12 Mind-Blowing Makeup Artists Whose Work Belongs In a Museum

"It's face art, really."

That's how Maria Malone described her work to Mic. Malone is technically a makeup artist. But for a generation of young artists, makeup is the new frontier for self-expression and creativity, and makeup artists have exploded on Instagram and YouTube by sharing dazzling (and sometimes frightening) creations with their faces as the canvases.

Leveraging social media, makeup artists (commonly referred to as "MUA") like MykieMaria Malone and Alyssa Marie have developed online followings in the hundreds of thousands.

They've also succeeded in capturing the attention of big cosmetics brands like L'Oreal Paris, which sponsored the first international YouTube makeup competition, The Brush, earlier this year. L'Oreal makeup subdivision NYX hosts a similar competition called the FACE Awards (short for "Fine Artistry of Cosmetic Elites"), a version of the which is currently underway in the U.K. and Ireland. 

Vanna, 22, describes herself as a self-taught MUA whose work regularly draws inspiration from skulls that would fit right in at Day of the Dead celebrations.@vannaaaaxo/Instagram

Alyssa Marie (@alyssamarieartistry)

Alyssa is a freelance MUA and plus-size model with standout lime green hair. Her Instagram feed features her signature eye look with plenty of vibrant colors and glitter.@alyssamarieartistry/Instagram

Bobbie Eller (@bobbieeller)

Bobbie regularly creates looks that would fit right in the zombie apocalypse, with plenty of bloody cuts, bruises and prosthetics that bring to life looks from the dead.@bobbieeller/Instagram

Evangeline (@evangeline.lamorte)

Evangeline is an artist from the Bay Area in California. She regularly adds details like wigs and colored contact lenses to complete her many zombie and ghoulish looks. evangeline.lamorte/Instagram

Heather Mouse (@makeupmouse)

Heather's specialty lies in the perfect eye makeup. Her photos often zero in on a single eye, showcasing the level of intricacy and detail in the shadow and eyelashes.@makeupmouse/Instagram

Argenis (@argenapeede)

This artist's feed includes makeup inspired by popular comic book heroes and villains. "Just as there is contour in beauty makeup, there is also contour in painting but applied heavily to really create illusions of the design coming out or receding," he told Mic via email.argenapeede/Instagram

Dehsarae Mahrae (@beautybydehsonae)

Dehsarae describes herself as a mother, artist, aesthetician and masseuse on her Instagram account, but her account is filled with rich, dense and colorful makeup creations. She's even created looks on her toddler.@beautybydehsonae/Instagram

Kat (@luvekat)

Kat specializes in fantasy-inspired looks that make use of the accessories like butterfly eyelashes or gold-colored rose hairbands@luvekat/@Instagram

Jordan Hanz (@jordanhanz)

Jordan's work on Instagram features a range of creations with plenty of depth and color, resulting in images that pop. Her work can take anywhere from three to five hours to complete, she recently told BuzzFeed. @jordanhanz/Instagram

Mykie (@mykie_)

Mykie has more than 400,000 fans following her on Instagram and YouTube. Her channel, Glam & Gore, recently featured a tutorial on how to replicate the makeup from The Exorcist. Her Instagram favors a mix of Hollywood-ready looks and perfectly crafted classic red lips and eyeliner.mykie_//Instagram

Lex (@creativeboss)

On her Instagram account, Lex describes herself as an art and film buff. Her work often includes body paint with details snacking down her neck and upper chest — and she's got more than 300,000 Instagram followers watching.@creativeboss/Instagram

Maria Malone (@mariamalone1122)

Maria's work straddles the line between face art and optical illusions. She regularly transforms her face into animals like bulldogs or jaguars and celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. mariamalone1122/Instagram

But for these self-taught MUAs, it's the artistry, not the fame or prizes, that inspires. Giovanna Garcia-Corrales, who goes by @vannaaaaxo on Instagram, told Mic via email that experimenting with makeup is no different than being a traditional visual artist.

"We have the quite the same process. We take time to think of a design/concept, how we will capture it, the placement of things," Garcia-Corrales said.

"You kind of need to have some ability and skills of fine artistry," Malone, 41, said. She developed her current specialty — multilayered designs that transform her subjects into animals or recognizable celebrities, like Frank Sinatra — from years focused on portrait painting. She was inspired by her mother, who specialized in painting in oil on canvas.

Vanessa Knudson, 30, who can be found on Instagram as @evangeline.lamorte, pointed out to Mic that the line between MUA and traditional painters is increasingly blurry, with the added inspiration of one important source: Hollywood.

Both Malone and Knudson, who studied visual arts and trained in special effects, cited film special effects as a source of childhood inspiration. For Knudson, watching Robert England transform into the likes of Freddie Krueger captured her imagination. Malone said that her love of special effects led her to begin experimenting with what she calls "face illusion."

"I loved special effects, but I was just having a go, [thinking] what could I do without special effects to create that illusion of the broken nose?" Malone said. Years later, she's creating works of art she shares regularly on social media and is one of the top 20 contestants in the FACE Awards.

She's in good company. Social media has dramatically changed the landscape for today's MUAs, Malone said, by connecting creative types and creating networks for artists to learn from one another.

"People have picked up on the concept of painting on skin. And, there's no limits... Whatever your imagination can come up with, you can do it," Malone said.