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Behind the icy-eyed beauty of Spark AR creator Paige Piskin

Here, we get to chat to arguably the coolest and most coveted filter maker currently online - Paige Piskin

Fusing concepts drawn from the beauty world with otherworldly entities, the work of Paige Piskin is a striking yet surreal visual feast. Drawing on the mind of Marvel, the creator has made effects inspired by the iconic Harley Quinn as well as having a celebrity fan base that includes the likes of a-list celebrities such as Dua Lipa and Kylie Jenner.

Whilst Paige has been drawing since she was five, she started using Spark AR in 2019 after being taught by Chris Price from Facebook Reality Labs. Since then, her rise has been astronomical. For example, her cartoon princess filter went viral and received over a billion impressions in about a week. Despite this, Paige was still ‘shocked’ when she saw Elon Musk sharing her filter on Twitter. Iconically, the Megan the Stallion effect was used to announce the arrival of his baby with Grimes. As Paige laughs “ I loved the idea that it probably came from Grimes, since she had worn the same filter a few times before. She has been really supportive of my work since I started, she followed me back in 2019 a month after I started making filters and soon after used some in her music video for “I am Dark”.

How did you find learning Facebook Spark AR? Did you have a creative background before? I found Spark AR very intuitive and with the help of a very supportive community I felt like I was able to learn the basics pretty quickly! I have a background in drawing and digital art, I’ve been drawing characters and fashion/beauty illustrations since I was around 5 years old - both my parents are artists. I eventually started getting into digital art in high school, and then majored in graphic design in college. I actually dropped out of college, and continued learning on my own. I started working as a graphic designer in 2008 and mostly worked for the past 13 years in personal and business branding and marketing. My passion though has always been character creation, digital compositing and digital makeup/photo manipulation. When I realized I could create real-time AR effects to create characters and makeup looks that we can wear in real time, I was so hyped. I spent 10-16 hours a day learning and working with Spark AR, and finally got my first effects live in November 2019.

How did your interest in make-up inform your work? I’ve always loved makeup, fashion, cosplay, and character design. When I was younger I used to get together with friends and we would create really fun photoshoots, doing our makeup in all kinds of avant-garde looks and dressing up, then I’d do all the digital editing and compositing. We still get together for some photoshoots, but editing one image takes so long and you have to settle with just a few images to edit. With AR I love that you can create a makeup look and entire scene effect one time and apply it as a filter to any photo or use it live in photos and videos. Since I love makeup and characters, I spend a lot of time experimenting with digital makeup and character design, mostly for my own fun and to learn new things!

You are pretty iconic in the world of AR effects - did it surprise you when Elon Musk used your effect or are you used to the reach that your content receives now? Thank you!! I was definitely shocked when I saw Elon Musk sharing my filter on twitter - I loved the idea that it probably came from Grimes, since she had worn the same filter a few times before. She has been really supportive of my work since I started, she followed me back in 2019 a month after I started making filters and soon after used some in her music video for “I am Dark”. Her support really helped my work get exposure, soon after I started seeing a lot of influencers and celebrities wearing my effects.

Where do you get your inspiration from? It’s such a blend of things! I am mostly inspired by fashion/beauty trends especially e-girl and goth kind of style. I love tattoos, piercings, colorful hair, and edgy makeup. I also am inspired by entertainment, I love Marvel and Disney, I get very inspired by their characters. I try to bring it all together by taking a look of a Disney princess and then adding e-girl style elements. Lately, I’ve been working to create my own characters as drawings and then turn them into filters, this has been really fun!

What are your top 3 tips for someone starting to learn Spark AR? When you first start, I definitely recommend going to the SparkAR website and reading through the documentation, case studies and tutorials. Once you finish I recommend exploring the communities and forums to dive deeper into specific questions you may have.

Connect with other AR creators: There are alot of different communities where you can learn and ask questions that range from Facebook Groups to Discord groups where people can give live feedback in a chat format. It’s a great idea to share work and connect in these spaces, you’ll make some great friends and find really helpful support if you have questions.

Great tools/programs: When I create character and makeup looks for filters I use a variety of programs outside of Spark so I wanted to share those too. For all my makeup drawing I use Procreate on my iPad and draw with the Apple Pencil. Procreate has been great for mocking up makeup and character concepts. I also hear the Cintiq tablet is amazing as well - I plan to order one soon. For software, I use photoshop for some textures and texture editing, blender for 3d modeling, substance painter for texturing objects and sculptgl for face deformations.

What excites you the most about the future of technology? I’m really excited about AR glasses. I'm a fan of programs like Gravity Sketch and Tilt Brush on Oculus Quest VR - so I can’t even imagine how cool it would be to create in our own living space with AR. I’m also really excited for the day we can wear AR glasses and see effects applied to the world around us, transforming the inside of our homes and outside, either with whimsical and dramatic scenery or to play immersive fun/thrilling games. I can imagine creators will build really amazing lidar and ML filters that transform the world around us in incredible ways.. Imagine a colorful sky full of planets and spaceships flying around, or a forest that looks like something from Alice in wonderland or Avatar… Or being able to see a city transform to look like it once did at a different point in history.. I’m really excited and hopeful for the future of AR, it’s a really exciting space to be a part of!

What are some projects you are currently working on or have done that you are most excited about? Over the past year I've gotten the chance to collaborate with some incredible brands and individuals. I've created filters for Freefire games, Loreal, Warner Brothers, Bratz dolls, LOL Surprise, Sol de Janiero, and musicians like Ashnikko, Antonia and most recently Bella Poarch. It was really fun working with the MGA team on a Bratz doll filter, since I've loved Bratz dolls since I was a teenager and have made several Bratz inspired filters! I also was so happy to work with Bella Poarch on a filter to promote her new single release, her song right now is one of the most popular this week. I'm looking forward to collaborating with more artists and brands this year, it's been an amazing experience so far.

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