There is more to makeup than creating pretty faces, as make-up artist and illustrator May Sum Wing-wai has discovered. Sum takes an imaginative approach to makeup, ignoring conventional routines and seasonal trends. The 25-year-old graduated from the creative media course at the City University of Hong Kong in 2003. She worked as an illustrator and beauty editor before becoming a self-taught freelance makeup artist two years ago. Her makeup designs have appeared in magazines, commercials and music videos. But she found the commercial projects monotonous. 'It's tedious to do the same sort of makeup day after day. People only care if they look flawless and pretty,' she said. 'I wanted to try something more edgy and creative.' Last year, Sum started putting non-cosmetic materials, such as rice, lemon, coloured paper and artificial hair, on models' faces. 'It's like drawing or painting, but you experiment with colours and materials on human faces instead of canvas,' she said. However, not everyone appreciates her unique sense of aesthetics. Some models complained that the make-up took too long, or was too painful, to apply. For example, she glued grains of rice on a model's face to replicate a traditional Chinese opera mask. But the most common criticism is that her make-up is not 'beautiful' enough. 'People are still obsessed by the traditional definition of beauty, and are convinced that the sole function of make-up is to create flawless skin and enhance one's features,' Sum said. She added that local beauty magazines or commercials are not the right forum for her to display her unique makeup style. She has therefore created an exhibition to display her work. Ar Lin - Art and Makeup exhibition will showcase about 40 photos of her experimental creations. The exhibition focuses on an emotionless, mute girl, Ar Lin, who lives inside a paper box. The photos show the colourful world inside Ar Lin's private world. The works are categorised into themes such as local customs and daily routines. Sum says conventional makeup can be limiting. 'There are certain colours that you can't use on certain types of features when applying conventional make-up,' she said. 'For example, you should avoid eye shadow with red tones if you have puffy eyes.' But when it comes to her own designs, Sum can do what she likes. The human face inspires her, and a model's facial expressions can help her see a new dimension in her art. 'I want to blur the boundary between visual arts and make-up,' she said. 'I want to redefine what beauty is. Makeup can be fun, and innovative too, if you dare to try something different.' The exhibition will take place from October 1 to 31 at Les Artistes Cafe and Art Gallery (3426 8918) and from November 14 to 27 at Fringe Club (2521 7251).