Getting Creative with Rachel Duffy

May 30th, 2024

May 30th, 2024

We sat down with Rachel Duffy, lecturer and freelance makeup artist, to discuss her background, journey into the industry and her book, Creative Makeup: A Step-by-step guide to expressive makeup from fantasy to full illusion.


What is your background and where did you grow up? 

I’m a 35-year-old artist, educator and mother hailing from Liverpool.  From a young age, I was inspired and fascinated with the arts, so growing up in a culturally rich and diverse city was my foundation.  As a mythology and art obsessive, I have always studied and appreciated these wherever I can and achieved my Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Design at Manchester Metropolitan University.  Coming from many routes in art and design, I feel my education and experience over the 15 years has led me down a path of artistic discovery.  Art, mythology and literature have always ignited my brain and I’ve always drawn themes from these for my work.  I find them incredibly inspiring, especially for creative makeup designs and as I keep learning it is the gift that keeps on giving! 

What is your earliest makeup memory? 

There are two key moments that stand out to me.  I remember my mum had a huge red makeup box in her bedroom and I was fascinated with the colours and tools from as early as I can remember.  I’d be transfixed watching her apply her makeup and used to thoroughly enjoy having my own mini kit to get ready with her.  I was in awe of what makeup could enhance and transform.  Another moment was the first time getting my face painted; it was a glorious day during a heatwave and I was wearing a summery flower outfit and I still chose a spooky spider face – a vibe a have kept my whole life, clearly! 

Where did you train and what was your first job? 

My formal training is in art and design and I adapted my skills into makeup practice once I began working and training with brands.  I worked for Illamasqua for 4 years as a Business Development Manager and I had the honour of training and learning from some of the most incredibly talented individuals I’ve ever met.  That was such a huge learning curve for me and completely changed my perspective of makeup as art and I began exploring my discipline through a totally fresh and inspired perspective. 

What brought you into teaching? 

I lecture in Art & Design and Creative Makeup Design & Practice in higher education and a true passion of mine is to share my knowledge and skills, which goes hand in hand with my artistic specialism.  To see individuals aspire and achieve their goals, even surpassing them, fills me with pride and gives me a sense of purpose to be able to equip them with professional and creative skills for life! 


You balance your education role with work as a freelancer.  Tell us about your commercial work. 

I enjoy embracing the spectrum of opportunities I get as a freelance artist; it drives me to create authentic work for each client and, in turn, offers fresh perspective and experience to pass on to my students.  Over the past few years I’ve created branding, packaging and social media work for brands such as Mehron Makeup, Anastasia Beverly Hills and Lit Cosmetics.  With Lit Cosmetics, I was honoured to be offered the opportunity to create my very own bespoke shade of a glitter mix called ‘Rachel Duffy Artistry’ – that was a huge thrill as a long-standing fan of their brand!  

I really enjoy working with music and performance artists too, having recently worked music videos, album covers and promotional shoots for Brooke Combe, Ren Harvieu and burlesque performer Gina Stirling.  Working on the Eurovision opening party in Liverpool last year was incredible; heading a team and creating looks for the artists was a wonderful moment and I took my students from the degree course with me to offer them incredible opportunities to gain work experience  and connect with the industry.  

You’re very well known on social media for your creative looks.  How long does each look tend to take?  

It completely differs from look to look but they can take anywhere from three to 11 hours.  I have playlists and podcasts at the ready, along with tons of snacks and drinks, that help me create an immersive bubble when I’m bringing them to life  in my studio.

How did the book come about and do you have plans for a sequel? 

I was approached by the publishers David & Charles to create a book based on the portfolio I had just before lockdown hit.  It was put on pause, as was the whole world, and once we came back to normality we resumed work on it.  At that time I had just had my little girl Violet and I’m very proud to say I worked in between bottle feeds at all hours of the night on the manuscript whilst on maternity leave from my lecturing job to bring it to fruition.  Shooting with William Clark was such a dream, he’s an incredibly talented and patient photographer that completely helped me bring the vision to life and I’m forever grateful for his input and the publishers for giving me that opportunity.  I have no plans for a sequel just yet, but you never know what the future may hold. 

Which is your favourite image in the book and why? 

I would have to choose the Flapper Starlet look.  This is one of my signature styles that propelled my career  and helped me make so many professional and community connections.  It is also one that draws on my obsession for vintage glamour and exaggerating proportions, which will always be a great source of awe for me and it’s super fun to paint. 

What are the must-have pieces in your kit? 

I adore Mehron Makeup Paradise Paint AQ and I use them in almost every look that I create.  Their quality is unbeatable along with the variety of shades – they are my absolute favourite go-to paints.  I always have a spectrum of P.Louise Cosmetic Paints and palettes in my kit as the colour intensity is brilliant and I find they are super adaptable products which make them invaluable to me.  I always carry Eldora eyelashes, RCMA No-Colour Powder, Anastasia Beverly Hills gel liners & eyebrow products, LH Cosmetics Infinity Glass and fine art detail brushes. 

What’s the best piece of advice you were given and what advice would you give to artists starting out? 

Be a sponge!  Learn from people you meet and soak up any advice, tips and tricks.  Knowledge is infinite so be open to asking questions and listening, fervently.  You will never stop being a student of your craft, you can always develop or advance your skill set so keep an open mind and you can achieve your wildest makeup dreams! 



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By Frankie Hardy

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