Through makeup, Athena Paginton addresses topics of mental health, LGBTQIA+ rights and climate change

There’s a lot more to makeup than you might think, far deeper than enhancing your features with lipsticks, powder and blush. This becomes prevalent in the portfolio of Athena Paginton, who employs illustrative and activist techniques to paint on her subjects’ face and body – switching a swab of mascara for more colourful displays of art. In her work, you’ll see an array of creative 2D ideas brought to life on the arches and curves of the human canvas; like a colourful rainbow, a pattern comprising black and red block prints, a bold red face with turquoise crosses, stars and zigzags, or the recreation of a character on the back of the neck.
Athena moved to London at the age of 18, which is when she began shooting tests and collaborating with different teams in the fashion industry. “I was face and body painting at every given opportunity,” she tells It’s Nice That, “which remains the same to this day!” Ever since, she’s worked with a plethora of fashion clients such as adidas, Alexander McQueen, Arise Arise, Balenciaga, Burberry, Converse, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana among many more. She’s also had her pieces features in the pages of 032C, 10 Magazine, AnOther, Cero, Dazed & Confused, Garage, i-D plus others.
While working on an idea for a project, the first thing Athena thinks about is her commitment to activism through her practice. “It’s integral for me to intertwine it into my creative work, it fuels every project,” she explains. “When it comes to the creation, I draw out my designs, create physical art pieces, sculptures, face charts or paint straight onto the face or body.” It’s a precise and considered approach that sees Athena carefully place each stroke, splash of colour and shape with skill and consideration. This means a typical day for Athena will consist of copious amounts of paint and coffee, plus “a lot of lols”. The starting point of any given project will begin with a topical issue that’s been brought to her attention, which could be anything from mental health, animal rights, LGBTQIA+ rights or climate change. Once the topic is decided, she’ll start the painting and illustration phase, applying her paints to paper, canvas, friends and whatever else she can get her hands on. This part tends to be free-slowing and intuitive, so the end point is always going to end up as a little surprise. “That’s definitely my favourite way of working,” she says. “I love the process of creation when there is no planned outcome.”

Posted by Contributor