Eye Foolery

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Those things which are most real are the illusions I create in my paintings.” Eugene Delacroix

CBS Sunday Morning featured the fabulous mural art of Richard Haas. The wonderful illusions created by tompe l’oeil or “trick the eye” techniques have always fascinated people. Seeing Haas’ work is a reminder of how skillful an artist must be to create such realistic scenes. Years ago as a medical sales rep in Miami, I frequently drove past Haas’ iconic mural on The Fountainebleau Hotel at Miami Beach. Each time I saw the mural I was fascinated anew. There really was a temptation to drive right through the mural it is so realistic.

Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 9.43.16 PM Trompe l’oeil artist John Pugh, quoted by The Daily Mail says, “It seems universal that people take delight in being visually tricked.” Pugh is right. There is a magnetic fascination in these realistic murals. The urge to get up close and try to figure them out is irresistible. The Daily Mail has some excellent examples of Pugh’s work. Pugh tells the story of how one of his murals of an earthquake attracted the attention of the Fire Department while driving by the mural. They stopped the truck and were about to attempt to rescue the children in the mural before they got close enough to see that it wasn’t real. The firefighters doubled over laughing at the realization.

Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 9.42.29 PM Why do these purposely, deceptive artworks hold such fascination? Likely there are a number of reasons. One reason Pugh believes is the sense of civic pride the murals invite. Communities love their local eye fooling multi-story artworks. And the murals are wonderful. A source of civic pride is one explanation but there is also something much deeper to the fascination. The deeper allure appears to be the simple fact that people enjoy being fooled. The greater the deception, the greater is the pleasure for the viewer.

The role of the artist is to show the world something it may not have seen before. Possibly all art is eye deceiving in some form. But the Trompe L’oeil artist is particularly skillful at eye-trickery. There is an element of amusement and playfully purposeful deception in Tromp L’oeil that is not present in most other forms of art. The Trompe L’oeil artist takes delight in tricking us and we take delight in being tricked. This eye foolery is all in good fun and we love it!

Here’s a fun video look at the definition of trompe l’oeil:

Trompe L’oeil

Take a look at these examples of trompe l’oeil:



Experimenting Experimenters

Screen shot 2013-10-14 at 9.07.17 AMLet us see how high we can fly before the sun melts the wax in our wings.”         Edward O. Wilson (from The Painters Keys)

Many artists are experimenters who constantly search for new ways to express themselves through their art.  They look for new techniques.  They try different media.  Some even come up with non-traditional materials not generally thought of as art making material.  Others look for new uses of traditional materials.  Still others seek out new and different subject matter.

The UK’s Daily Mail has an article focused on artist Gerald Toni and his use of coffee and tea to paint beautiful life-like works of people and objects set in coffee houses.  He uses various blends of coffee and tea from all over the world.  The amazing range of color values in his paintings come from years of experimenting with the different coffee and tea blends.

Watercolorist Carrie Lin, as told by Margaret DeRitter of Michigan Live has developed a unique method in her paintings using different papers such as yupo and rice paper.   For the rice paper work she uses a crinkle technique perfected with years of experimentation.  In the yupo paintings, she applies ink, allowing it to slide over the slick surface of the paper.  Lin then uses both techniques as the background for her beautiful abstract paintings.

If you are in the mood to try for something new and different, Amiria Robinson has outlined techniques, methods and materials to try out in a series of articles for Student Art Guide “Entitled Beyond the Brush.”  You might try painting with a mop or maybe your feet.  You could experiment by painting with a rag.  How about turning things around and dipping the paper or canvas into the paint instead of the other way around?  Robinson described a number of lively suggestions worth trying just for the fun of it.

In the process of experimenting, artists are forever evolving and changing the way people view their world.  This constant evolution brings color and expression to our lives.  I wonder what the next development in the art world will be.  Artists are always bringing new things to life.

Picturing a Paradigm Shift

In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.

Alfred StieglitzScreen shot 2013-10-02 at 11.46.34 AM

The UK’s Daily Mail (here) has an article on Kodak and the first camera for use by the general public.  Photography changed from the posed portraits of the times to capturing moments in the everyday lives of people.  So much else of the art world evolved with Kodak’s camera.

Painting dramatically changed at the time early photography was growing according to an article by BigThink’s Bob Duggan in a well -documented post of the early influence of photography on painting.  Duggan outlines how the late nineteenth century painters began to rely on photography more and more in their painting.  Fleeting moments could be more readily captured by photography and translated to canvas.  However, painters at the time were reluctant to admit their reliance on photography.  Today, that is not the case.

Alfred Stieglitz was outspoken in promoting photography as art.  He exhibited both at his famous New York art galleries.  It was a radical idea at the time. Today, both photography and painting stand side by side in the art world.   The amazing beauty achieved by photographers is fascinating to me.   My camera and I wander around capturing bits of inspiration for painting.  These are the moments I can truly appreciate the skill and artistic ability of photographers.  I am usually able to capture what I need for painting but always wonder how photographers capture so much more.

That first Kodak camera for mass consumer use sparked a new and wonderful movement in the art world.   The argument will continue about how photography and painting interact though most will likely agree the first Kodak Moment coincided with the paradigm shift that became the many diverse twentieth century art movements.

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