In “The Wizard of Oz,” Judy Garland and friends danced their way along the yellow brick road. The next time you watch the movie, take a closer look at the scene when Dorothy meets the Scarecrow. You can see a line across the yellow bricks on the road to the left. This marks the bottom edge of a very large canvas, suspended from the ceiling, which provides the illusion that the road winds through the countryside and beyond. You may not know the terminology, but that is a perfect example of trompe l’oeil.
Polka Dot Eggs
Translated into English as “fool the eye,” trompe l’oeil is an art technique used to create three-dimensional illusions. In order to fool the eye, the artist must excel at utilizing perspective, light and shadow, color, and scale. Each of these aspects lends another layer in a composition created solely to entertain and challenge human perception. In the above photo, I’m sure many pedestrians walk around the “protruding” polka dot eggs for fear of walking into one, but it’s actually a cleverly painted illusion.
The arched niche in this photograph is real, but the stone path, lavender flowers and mountain vista are painted illusions. Notice how well the path aligns with the opening of the arch, inviting you to begin an awesome hike through a beautiful landscape. The mist and snow covered peaks lend a chill to the air in this amazingly realistic scene.
We’ve all seen window curtains fluttering in the breeze. This building appears to have the “curtains” on the exterior, held in place by four tacks. Including the windows and architectural details, none of it is real.
While some illusions evoke wonder and awe with their fanciful, storybook qualities, others tend to be appreciated from afar due to a projected sense of danger, particularly in regard to depth perception. Probably the most disorienting 3D illusions are located upon the floor. When you see what appears to be a gaping hole in the ground, you’re going to walk or ride around it. Notice the people in this photo are walking along the perimeter of the bridge, not down the center. Interestingly, the black dog in the background is not fooled by the illusion. Maybe dogs have a different way of sensing depth than we do. The water appears to pour in from both sides to become beautiful waterfalls plunging into a deep gorge below. Painted to resemble rushing blue water, a portion of the left side railing nearly disappears. It’s a shame the painted water doesn’t match the green color of the existing river to complete the illusion.
Town with a View
A first glance, it’s easy to see that the canyon view within the archway is a painting. However, everything you see, with the exception of the brown-framed window, is an illusion. The wooden bench, the sidewalk and even the trash can look real. I wonder how many people walk toward that bench to rest?
Old Fashioned Storefront
The proprietor of this store stands ready to serve his customers, while his wife sits nearby people watching. Epicerie is the French word for grocery store. This family-run business showcases fresh produce and vegetables in front of the store and upon shelves inside the store windows. The stacked merchandise, cast shadows, and event poster upon the wall add realistic touches to this beautiful artwork. It was clever of the artist to use the words on the store windows to advertise his or her painting business. Perhaps that is why they chose not to show reflections on the glass.
Charming Italian Restaurant
Romance meets fairy tales in the lovely formal gardens adorning the second floor of this popular Italian restaurant. White flowers follow the railing as if they are growing alongside the staircase. The open door at the top of the stairs teases the viewer to step “outside” to walk along the beautifully landscaped paths. The only downside to this mural is the unfortunate location of the air conditioning vents near the ceiling, which detract from the grand garden illusion.
Petals and leaves appear to spill over a low wall from this imaginary window box. As with the previous photo, the vent locations are unfortunate, but in this case the artist has camouflaged them well.
Ornate Window Frame
Artisans, who trained a lifetime perfecting their crafts, constructed old world architecture. This simple wood framed window exudes that same Old World charm “sculpted” in paint. The ornate details, use of light and shadow successfully combine to give this window frame depth and a richness found only in some of the most prized buildings in Europe.
Deep Sea Diver
Treasure hunting on a pirate shipwreck in an underwater mine field is not for the faint of heart. This diver appears to have been successful in his search, but he’s not the only one interested. The 3D rendering has effectively created the illusion that the diver’s upper body leans out beyond the wall. The gold necklace is so real you could almost take it from his hand. An octopus tentacle reaches into the painting from our side in the real world – Yikes!
The faux architectural details, such as the coffered ceiling, archways, and the ornate building in the background, visually expand the space.
It appears a section of this ultra contemporary bridge has collapsed, revealing an ancient chamber hidden below. This moody, mysterious scene is reminiscent of a Harry Potter film. As we peer into this strange stone-lined room, we are met with the vision of sands in an hourglass, which appear to have stopped flowing, and a burning candle, resting atop a pedestal. Wax drips down the sides and the flame flickers above the walkway surface. What other secrets lie hidden in the darkness? Should we dare to find out, or turn and run? I’m guessing most people would find another way to get to the other side.
Hailing a Taxi Cab
What a phenomenal painting! The artist has an impressive grasp of perspective and the effects of light. Check out the shadows cast upon the brick wall by the man, the car, and the signpost. Nothing has been overlooked. Even the single orange balloon and string cast a shadow. A floating car would be a very cool way to travel with virtually no traffic. Descending could be problematic. I wonder if they give frequent flyer miles?
Let’s end on a high note! (lol) I think it’s safe to say that the trumpet in this amazing painting is a tripping hazard. It really looks as if it’s sticking right out of that wall. The only way to improve this illusion would be the relocation of the central air conditioning unit around the corner away from the painting.
Artwork tells a story in a universal language we can all understand. It evokes our emotions and challenges our senses. The next time you find yourself sidestepping around an optical illusion, remember you are as much a part of the artist’s composition as the paint itself.
Thanks for reading & Happy Crafting!