See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 24, Issue 1

Artists Play With Light and Shadows to Trick the Eye

Trompe l'oeil illusions challenge your perception
Attack of the Giant Arachnids

One way to achieve spectacular trompe l'oeil illusions is through the use of anamorphic perspective. Artist Marlin Peterson painted harvestmen (which, although they are arachnids, are not actual spiders) on a Seattle rooftop. The images are stretched so as to optimize 3-D perception for viewers at the observation level of the Space Needle; other vantage points diminish the illusion. As in many trompe l'oeil illusions accomplished by painting, the expert use of shadows is critical. Peterson needed six gallons of house paint and a full-body harness to create this artwork. You can see the major steps of the process in a short video at

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