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The many painted faces of Yoon Da-in : The artist found that her ideal canvas was staring right at her

Dec 27,2017
Makeup can make your eyes pop and your lips look plump and shiny. But what if makeup could give you an extra set of eyes and lips, or even an extra face?

Meet Yoon Da-in, an illusion artist who has pushed the limits of makeup with her imagination. Rather than just imagining what it would be like to have four sets of eyes and multiple noses, the 24-year-old artist has gone a step further and actually paints them onto her own face. Her makeup brushes are her tools and her face is a canvas like no other in the world.

Her work has gained her popularity all over the globe and she has amassed over 298,000 followers on Instagram. Her works aren’t just imaginative, but also strikingly beautiful and colorful. She paints a face inside or above her own, multiple sets of eyes and noses, her face broken up into little cubes, or camouflages herself against a spectacular background - whatever she imagines, she tries out.

“I call myself an illusion artist because these days, it’s not just about one thing - it’s about the convergence of different things,” said Yoon in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily.

Yoon’s popularity earned her an appearance on popular American talk show “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Oct. 16. The following are edited excerpts of the interview.

Q. Why do you call yourself an illusion artist, and not a makeup artist?

The tools that I use are those from makeup, but I wanted to show something more than just makeup with my end results. I believe that [interdisciplinary] convergence is very important these days, and my works are everything put together from makeup to art and illusion. [And] illusion was just the right word, one which also meant that I could break the conventional ways of thought by asking, “You thought it was real?”

How did you start doing this work?

I started painting from a very young age, but I really had no idea I would end up doing this. I actually studied stage art at the Korea National University of Arts, and I had a special interest in stage makeup. I liked creating a character, but there were realistic restrictions to a stage makeup, because the character had to stick to the overall theme of the play.

That’s what gave me an insatiable thirst for something else, and also the reason why I started painting on my own, around three years ago. I started by painting on other models, because I was so used to working on other people’s faces. The first time that I painted on myself was honestly because I was in my room one day and I felt bored.

In many of your works, you’ve painted multiple eyes on your face or on other parts of the body. Why do you like the eyes so much?

As social beings, we have to live with other people and communicate. And even though we sometimes lie to people in our conversations, our eyes don’t. Our eyes are honest, and our vision can catch the subtlest difference in the movement of people’s facial muscles. So even if you think you’re silent, your eyes are speaking in an unspoken language bigger than words. I wanted to depict that, and also create an illusion with those eyes.

What were some difficulties at first?

The biggest difficulty was that two-dimensional fields like paper or canvas are so different from our faces, which is three-dimensional and curvy. So when I first drew an eye on my face, which I thought I had done very meticulously, it looked distorted on camera. Since body painting and face painting only last for a certain amount of time, the only way to preserve it was to photograph it. So I had to go back and forth from myself in the mirror and the photo, until it looked real enough.

When I’m painting on my face, I have to look at myself in the mirror in a weird position - it hurts my neck (laughs).

You gained more popularity abroad than here in Korea. Why was that so?

I posted a picture of my nails painted with my face on Instagram, and somehow that went viral. I was lucky to have been noticed beforehand as well, but Ellen DeGeneres contacted me after that picture went up, and I had the chance to show myself to a wider audience. I think that Korea still tends to hold the beauty industry in a low regard, even though K-beauty is becoming big around the world. Everyone’s walking on their different paths, with their different colors. People should be looking for a new perspective.

Will you be carrying on with your work in the future?

Yes, definitely. I’m one of those YOLO [You Only Live Once] people, and I think it’s better to regret something after you’ve done it, rather than regretting that you didn’t do it. I still enjoy every brush stroke that I make, so much that even I’m impressed. My job is to express the inner feelings, and I’m always thinking about what I could do next. It is hard sometimes, but it’s also a great blessing that I can love what I do.

I have done a lot of collaboration projects with other people, and I’d like to do something in the future as well. For instance, I’ve learned that face recognition technology doesn’t actually recognize the individual’s faces, but just a number of aspects in the face that could easily be fooled by makeup. I could use my techniques to help enhance that system.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]