Meet Alexis Fraser, a Toronto-based artist who uses an ingenious technique to create paintings in a style she calls “kiss print pointillism.” To do it, she applies lipstick, puckers up, and smooches a large-scale canvas, over and over again, until her lips have painted a portrait. Our minds were completely blown when we first saw her work, and we were desperate to know more. So we connected with Alexis, aka Lipstick Lex, who gave us the scoop on her unique process and why so many of her lipstick kiss paintings center on iconic women.
It all started 4 years ago when she was searching for a non-traditional art approach to help get herself recognized in the art scene. “In a world where it seems as though everything has already been done, I wanted to try something totally different but also wanted the medium to correlate with the subject,” she shared with us. Her experimental subject of choice was a Hollywood legend. Makeup and the face would be her tools. And with that, she started kissing canvases.
It was a technique she’d never seen any other artist employ*, and she didn’t know how it would turn out. She and her husband filmed the entire process for a video they later posted to YouTube after seeing the final result. In what would become her signature style, Alexis created a kiss print portrait of Marilyn Monroe that was nothing short of amazing. The internet agreed. She has “been kissing canvases ever since!”
Art is not only a passion for Alexis, it’s her livelihood. She’s been working professionally as a full-time artist since 2011 and has been rapidly gaining recognition for her work as a contemporary portrait oil painter. But it’s her incredible lipstick art that has set her apart as a true creative force.
Taking Alexis’s work on “face” value, alone, it’s easy to appreciate her talent. But then, when you step back and understand exactly what’s involved in her process, admiration quickly turns to awe. “I first create an overall sketch but break the drawing down into a paint-by-numbers type of format. I do this so I know where the shade of lipstick needs to be applied either heavier or lighter to help give the image value and depth,” she explained. “I kiss the large areas and then fill in the details by hand with the lipstick and smudge with my finger.”
To grasp the magnitude of what Alexis is doing, consider that most of her lipstick art pieces are 3’ x 4’, with the largest being 5′ x 7’. Based on that scale, the complexity of the work, and the delicate nature of her artistic tools of choice, her pieces can take anywhere from one day to a full week to complete. The intense demands of her work have their benefits and their challenges, too. “I personally love painting large. It creates a greater impact,” she said, but admits that “many breaks are required for the larger pieces as my lips do become a bit numb or sore after a while.” To counter the wear and tear her ‘brush’ suffers from all the lipstick applications and repetitive canvas kissing, she’s also “constantly putting on lip balm to moisturize.”
To achieve the look she wants for each of her pieces Alexis experiments with different brands of lipstick and a few have made it to the top of her list. “So far, my favorites are MAC, Kiko Milano, Burt’s Bees and Kat Von D Beauty lipstick.” In terms of color choices, she says she primarily sticks to reds and black lipstick, but that’s changing. “I’ve recently placed orders for a wider array of colors to help give my body of work a more vibrant and colorful aesthetic.”
Beyond the jaw-dropping effect, what we love, in particular, about Alexis’s lipstick art is that many of her subjects are inspiring women. “I paint women that are personal favorites of mine and who I believe others adore as well. They are timeless classics that will never go out of style.” One of those women is Frida Kahlo, the subject of Alexis’s newest lipstick kiss painting, whom she now declares her “ultimate fave!” It’s ours too… just look at the work and detail that went into this piece. And in true WYSK fashion, Alexis finds herself “constantly inspired by women, particularly women-who-do!”
In addition to her lipstick kiss icon series, Alexis is currently working on a vintage nostalgia series, “which focuses on various items from past times to give a viewer a little blast from the past.” This time lapse video shows her hard at work creating a vintage camera.
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Alexis, On Discovering She Was Not The First Canvas Kisser
* Shortly after Alexis painted her Marilyn Monroe portrait and posted the “making of” video, she discovered that a talented young woman, Natalie Irish, “had beat me to the punch.” She shared, “I was shocked and felt a little bummed that I wasn’t the first. I didn’t previously know that her art existed but I felt as though I had ripped off her idea, or at least that’s how it would have appeared to her following. Not only did we use the same kissing technique but we also happened to paint the same classic icon.”
In the past year, Alexis has seen “maybe one or two other artists that create lipstick kiss art.” But instead of focusing on not being the only one to do a particular type of art, she says, “I now look at this unique form of art as a rare technique that only very few artists in this world do and can achieve, therefore, I’m just thrilled to be one of a very select few!”
Follow Alexis on Instagram @Lipstick_Lex