle of doors opening is one of the most intriguing aspects of working as a freelancer. It's like weaving an invisible web, much like a spider.
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In a rapidly evolving industry, maintaining a personal brand can be challenging. How do you balance staying true to your artistic identity with adapting to changing client preferences and industry trends?
Defining my artistic identity is a conscious choice I make each day. When I initially started embracing the aesthetic that identifies me today, I felt quite apprehensive because I knew it was quite specific and experimental. I was concerned it might limit my opportunities, but to my surprise, it did quite the opposite. It opened numerous doors, nearly all in perfect alignment with my artistic vision. As a result, I rarely find myself having to compromise or adapt to a proposal that doesn't resonate with my identity.
Even when an artist has established a distinct personal brand, staying updated with industry trends is essential. It's important to demonstrate this awareness in your work to remain relevant in an industry heavily influenced by what's currently in vogue.
You’ve also worked with brands like NiiHAi, Nimph and onrushw23fh. Do you usually have a certain degree of creative freedom?
I take great care to maintain a high level of precision and ensure I thoroughly grasp the distinct requirements of each project. My approach involves interpreting and executing the creative visions of my collaborators. Typically, we engage in several meetings before the actual shoot day. In general, I find that clients and directors are open to granting me creative freedom when it comes to suggesting the overall makeup aesthetic.
Sometimes, the concept itself sparks inspiration, leading me to create unique looks such as the Nymph-shaped scar. Fortunately, when clients hire me with the expectation of such creative input, I have the freedom to express myself while always staying loyal to the concept at hand.
To conclude, artists often have a signature touch or style. Can you describe some key elements that make your makeup and FX designs uniquely Catalina Sartor?
The Catalina Sartor look would undoubtedly feature my signature obsession with metallic tones. It would begin with a sharp and alluring foxy eye in black, enhanced with subtle silver sparkles delicately applied to the inner corner to exude a dark feminine allure. The lip would be a glossy skin-tone shade, adding a touch of sensuality.
But I wouldn't stop there; for added depth and uniqueness, I'd consider incorporating a series of realistic healed scars on the neck or perhaps a prosthetic that simulates a soft, glowing light just beneath the skin at the center of the chest. This look would encapsulate the dark, sensuous, and distinctive elements that define my artistic style.
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