Instagram has evolved into a space for young artists to share experimental art, and makeup has been an essential tool for facilitating that. For 19-year-old Alex Paine (@gravemoth_), however, makeup is not just entertainment, it’s integral to dealing with her seronegative rheumatoid arthritis — a condition that causes pain and swelling that rendered her nearly incapable of pursuing drawing or painting.
That’s also when she turned to makeup as more than a source of transformation or improving her appearance. “It used to be about what was cool and trendy, but now I do what I love. For me, it’s about the images, their composition and the way different colors play together,” explains Paine, whose Instagram gridis filled with ultra-colorful, glittery looks with emo undertones.
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The young artist not only uses her work to communicate her most intense emotions and pain but also tackle important conversations around mental health. But she doesn’t want you to feel sorry for her, she just doesn’t want you to feel alone. “I’ve been focusing on mental and chronic illnesses but not in the traditional way. I like to talk about things that help me and my experiences so that others know they aren’t alone. It makes me feel less alone too,” she says.
Although admittedly her condition has gotten worse and more painful over time, Paine only intends to widen her platform addressing a number of issues such as diversity, inclusivity, and unrealistic beauty standards.
In talking with PAPER, the Melbourne-based artist breaks down the inspiration behind her work, her favorite products, and the change she’d like to see within the industry.
Tell me about your work and everything you share on Instagram.
Whew, that’s a lot. I’ve been posting every possible day since September 2017. It started off with fascination and very quickly I fell in love. I’ve always been artistic; it’s my biggest passion and something I’ve always used to deal with my mental health.
I was diagnosed with seronegative rheumatoid arthritis in 2015 when I was 15, and it has gotten worse over the years. It’s made it extremely difficult to draw, sketch and paint. So when I realized that makeup didn’t just have to be used for making oneself pretty, I instantly fell in love. Once I realized I could turn that love into something more, it sort of lit a fire. That’s where all my work comes from — that little fire. It used to be about what was cool and trendy, but now I do what I love. For me, it’s about the images, their composition and the way different colors play together. I took photography in high school and it’s been a lifelong passion so I try to play with that in my work.
What inspired you to create all your emo looks?
They’re all inspired by how I’m feeling, or often music. I like to use my work to express my emotions in a way that words can’t, it’s very soothing. The color black also just draws me in. I grew up listening to metal and I’ve always been a kind of alternative kid. I’ve only just started embracing my softer side through my makeup journey, it has been a lot of fun.
How do you create them?
My brain just kind of comes up with them? It’s like a light-bulb moment, I just see it as an image in my head. Once I have an idea I love that my heart bursts and sometimes I can’t even sleep just thinking about how I’m going to do it and what products I’ll use.
I use an array of different things. I have a thing for not seeing labels and just thinking about the textures and formulas of different products and how they will or won’t work for the result I’m looking for. I have a large makeup collection because I’m a bit addicted to the perfect details. I could tell the difference between three different cherry reds and those little details matter to my final image.
Is there a message you’re trying to communicate with your work?
Sometimes. Lately I’ve been focusing on mental and chronic illnesses, but not in the traditional way. I like to talk about things that help me and my experiences so that others know they aren’t alone. It makes me feel less alone too. I’ve also been trying to use my natural skin a lot to show my skin and blemishes. Like I said in one of my recent posts, “We all have skin, what’s so bad about it?” Especially in the beauty industry. there’s a lot of unrealistic face-tuning going on. Even though I don’t have the most problematic skin (large pores, some hormonal acne, but mostly nice), I like to be that little reminder that we all have normal skin textures and that’s okay.
What are some of your favorite makeup brands and products?
Milk Makeup Blur Powder, Blur Stick, and Blur Foundation changed my life. Sugarpill eyeshadows are great too; Glisten Cosmetics’ Disco Dynamite Palette blew me out of the water. Ardell Stroke A Brow pens changed my no eyebrow having life. You can also never go wrong with a good lash, special mentions toRogue and Rouge. Then there are the Spectrum brushes that make blending easier. I could honestly go on and on.
What does beauty mean to you and how would you define your aesthetic?
Beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes for me, so does my aesthetic. If I had to describe it, I’d probably say arty, fun and bright with a hint of darkness.
What would you like to see reflected within the beauty industry?
More realistic standards please. We all look normal in real life, so why portray these unrealistic standards? I bet half of these models look flawless without all the unnecessary retouching anyway, so it’s time for young girls and boys to start feeling more secure rather than having to unlearn all the toxic nonsense to feel good about themselves.