Marissa Provost is an artist around the clock. Sometimes her art is on canvas, other times it’s found on the heads of fashionable Northern Californians. Some might say she wears two hats, but Provost would argue that it’s just the one: artist. She’s either working with paints in her studio or working with hair at Moski Hair Lounge.
Style first, this Sacramento-based painter-cosmetologist met with us to talk craft and her career.
How long have you been a visual artist? What are your mediums? How have they changed over the years?
I remember drawing on my homework when I was in elementary school. I was extremely particular about my crayons. It’s hard to say how long I’ve been a visual artist, but I guess you could say pretty much my whole life. My mediums have been whatever I could get my hands on at the time. I tend to get completely involved with one medium for awhile, and then another one will grab my attention.
Oil painting has really captured my heart for the past year. I really like to do anything visually creative. I’m into photography, makeup, hair. I started out sketching a lot with pencil, pen, sharpies, or whatever was around when I was at school. I would save my allowance to buy new art supplies to experiment with… colored pencils, markers, pastels, watercolor, acrylic, pen and ink. I think the color intensity of oil has made it my all time favorite though.
You’ve said that being a cosmetologist is your way of being a paid artist. Can you elaborate on that?
You know in Tetris, how you can start the level either totally blank, or with some random shapes to work around? Doing hair is like the second option. I have a starting point that is usually not a blank canvas as in there could be color history in the hair, damaged areas, and then of course I’m directed by the wishes of the client. So there are a lot of factors that I don’t have control over, which makes it very different from painting a picture.
However, the process of creating a look with hair can be gone about so many different ways, it’s really up to the stylist to be a visual/creative problem solver and figure out how to work around all the random shapes, within the parameters of the client’s desires, and find some way to make it beautiful. As a cosmetologist, I’m paid for my skill and vision—like any other artist. Hair is like a sculpture that you carve away at sometimes.
In painting, you’re adding and adding, but in hair, you’re taking away and taking away until only what’s needed is left.
Who are some painters or other visual artists who have influenced you and your work?
There are so many painters and visual artists who have tremendous influence on me. I feel like my work is just a synthesis of everything I see that strikes me as beautiful, weird, or interesting. There’s probably not an original thought in my head, but the blend of all these unoriginal things becomes something original.
Artists of the past have a huge role in the creation of my style of painting. Klimt’s work is stunning and I love my Klimt coffee table book more than my little toe. Salvador Dalì is an unmatched creative genius in my mind. I also keep my inner artist fed with publications like High Fructose and Juxtapoz, who feature a lot of my favorite current and upcoming artists. I follow James Jean and Charmaine Olivia on Instagram.
What about make-up and hair artists specifically?
As far as hair and makeup artists, I’m most often inspired by the people I work with. I’m lucky enough to see the whole creative process as well as the end result of anything they do. I love seeing what a transformation can occur with a great hairstyle—not just in a person’s look, but their attitude as well.
Lately you’ve been painting large-scale portraits of beautiful women with beautiful hair. Tell us more about those. Are you planning on making more? Say yes! We love what we’ve seen!
The paintings are 30 x 40″ oil portraits of women and it’s a really fun project so far. The goal is to create about 5 of these to show together with abstract paintings, but who knows, it’s so much fun I may make 20. It’s really exhausting but in a good way.
I guess each one is just about a mood. They all have a different mood, but still show just a face, hair, and part of the upper body. They’re stylized, but realistic enough to show the subtleties of personality in the face. The hair is of course a big point in each painting, partially because of my obsession with hair, but also to give a sense of drama and personal flair from each woman.
Let’s talk about Moski. What’s it like working there? How does it compare to salons you’ve worked in the past?
Moski is by far the most fun and the most freedom I’ve had in a salon. I absolutely love it because my coworkers are a blessing, the place is beautiful and the location is ideal. Other salons I’ve worked at have helped to build the foundation of where I am now. I’m proud of the work that comes out of Moski, from myself and my coworkers. We inspire each other and work as a team to keep things running as smoothly as possible, which translates into better service for the customer and a better atmosphere for everyone. We use luxury products, so I can honestly tell my clients that their hair will be in it’s best possible condition using what I prescribe. Plus I can wear what I want.
What, so far, has been the best moment in your career?
It’s hard to pinpoint the best moment in my career because there are so many moments that have really touched me. Any time that I can really connect with someone and help them to see their own beauty is the best moment for me. I’ve been told by clients that they’ve never felt more beautiful, didn’t know their hair could look so good, things of that nature, and it boosts my confidence in my skill and reinforces that I’m contributing something valuable.
There are times when I’ve been discouraged because I couldn’t accomplish what I set out to do. Sometimes people seem impossible to please, which is hard to accept for someone who takes a ‘difficult’ personality as a personal challenge. These moments are the most important though, because they force me to grow. I tried something and it didn’t work, meaning I have to think of a new way to go about it that will work, which makes me a better stylist. Experience is the best teacher.
We’ve talked in the past about cosmetics being empowering. Can you speak more to that?
Cosmetics can be very empowering… For me, cosmetics are a way to shift focus onto the features I like, and minimize what I don’t like. Putting your best face forward makes you more confident and therefore more effective at whatever you want to accomplish. I’m more outgoing when I feel comfortable in my skin and like what I’m portraying to others. If I don’t use cosmetics (and this isn’t just makeup), I feel like I’m neglecting to care for myself. I am a makeup junkie though.
Artist’s webpage: www.marissaprovost.com
Images: American Gypsy Apparel
Renée Aubern is a California born, New York bred poet, writer of songs, and kook. Constantly on the move, she documents the world around her in photographs and notebook scribbles. @reneeaubern