Master of Illusion

Dain Yoon talks about using traditional skills on unexpected canvases

Courtesy of Dain Yoon.

Scholastic Art: What is your job?

Dain Yoon: I’m a full-time artist, from the moment I wake up until I sleep. My art is referred to as “illusion art.” Surreal images of overlapping and distorting perspectives cause viewers to perceive an illusion. I regard what I do as painting on people rather than makeup. The commercial requests I receive are from every industry in the business spectrum. Global brands contact me to work with them. I’ve worked with Apple, Adidas, Instagram, Snapchat, Mercedes-Benz, the Tate Modern museum, and more. I also sell my limited-edition photographs.

Courtesy of Dain Yoon.

Yoon uses her skills as a trained painter to build a career making illusion art independently and commercially.

SA: What path led you to become an illusion artist?

DY: I’ve enjoyed painting since I was young. I attended two prestigious art schools in Korea, Yewon Arts secondary and Seoul Arts High School. I studied scenography (the design of theatrical scenery) in college. I designed theatrical makeup and drew on actors’ bodies. However, I felt a strong need to do my own creative work. I started to paint illusions because I believe people live in illusions. People perceive everything in their own subjective way. A lot of people seem to think illusion means tricking people into something. I think that anything that seems slightly different from its original form could be an illusion or take you out of the illusion you’re living.

SA: What is your working process?

DY: The first step is conceptualizing ideas. This takes the longest. I use many materials, including body paint, makeup, paper, and more. I always need a mirror to draw on myself. Frankly, this is a very difficult process—hours of painting through mirrors often makes me dizzy. 

The presentation of the work is as important as making it. So whether it’s finding the right frame or the right subject line for Instagram or Twitter, all of it is part of creating the experience or emotion I seek to communicate to my audience.

SA: What inspires your illusions?

DY: Since I was young, my mom always emphasized that a sense of humor is very important for art. I’m most interested in a “unique face,” which is way more interesting than just having a “pretty face.” Even when you’re not considered typically pretty in societal norms, a certain uniqueness can make you very beautiful and intriguing.

SA: Why do you use your face as your canvas for illusions?

DY: At first, I painted on models. Eventually, I started feeling really bad for them because they had to sit still for many hours, which is why I turned the paintbrush onto myself. The face provides a powerful impression. It’s the strongest, most sensitive part of the body.

SA: Do you have any advice for aspiring young artists?

DY: Keep paying attention to a number of diverse subjects. I try to be a better artist today than the artist I was yesterday. 

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