Painting Illusions

Artists create illusions. When painting in perspective, some objects appear nearer to the viewer while others recede into the background. In reality, the paint is on an even plane, a flat canvas. Shapes are stretched and skewed, which makes parts of the picture look to be in the distance, while really sharing the same space. In “Wings of Heaven“, the illusion of different layers and depths in the clouds is achieved through perspective.

In “The Moon and the Stars“, the illusion of luminosity, radiating light, is created through stark color contrast. White on deep purple looks like it’s glowing. The reality is that these hues come from ordinary tubes of oil paint, but when positioned next to each other the purple gives the illusion that the white paint “glows”.

In this final example, an illusion of reflection is created by distorted lines and patterns. “Blue Heron” was unintentionally muted and watercolor-like. It was the result of trying cheap budget oil paint. This was a happy accident though, because the watery brush strokes had a good effect on that project, in which the entire upper 2/3 of the composition is comprised of reflections of the wooded area across from the lagoon.

Here are two more examples for creating the illusion of reflection:

  1. Reflection is conveyed through light and shadow in this lighthouse painting.
  2. The reflection in “My Kids at the Beach” is created through colorful hues, distortion and a mirror-like plane. The mirror style is often the most realistic illusion method for reflection. I was pleased with how my kids’ reflections on the wet sand turned out.