Incredible paintings that actually breathe

Story highlights

  • Artist Alexa Meade creates optical illusions by painting on humans
  • Physical objects and people appear as flattened 2D works of art
  • August 19 is World Photo Day

(CNN)Alexa Meade makes paintings that breathe.

The Los Angeles-based artist creates mind-boggling works of art on a walking, talking canvas: humans.
    ​She paints directly onto the bodies and faces of models, using brushstrokes and shadows to camouflage figures into their background, turning a 3D scene into a 2D image.
    She then captures each incredible illusion in a series of photographs. Her newest collection features actress Dominika Juillet posing for a 12-image calendar series. The project was inspired by vintage American pin-up posters.

    Inspired by shadows

    Meade ​began experimenting with this technique in 2009, and now has 56,000 Instagram fans, and 200,000 Facebook followers.
    "I've always been interested in painting on humans, and it was on people that I first began experimenting with highlights and shadows. What I do now is paint a mask of light on top of people, and try to erase perception depth."
    The result is an incredible optical illusion, causing people and physical objects to appear as ​flat 2D works of art.

    Race against the clock

    According to Meade, the most challenging part of creating these works of art, is getting people to stand still.
    "You're working with another person and you have to factor in their needs, how long can they stay in a certain position, what's comfortable for them, how can you be flexible."
    ​She aims to complete her works​ in a single day.
    "I spend 8 hours painting the background and clothes, 1 hour painting the model, and then 2 or 3 hours for photography."
    It is in those final few moments that Meade truly feels like an artist.
    "The real artwork comes after the painting -- it's more so within the photography. There is no Photoshop and there is so much spontaneity. It's only once I've captured it all on camera that the artwork really comes to life."
    "The person can only inhabit the art for so long, but in these photos, the art can live forever."