Believe it or not, these astoundingly realistic portraits of animals are highly detailed body paintings that double as optical illusions.

Hailing from Tyrol, Italy, artist Johannes Stötter began working in this fleshy medium in 2009, and has since taken the body painting world by storm. His work draws inspiration from the nature around him, and at first glance, you might assume his trippy paintings are the product of Photoshop.

The body painting above, which is titled simply "The Wolf," is one of Stötter's most clever works. To create the illusion of a howling wolf, one of the three models brings movement to the creature's "jaw" by fanning her left hand against her right pointed elbow.

While each finished painting only lasts as long as the models are arranged together, the artistic process begins as far in advance as five months. When the day of the actual painting arrives, the session can take as long as eight hours to complete from start to finish.

"While a canvas painting lasts forever, a body painting exists only for a few hours," Stötter tells the DailyMail. "The skin is very different to canvas — it is alive, it is soft and warm, it is a very comfortable base to paint on."

You can see all of Stotter's work on his website, but continue below to see some of our favorite body painting optical illusions:


This intricately designed tropical frog body painting is composed of five different models. At first glance, you might assume they are laying on the ground with the camera pointed downwards, but as they break up, you see they've been sitting upright all along.


The colors of this angelfish body painting are rich and complex, but Stötter only had to use one model to create this illusion.


Chameleons are famed for their bizarre, enigmatic demeanor, and the two models in this body painting do a great job of articulating that type of personality.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.