Well-known for making faces beautiful for television and magazines, makeup artist Nikki Lovrich is turning her hand to creating faces with paint and canvas.
“I dreamt of becoming an artist, but I failed school certificate art,” muses Nikki Lovrich as we gaze at a series of brightly hued painted faces Nikki calls The Flower Girls.
Growing up in a close family with her younger sister, Victoria, Nikki’s drawn faces since she was a child. The sisters attended Baradene College, which was where Nikki’s artistic confidence was so bruised: “I was always a good artist, so when I got 48.5 percent in School C I was devastated. I didn’t conform, I wasn’t a realist.”
Working part-time in a model agency as a model and booker while studying fashion design it was, ironically, Nikki’s skill with a makeup brush that soon saw her heading up the makeup school.
“It’s quite strange, it was almost instinctive and I fell into it really. My first shoot was a magazine cover so I think it was in my DNA,” says Nikki.
Travelling The World
When a photographer mentioned he could give her a lot of work direct, Nikki made the leap to self-employment. “I was earning $195 weekly at the agency and freelance work paid $180 a day,” she says. “I worked with the main magazine editors and my first big shoot was on Dunk Island followed by a week at Huka Lodge working with a young Rachel Hunter. We travelled a lot—to the Maldives, Bali, Thailand, Vanuatu, and Surfers Paradise.”
Meanwhile, Victoria had begun modelling. “She was a skinny teen, but at 20/21 she filled out and became one of our top models,” says Nikki. “There was a clique of models at the time and we were all good friends.”
On the side, the girls and their mother Anna founded Love Industries. “We sold Tin Tees – t-shirts packaged in tins and greeting cards printed with images from my father’s selection of 1940s encyclopaedias,” says Nikki. “They were amazing. Copyright runs out after 50 years so we were able to use them.”
A couple of years later, the t-shirt designs moved to black and white graphics of Nikki’s faces. “That’s when I started drawing again,” she says. “I hadn’t drawn anything serious since I’d failed School C.”
Inspired when Victoria’s son Tanner was born Nikki began painting for children, although she was so busy there wasn’t much time to dabble. “I was training staff for Air New Zealand in Los Angeles and London, appearing onscreen as a makeup artist for the television show 10 Years Younger, I was very involved in New Zealand Fashion Week and I’d begun beauty writing,” says Nikki. “My career was the best and busiest it had ever been.”
A Broken Heart
But then it all came crashing down. Victoria was diagnosed with cancer. “That was the day my world changed forever—my own life immediately took a back seat,” she says.
Two and a half years later the family lost their beloved ‘Tor.
Picking Up The Pieces
Putting her career on the back burner Nikki helped bring Tanner up. “It was important to us to keep our family together,” she says. “We’ve always been ridiculously close—including with our extended family. We have dinner together, we go on holidays together; I felt I had to give Tanner what ‘Tor would have given him—the music, the love, the family.”
This year marked Victoria’s 10-year anniversary. “Over the years I’ve continued working as a makeup artist and wardrobe stylist and I do beauty writing on my website, but many times I’ve felt like I was going through the motions. Grief tends to dilute creative passion, I think you do what you have to do to survive,” says Nikki.
Finding Art Space
“Then one day a friend—whose mother is an amazing artist—suggested we have an art day. So I drew one of my characteristic faces, and out of nowhere, I painted her face blue and suddenly saw great possibility.
“I purchased canvases and paints and painted my first flower girl, I couldn’t stop once I started. I called her Rosalie after my friends mother. Work was quiet pre-election, so I painted the entire time. I did 10 paintings.”
The Flower Girls
Nikki calls her paintings The Flower Girls as a collective and each one is named. After Rosalie came Sophie, Chloe, Veronica, Alexis, Georgette, Carmen, and Whitney.
They’re vivid, vibrant, bright and colourful and inspired by Nikki’s love of the islands, vintage Hawaiian style, ’70s fashion, and ’80s pop art.
“They’re the girls’ faces I’d drawn as a child but they’ve matured. My art has finally grown up.”
My most popular painting (so far) is Mary-Lizzie who is named after my grandmother. She took us to Hawaii in 1975 which was the beginning of a regular pilgrimage and became our special family place—it’s the place that inspires much of my art and where I feel especially close to ‘Tor.”