Music and Makeup: Love Like a Sunset Nails Inspired by Phoenix

sunset ombre nails
Here comes a visible horizon, right where it starts and ends

Two of the most beautiful shows I’ve been to this year were the same band: Pheonix’s triumphant performances at Coachella and Outside Lands. It’s hard for me to pick which set was better, but I’ll lean toward Coachella for the favorable weather and the impact of seeing it the first time.

Phoenix has one of the simplest yet most moving visuals I’ve seen. At the front of the stage white lights illuminated the band through the mist of a fog machine. Behind Phoenix was a huge LED screen that shifted between solid colors: blood red to stark black to bright aqua to lime green to wild magenta in quick succession. Here’s an clip of the show. It’s worth it to watch straight through, but if you want to skip ahead, the light show gets crazy beginning at 2:48.

[SEIZURE WARNING: intense flashing lights ahead]

Remembering this set fondly, I decided to do a sunset manicure inspired by the song. Luckily for klutzes like me, this is a very simple look: all you need are three shades of polish and a makeup sponge.

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Nail Art for Klutzes: Bougainvillea-Inspired Nails

flower nails
The colors are pretty close, right?

Last year I had the incredible luck to move into a great place in SF with 3 awesome roommates. The house itself is pretty shabby chic, but it has the great bonus of a backyard.

When I was growing up in rural-suburban Pennsylvania, I’d garden every weekend with my family. We had three acres so there was always plenty of projects to work on. Sometimes I’d get tired of mulching and think, when I grow up I’ll live in the city and I won’t have to do any gardening! My last place was just like that – close to downtown, very little light, and 2 measly window plants I tried desperately alive. I missed gardening terribly and would look longingly out the window at the private garden below.

So when I moved to a house with a backyard, I didn’t want to let it go to waste. I bought a dozen potted plants for the patio and planted tomatoes, a jasmine bush, and sunflowers that have finally bloomed (and are 12 feet tall!). My friend whose room I filled was the resident gardener when he lived in the house, and he planted a bougainvillea plant the year before that has had tremendous success. I was admiring the color combination the other day when I decided to do a flower-inspired manicure. And as always, this is a klutz-friendly tutorial.

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Nail Art for Klutzes: Art Deco Manicure

art deco mani
Literal pearl clutching

I’ve always been fascinated with the Art Deco movement. Bold geometric shapes, strong colors, exuberant luxury, what’s not to love? When I was in middle school I participated in a contest where you had to represent an art movement on a hat. I chose Art Deco, and built a Chrysler Building model that I put on top of a top hat with the brim surrounded in pearls and a pink boa. Just as ridiculous as it sounds, but I won the competition!

chrysler building manicure
Imagine this on a top hat surrounded by pearls and a pink boa. Yep.


Thinking back to that hat inspired this much more subtle take on the Art Deco aesthetic. And best of all, this is nail art that even klutzes like me won’t screw up. Don’t worry if you can’t paint a straight line – check out the tutorial below!

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Novels and Nail Art: Inspired by Tao Lin’s Taipei

taipei by tao lin
Did I mention I like sparkly things?

Last week I finished Taipei, the new novel by Tao Lin. It’s not exactly an enjoyable read, but I think it’s the best fictional representation I’ve ever seen of life right now, in 2013. The novel is filled with drugged-out wandering around cities, desperate Facebook stalking, and house parties where no one seems to like each other. The prose is bleak yet hypnotic, and though the characters are cut off from their emotion, I found the novel deeply affecting.

I decided to do some simple nail art inspired by the gorgeous cover. To get this look, I applied two coats of Sinful Colors in Secret Admirer. I usually shy away from blacks, but what I liked about this shade was that it was filled with silver microglitter, so it’s more wearable than pure black. You can check out nice swatches of that shade on its own here. To get the holographic effect of Taipei’s cover, I added two coats of China Glaze’s Fairy Dust. It has a mix of fine prismatic glitter that looks great over dark manicures without overwhelming the base. It’s a very subtle look indoors, but like the book, it has a gorgeous rainbow effect in sunlight.

Argh My Nails Creased! How to Avoid This Stupidly Common Phenomenon

Yes, that's in front of a toilet. Because these nails are poop.
Yes, they’re in front of a toilet. Because these nails are poop.

Here’s the story: you’re trapped in a Top of the Lake marathon, unable to peel away from the amazingness that is Peggy Olsen with a New Zealander’s accent and Holly Hunter’s silver wig. And suddenly, you have inspiration for some new nail art. Now is the perfect time to try out that metallic sharpie nail art from Lauren Conrad’s surprisingly useful beauty website.

But! It’s 10 p.m. And you’ve had a couple Red Tail Ales. And you really should go to bed within an hour. But for the sake of nail art, you press on. Caution! Here be dragons. Specifically, the dragon that is waking up in the morning with creases all over your gorgeous nails. I’m going to teach you the steps you need to prevent this from ever happening again.

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Manicure Mondays: Flakie Polish (aka Nail Art for Klutzes)

flakie nail polish
So pretty it’s a distraction

Whenever I see a beautiful, complex nail art tutorial, I think to myself, maybe I can do it … wait, no, who am I kidding. I’m graced with the hand-eye coordination of a drunk toddler, and so anything that involves precision work is a n- go. I can’t be the only one frustrated by fine motor skills, so I’ve decided to make a new series for all the klutzes out there who want beautiful nails but aren’t going to pony up mad ca$h at a nail art salon.

First up is flakie nail polish, my current favorite special effect nail polish. No, the polish isn’t going to cancel plans on you – quite the opposite, as it wears like iron. Flakie nail polish is named after the flakes of mylar suspended in the formula. Remember those balloons at the grocery store you always wanted your parents to get you as a kid? These nail polishes are filled with shreds of that same polyester film.

So how do you get the gorgeous duochrome effect pictured above?

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