Artist Joyce Clerkx brings awareness to mental health issues.
Since she was a teenager Joyce Clerkx has been experimenting with make-up. She was a goth/metal head. She wore three eye liners and played with colors. When she was 18 she started make-up school, where she learned more about “normal” make-up and special make-up effects. But the school was always a bit too basic for Clerkx’s liking; she felt she couldn’t go “outside the box,” which of course she did.
House of Orange—a make-up school in Amsterdam—was different though. There she learned more about fashion make-up. During this time, she also realized what her signature was, which she contributes to them letting her experiment.
Personal reasons forced Clerkx out of the make-up scene for six years. But in 2010, she picked it back up by enrolling at B-Academy, also in Amsterdam.
“I did miss it and wanted to give it my all and pursue a career in make-up,” says Clerkx. “Within 10 months I was with an agency and everything went upwards from there. I am now with an agency in Amsterdam, working in fashion, doing campaigns for big brands, celebrities, musicians, video clips, commercials and in the meantime, I started my own art project called ‘Art of Eyes.’”
She has been working on this project for a couple of years. After losing her best friend to suicide, she wanted to create something that brings awareness to mental health issues in a beautiful way. Hoping that people may come to understand more about these issues and see them as “something beautiful instead of something scary.”
For “Art of Eyes,” Clerkx developed the concept and make-up and photographed herself.
The photos with the girls with their eyes covered with make-up in this article are a part of the “Art of Eyes” project, except it is a reverse version because the eyes are covered. “This one is to express my own grief and joy for my friend who committed suicide,” Clerkx explains. “This collection is called ‘She’; it is the name of a song from his band.”
All eyes from the “Art of Eyes” collection have their own name and tell their own individual story. “The reactions I get from people that see the eyes all see something different in the make-up. That is what I am going for to get a very unique reaction from people that see the eye art.”
As someone who has been dealing with mental health issues since she was young, Clerkx’s work reflects this in various ways. For “Art of Eyes,” she put together a questionnaire for her models to fill out before they start the make-up. The questions are about good and bad moments in their lives. Through their answers, Clerkx gets the colors they see when they think back on those moments and uses those colors in her creations.
“I wanted to express their soul, the beauty and the chaos they are feeling,” explains Clerkx. “Combining the two, they are unique and beautiful in their own way, and that you need both the bad and the good to be you. Creating the make-up with their own unique colors I expressed an abstract art piece around their eyes (soul) with the use of different make-up textures.”
Make-up has always made Clerkx feel good.
It’s always been like therapy. She can transform herself, her models, into a human work of art. “Creating something on a live canvas to me is the most elevating thing I can imagine doing,” she says. She also loves enhancing true beauty without a lot of make-up and playing with different textures and colors. “It’s the best feeling. It calms me and lets me create, expressing my emotions.”
This line of work, Clerkx says, helps her to grow in many ways. “Working with so many different kinds of creative people from all over the world, every day is a learning experience in whatever way possible. Each day is different, which I love.”
In March 2017, Clerkx traveled to Uganda to help with a project. She stayed in a house in Jinja with a friend, a stylist, and together they worked on an art project with three kids from the area. “It was an amazing experience for all of us.”
Clerkx says she sees make-up in everything and that “inspiration is everywhere you are willing to look.” She finds it when she walks through the city from the buildings, their colors and textures. Nature is a big source of inspiration as well. “There is so much to see if you’re willing to look,” she says. While music and movies also inspire her, telling people’s stories is at the heart of what Clerkx does. “Because I want to see what not a lot of people see and that is the inside of a person’s soul without judgment.”
Clerkx was recently published in Vogue Portugal—a 20-page spread of her doing hair and make-up. This next year, Clerkx will bring her “Art of Eyes” project to different countries. She has no concrete plan yet but says that is half the fun. You can follow her journey on her blog happylittlemistakes.com.