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Optical Illusions in Art
Pavement artist Julian Beever part of a noble tradition in painting
Eric Shackle (Shack)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-27 15:36 (KST)   
British pavement artist Julian Beever made New Yorkers stop in their tracks on Jan. 25.

Beever is internationally renowned for creating stunning optical illusions -- pavement drawings that give every impression of three-dimensionality.

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Drawings and paintings that appear to be three dimensional, but are in fact not, are described by art specialists as trompe-l'oeil. This is a noble tradition that dates back to ancient Greece and Rome.

Last week the "Pavement Picasso" used his magic chalks to create a modern-day fountain of youth on the south side of Union Square in New York.

Beever painted an incredibly realistic three-dimensional image of a fountain splashing water into a blue pool. An attractive girl was drawn standing in the shrub-lined pool, but it was all a magnificent illusion.

Following Rome's "three coins in a fountain" custom, spectators were invited to toss coins into the fountain and make a wish. For every penny pitched into the "fountain," a donation was made to the Keep America Beautiful campaign.

Beever began his career creating chalk art to finance his travels around the globe. Based in Britain, he has made pavement drawings for 15 years and has worked in the U.K., Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany, the U.S.A. and Australia. According to his Web site he specializes in pavement drawings, wall murals, and traditional paintings.

How does he achieve that incredible 3D effect? Clinical psychologist Dr Vaughan Bell, of King's College London explains:
"The brain works out our 3D experience of the world from the 2D light patterns that fall onto our retina at the back of the eye.

"This process takes advantage of many of our implicit assumptions of the world, such as the fact that textures will fade as they go farther away, parallel lines will tend to converge in the distance and that objects will seem larger the closer they are.

"Julian Beever's art uses a knowledge of these processes, so when seen from a certain angle, the pictures fool the visual system's inbuilt processes to produce a false sense of depth."
Turning to other visual illusions, Michael Bach's Web site in Germany sometimes attracts up to two million hits a day. It shows rotating circles and other colorful patterns which make you dizzy when you look at them.

"These pages demonstrate visual phenomena, called optical illusions or visual illusions," he says. "The latter is more appropriate, because most effects have their basis in the visual pathway, not in the optics of the eye..."

Readers can find out more about optical illusions in painting and drawing at the Art of Anamorphosis Web site.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Eric Shackle

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