Lines and Colors art blog

John Pugh
Trompe l’oeil, French for “trick the eye” is an illusionary art technique with a long history in Western art. The intention is to create an optical illusion, in that the viewer is given the impression that there is a three dimensional object or scene before them, not just a realistic image (see some of my posts relevant to trompe l’oeil, in particular my post on Eric Grohe).

California born artist John Pugh paints large scale trompe l’oeil images, usually on the sides of buildings, that reveal impossible, and often amusing, dimensions to an otherwise flat wall.

In his Mana Nalu (power of the wave) Mural Project (image above, top, large version here) in Hawaii, the flat side of a building appears to be deeply concave, and filed with an enormous cresting wave, in which we see a personification of Queen Lili’uokalani. Riding the wave is pioneering surfer Duke Kahanamoku, and standing at the foot of the wave, looking for all the world like real children walking on a ledge in front of the oncoming wall of water, are three painted children.

Pugh likes to give our sensibilities an extra tease at times by including a painted observer in his illusionary scene.

In his Siete Punto Uno in Los Gatos, California (image above, bottom, large version here), a red jacketed woman peers into an apparently earthquake caused break in the wall of a cafe, that reveals a hidden temple of the Mayan Jaguar God (the bringer of earthquakes in their mythology).

Pugh’s web site showcases his mural work, public and residential and corporate. It also includes a page of “mural mishap” accounts, in which the illusion of the murals has prompted amusing responses from people, such as patrons in a bar who break glasses trying to set them on trompe l’oeil “shelf”, or people who walk into walls trying to walk “into” his paintings, a la Road Runner cartoons.

In addition to his site, Pugh maintains a site for prints and mural posters that also has galleries of images.

[Via Daily Mail Online]


4 responses to “John Pugh”

  1. Incredible! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Richard Rabkin Avatar
    Richard Rabkin

    The way Pugh works is also interesting. He often seems to build a 3 dimensional model from which he works so that he can get the light right.


  3. Richard Rabkin Avatar
    Richard Rabkin

    The other thing I noticed about Pugh is that he tries to control the point from which his murals are seen. This often means that he uses the sides of buildings which are hemmed in by other buildings across the street.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Richard.

      Yes, the point of view often makes a big difference, and of course, the photographs are taken from the optimal view. Interesting that he looks for buildings situated in spaces that control the vantage point.

      See also my post on the very specific point of view architectural optical illusions of Felice Varini.