Wearing casual printed leggings, a green cardi, pink flip flops and glittery long nails, Colleen Campbell shows her flair for color. In her home studio in Crown Heights, where she turns hands into masterpieces, she relaxes with a late lunch and an episode of Everybody Hates Chris. Her full pout and doe eyes match her warm bubbly personality, but when it’s time to talk nails she’s all business. Campbell is a nail artist who has styled the nails of rapper Young Jeezy, reality show star Emily B., model Amber Rose, and Alisha Trimble runway models. The nail design genius sat down with Poshly to talk talons talent and her love of abstract art.
Poshly: How did this entire operation come about?
Colleen: The entire name is Picaso On Purple Art to Life On Nails. I love Picasso, I like his abstracts and his works, and purple is my favorite color. So I just wanted to see how I could put both of them together. And I decided to simply put Picasso on purple. Some people think it’s impossible to put all these things on nails but I just do it.
Poshly: Were you always into art?
CC: Always, since I was a little kid. I hated all the other subjects in school but when it came to art class I was always the first one there, front row. I was always a perfectionist when it came to lines and details too.
Poshly: How did you translate that to nails?
CC: I always had a thing for nails but I ignored the thought of doing it seriously. I always did my own nails because every time I’d go to a nail salon I was dissatisfied with the finish. So I’d come home and perfect it to the way I wanted it to look. I finally decided to give it a real try two years ago. I would do my own nails and twit pic it and the feedback I would receive would be so amazing. People would ask which salon did I go to and when I told them I did it myself they would ask me to do their nails. It’s been a blessing, it shows that it never beats trying.
Poshly: What’s your favorite brand to work with?
CC: Essie. They have beautiful colors, the colors are true, and very mature. They work so well with design but they also stand out alone so beautifully. But I’m not restricted to just certain brands. Recently I’ve fallen in love with Sinful Colors. It’s very inexpensive and it’s just as good. It’s all about good base coats and good top coats to make your polish last. It doesn’t matter what polish you use. It costs $1.99; you can’t beat that.
Poshly: How often do you change out your polish wall?
CC: Seasonally. Like right now I’m trying to get all the winter colors out. Since it’s getting warm I’m just trying to add all the bright colors; neon is very popular for spring so I’m trying to collect more.
Poshly: Which trends are you loving right now?
CC: Tribals and paisleys are really hot right now.
Poshly: Any trends that you can do without?
CC: The classic French. I’ve never really been into that but recently they’ve added a twist to it. Instead of the stripe at the top or half moon on the bottom they’re doing an outline around the entire nail. It’s a pretty cool new trend, French with a twist. Lately everyone’s been requesting it, mostly with nude on top and fluorescent outline. Traditional French is classic and I don’t think it’ll ever go away but no one has ever requested it from me.
Poshly: Do you remember your first manicure?
CC: It was a French manicure! Of course it started chipping two days later. I was fourteen and from then on I started getting tips. I remember I would get airbrushed hearts and stars on top of cotton candy color. Everyone was getting airbrush back then, you’d get it free with a full set. Airbrush is an easy one-two-three job.
Poshly: Have you ever done an airbrush?
CC: (laughs) Nooooo. No one does airbrushing anymore. They actually still sell the machines online. I’m surprised and I don’t know who uses it but they’re still selling it.
Poshly: How do you come up with your designs?
CC: I’m inspired by everything; whether it’s another nail artist, a pattern from my shirt, your [plaid] blazer—anywhere. Art is all around me, from the tiles on my floor to things outside. But mostly I’m influenced by Picasso. I love his abstracts, I love the details in his designs. I’ve created something mimicking his abstracts and I’ve made that my signature design, it’s called Lava Swirls.
Poshly: When did nail trends become so big?
CC: Two and a half years ago. When I decided to do nails professionally I didn’t know that the nail industry was going to blow up. Nails are the complete accessory to your outfit. Now it’s like you have to get your nails done… it completes your look. I made up my mind at the right time, it was a complete blessing.
Poshly: Do you think it has staying power?
CC: Certainly. Even people who are not fans of design will tell me that they want to try my designs. Ladies will always make sure their nails are done and even guys love it. The ladies get so many compliments.
Poshly: Any designer you’d love to work with?
CC: Versace! I love Versace patterns. I do some of the Versace patterns in my tribal designs. It’s so cool.
Poshly: Who would be your dream clients?
CC: I would love to touch Nicki [Minaj’s] nails because she’s into funky nail art; definitely Rihanna. Just let me bless their nails one time and show the world.
Poshly: What’s the craziest material you’ve ever worked with?
CC: I like the lace look, but I really love the chains. That look is totally awesome. No one would ever think that you could throw a chain on a nail. I had to go to Home Depot to get the tools for it but it was the most awesome thing I’ve ever put on a nail.
Poshly: Can you function with that on your hands?
CC: Yeah. You can still do things you normally would.
Poshly: What’s the process like to do a design?
CC: It could take 25 minutes to half an hour but it also depends on how many fingers you want with a design. When I first started I moved just as slow as a turtle. But now, once you show me what you want I move very fast with my hands. But it really depends on the design you want.
Poshly: Do you practice everyday?
CC: Some nights. If I’m bored at home I’ll do some homework. I’ll fill out my charts and my nail wheels and try new designs. Designs mostly come to me in bed right before I go to sleep.
Poshly: Is it true that you should never get your cuticles cut?
CC: Yes. It’s not really healthy. You can get an infection and it’s not necessary. I don’t suggest anyone do it. Just push them back, don’t cut them.
Shalwah Evans is Poshly’s East Coast Editorial Director. Read her personal blog (tranquilityme.wordpress.com) or tweet to her @Shalwah.
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