Ever since make-up artist Sissi Petropoulou became aware of the Golden Ratio—which is represented with the irrational number Phi (Φ)—she was convinced it could be realized through make-up. In this way, she stumbled on a new way of thinking about her art. And now, when it comes to her work, everything is about mathematics.
The Golden Ratio
The Golden Ratio/Golden Section/Golden Mean is a mathematical phenomenon that can be applied to a variety of objects in the art and natural worlds. It has been implemented in the arts, from Phidias, to Leonardo da Vinci, to Erik Satie, to Dali. The Greeks referred to it as “dividing a line in the extreme and mean ratio.” Renaissance artists knew it as the “Divine Proportion.” The Mona Lisa can be broken down with the formula as can a rose or architectural structure. Or even a pretty face.
The Golden Ratio can be applied to the human face because the face is divided into a number of geometric shapes. When Petropoulou applies make-up, she focuses on these shapes separately and in unison, and all at the same time.
“The idea is that the Golden Ratio ‘commands,’ in a way, how far (or not far) a make-up will be taken,” explains Petropoulou. “After locating bone structure, specific areas are then chosen for color application. So is the choice of color and its amount, all in relation to existing skin tones, facial characteristics and naturally, the given traits of a role.”
She says the same rule of the Golden Ratio is applied on how the colors are mixed, regarding one color’s quantity in contrast to another’s. That’s where color layering comes into play, as an application progresses. On the other hand, if a project requires for a lack of harmony, she says she applies the same process in reverse, going against the rule of the ratio.
“It all comes together, though,” Petropoulou continues to explain, “even before the brush touches any make-up. The very first thing I like to do is a beauty treatment for the facial skin, stemming from Egypt, China, Korea, Japan, India and ancient Greece. Their study has brought me to a fingertip technique I use to massage the skin, revitalizing and giving it a fresh and radiant look. Naturally, if requirements call for a ‘tired’ look, I skip this stage altogether.”
Petropoulou uses the Golden Ratio in her work much like many of the masters in fine arts have, whom she has always been inspired by. Along with getting inspiration from “everything, everywhere, any time,” she has closely observed the masters such as da Vinci, El Greco, Rubens, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Poussin, Goya, Tiziano … She says she studied “how they worked with light and shadow, expressions, feelings, color matching, brush stroke techniques, layers and textures.”
As far back as she can remember, Petropoulou has loved creating with her hands. She took painting classes as a young girl and made abstract paintings with charcoal and pencils, working out light and shadows. Later, she started working with colors and usually painted with her hands. She says this was a very strong foundation for her make-up career later in life.
Of her work she says, “I believe that everyone has an inner beauty and that have the talent, or gift, whatever you want to call it, to identify it and bring it to the fore!”