A Makeup Magician Masters the Surrealist Selfie
Warning: Dain Yoon’s beautiful, trippy face paintings might make you dizzy.
“Kissing Myself” via @designdain
Optical illusions were one of my favorite grade school diversions (remember those Magic Eye posters from the ‘90s?), so “illusion artist” Dain Yoon’s Instagram account has me mesmerized. The South Korean selfie magician fills her feed with surreal images that look like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí had a baby, and that baby took up face painting.
Using a mix of body paint, acrylics, and cosmetics applied to her own visage, Yoon creates beautiful portraits that look Photoshopped but are entirely hand-painted. In some posts, perfect replicas of eyes and lips multiply and migrate to her hands and limbs. In others, Yoon blends into shower tiles and china cabinets like a crafty chameleon, with only her gaze giving her away. The finished product is so precise, it's hard to tell where reality ends and the illusion begins.
Social media is rife with cosmetic tutorials and transformation videos, and their popularity is a testament to the craft. Yet Yoon’s creations require patience and a level of meticulousness outstripping the skill of most makeup artists. “Drawing on faces may take anywhere from four to 12 hours. Part of Me, with the coffee and a mug, took longer because I had to paint the background and the teapot,” Yoon says.
In addition to artistic skill, she has the eye of a photographer. “The reflection in a mirror and the view angle on a camera differ. Solely relying on mirrors to paint results in distorted views in photos, because I am capturing a three-dimensional subject on two dimensions. So I have to constantly switch back and forth between mirror and cameras in order to evoke a successful level of illusion,” Yoon says. “Frankly, this is a very difficult process since it is hard to realistically capture a subject, even on paper. Hours of painting through the mirror often makes me dizzy.”
Though she just started posting illusions to Instagram this spring, Yoon has attracted a large social following, and her fans include Ashton Kutcher and Lil Wayne. But despite the media attention at home and abroad, the 22-year-old is focused on her studies at South Korea’s National University of the Arts. Her major is scenography, or designing scenery for performances, and the ability to filter the real world through a theatrical lens may be the secret behind Yoon’s work. “There is nothing grand and about my source of inspiration,” she says. “Anything, even in a very ordinary life, could be great inspiration with a different perspective.”