Somebody That You Should Know: Skin Illustrator Emma Hack
An interview with Emma Hack, the makeup artist behind the music video for Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" Gotye's hit song "Somebody That I Used to Know" is everywhere. The song is inescapable on the radio and even on television. The music video for the song has received over 175 million hits on YouTube, and has no doubt influenced the song's rise to number one on the charts. The unique concept for the music video has been parodied on Saturday Night Live and inspired a heap of copycats on YouTube.
In the video, Wally De Backer, the artist behind Gotye, becomes painted into the wall. He is later joined by singer Kimbra who is also painted to match the background, but you probably already know that! If you haven't seen the video, you can catch up HERE! When I first saw the music video, I was not only drawn in by the song, but also intrigued by the body artwork featured. Emma Hack, the mysterious makeup artist behind the invisible paintbrush in the "Somebody That I Used to Know" video, shares some of the secrets behind her technique: How did you first get into body art?
I was face painting children while still at school and studied make-up artistry after I finished. My teacher, Bill Peacock, noticed my gift and suggested I carry the face art down the body. My first painting was a girl wearing lingerie. It just made sense to me, I entered a competition for fantasy make-up and won. Back then there was no internet and I lived in a fairly conservative city so I didn't have any reference to what had been done before...
Many people will recognize your work from the Gotye "Somebody That I Used To Know" video, but painting people to blend with walls was something you also previously did with your Wallpaper Collection. What was the inspiration behind the Wallpaper Collection?
Veruschka, a famous model from the 60's-70's used to paint herself into rustic walls and nature. I wanted to find a way in which I could create this illusion, but still be true to my own style and not replicate the past. When I saw the Florence Broadhurst wallpapers in 2005, I realized this was how I could achieve this technique. It has been very successful for me.
Were you familiar with Wally De Backer's music before you worked with him? Was he familiar with your artwork previous to the video?
I was actually approached by Natasha Pincus, the director of the project. She had pitched the idea to Wally. I knew of his "Hearts a Mess" song from 2006. It tore at my heart strings so I agreed to listen to the track "Somebody." I liked it and we went from there and created the music clip.
How long did it take to paint the musical artists in the Gotye video? Did the subjects need to stand perfectly still throughout the whole process?
The technique was much more difficult than what I usually do as it was stop animation, ie. you paint a spot, line them up, take a photo, paint another spot, line them up, take a photo. Judging the direction of the lines and how the peel of Kimbra's back was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The work took 23 hours to complete. It was a painful process but extremely rewarding not only for its success but its technical achievement.
What was the biggest challenge in painting live people for a music video?
My biggest challenge, and it always is, is making somebody comfortable when it is such a painful process for them! I will be painting Wally this May for a portrait, so it mustn't have been too bad, he is coming back for more!
What type of paint/makeup did you use for the video? What are your product recommendations for body painting?
I use Kryolan Aquacolor, it's a pancake form of theatrical make-up. I also use Mehron and MAC Chromacakes depending on the colour tones I need to create.
Are more music videos in your future?
I am very focused on my collections and exhibiting my work. I have 2 shows coming up in the UK. I have representation with Rebecca Hossack Gallery in NYC and London and further representation in Singapore with a show later on in the year, so art is my future. I am in discussion with a large cosmetic chain about creating their next campaign and am more than open to create art for fashion, magazines and product launches. You never know what is around the corner, I take one day at a time and enjoy the sunshine!
[Images courtesy of Emma Hack]