This artist creates incredible optical illusions using nothing but humans and body paint that will make you do a double take

An Italian artist is shocking and delighting the internet by turning humans into animals using nothing but body paint and clever poses.

Johannes Stotter creates optical illusions that first appear to be hyperrealistic depictions of animals. But on closer inspection, you can see they’re actually models covered in body paint.

Stotter began his “Illusions” project in 2013 while living in the Italian Alps, where he says nature directly influenced his art.

INSIDER spoke with Stotter about these mildly NSFW photos, which show humans in the naked form.

Stotter said the idea for the project started as a coincidence. He was working on another series when the model’s leg reminded him of a frog’s leg, so he decided to create a whole frog out of people.

“I knew immediately that it would be something very special,” he told INSIDER.

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The first illusion he created was the frog, which is still Stotter’s favourite.

Frog illusion. Courtesy of Johannes Stoetter

Stotter then created a video for the illusion to demonstrate how the frog actually consists of five models covered in body paint.

“I always had a special relation to the frog, I felt it to be my totem, my power animal,” he said. “When I had the idea of my frog illusion, which came somehow out of nowhere, it felt a bit like getting help from my power animal to bring my art and my life on a new level.”

His lengthy and detailed process continued with a wolf illusion.

Wolf illusion. Courtesy of Johannes Stoetter

It took three models to create this portrait.

The process begins with Stotter having models pose in different positions. He then sketches what he expects the final image to look like. It then takes him a whole week to paint the background. Next, Stotter body paints the animals on his models, which could take anywhere from two to 10 hours. Once the background and models are painted, he takes around 100 photos to get the perfect shot.

“A little movement, sometimes even just a breath, can change the whole image,” he explains.

Lastly, Stotter shoots a video of the models walking away from the constructed scene to create an element of surprise.

It took three hours to paint the sea turtle on this model, but four hours to shoot the video.

Turtle illusion. Courtesy of Johannes Stoetter

This illusion is actually just one person contorted to resemble a turtle.

Stotter said he doesn’t have a favourite part of the process but loves the “final photo of successful work,” especially with the chameleon.

Chameleon illusion. Courtesy of Johannes Stoetter

In the video, you learn it’s actually two models lying on top of each other.

Stotter said his love for animals led him to create this series.

Mandrill illusion. Courtesy of Johannes Stoetter

“I always loved animals,” Stotter said. “As a child, I knew more animals than adults. I went to the forest and mountains to see wild animals, and I was drawing animals all the time. Today it seems to me that everything I did so far was part of the development to get where I am now.”

But there is a deeper meaning to the series than just his love for animals.

This fish is actually a human covered in body paint. Courtesy of Johannes Stoetter

“There is unity between people and nature,” he said, adding, “[there’s a] message that things are not as they seem – an inspiration to change the perspective.”

No matter what viewers learn from the series, he is excited that it’s moving people.

“The most beautiful thing is that it makes people happy,” Stotter said. “For me, that is the biggest success that an artist can reach.”


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