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Trompe l'oeil - Painted illusions

by Emiliano Campobello

Trompe l'oeil Niche Detail Detail of "Trompe l'oeil" niche with the artist's palette and brush emerging from the painting, Oil on Panel, 2004


"Trompe l'oeil" is a french term for the art of realistic painted illusions, translating literally as "to trick/fool the eye". As a trained sculptor, I have an intuitive sensitivity for light and shadow, form and space, that enables me to create these painted illusions that blend harmoniously with the "real" space. There is a certain point in my work when the surface I am painting of disappears and space opens up, or objects and relief details emerge from it.. it's a magical feeling!

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Trompe l'oeil Niche Detail
Detail of "Trompe l'oeil" niche with the artist's palette and brush emerging from the painting, Oil on Panel, 2004

Paintings that come to life

As an artist, I approach every project as a unique opportunity to bring magic to life. Often this is a realm where I find myself sculpting space with the paintbrush, finding just the right shadow, highlight or texture to create a comvincing illusion. Sometimes these illusions are small eye-catching details, sometimes they are expansive spaces that invite the viewer to enter them. Much of the work I create (and fun that I have!) falls into this catagory in one way or another. The degree of realism depends on the painterly style, desired effect, and project budget. The minute details take more time of course, as I work with very fine brushes and subtle shades and colors, but the results are awesome..

Faux and illusion fool the eye

With all of my projects, I take pride in making works of art that invite the viewer to come closer and engage with the painting and explore the details up close.  Many of my illusions are not even noticed as they blend into their surroundings, which is sometimes the best complement I could have. People at the Montecito Country Club in California walked through this painted "trompe l'oeil " oak panel door for 6 months without noticing it was a painted illusion. I painted 6 doors to match existing doors in the adjacent areas.. they blended in superbly, to the point that the client had to touch the door to convince himself it was painted!

Trompe l'oeil Panel Door Realistic painted paneling and aged oak woodgrain create a beautiful illusion


Trompe l'oeil I transformed 6 doors for the Montecito Country Club, CA from flat formica to oak paneling.


Trompe l'oeil Panel Door Realistic painted paneling and woodgrain.. this door is actually completely flat!

Emiliano Art & Design

Santa Barbara, California
Tel.: (805)284-3419
Email: [email protected]
CSLB# 971880

From the first concept until its installation on the wall, I had complete trust in the artists. Mary and Emiliano instinctively knew what was needed for my office. Through few conversations, they managed to identify my artistic inclinations/preferences, took to heart my practice philosophy, and came up with a painting that fit so right with what my staff and I do everyday. Hamster tree has been part of our "arsenal" for treating children as young as 6 months old. We use the painting as a distraction for apprehensive children (instead of using TV or computer games), as a focus point for distracted children or ones with special needs, and as a soothing tool for stressful times. Many times a day, we would ourselves looking at "the Tree", taking a deep breath, getting lost in the beautiful perspective or just gazing at a furry hamster, and finding peace. This is an important aspect in a pediatric dental practice where stress, noise, and chaos are prevalent. The children in particular love the details and vivid colors in the painting. A 6 year-old girl, while waiting for her abscessed tooth to go numb, went over to "the Tree" to study it, then went back to the chair for the extraction of the tooth (her first ever) all the while talking about critters. We have had "The Tree" for a year now and countless children and their parents have enjoyed it.
Dr. Annie Pham-Cheng
Santa Barbara Children's Dental Practice