The trompe l’oeil mural


A mural and trompe l’oeil mural are not the same thing. For it to be a trompe l’oeil mural it must trick the eye.

Trompe l’œil literally translates from French to mean “fools the eye.” The trompe l’œil piece requires meticulous attention to detail. Proper sizing and every detail, nuance of light and gradation of color must be skillfully reproduced in order to make a two-dimensional work appear to be three-dimensional.

Trompe = trick

œil = eye

Sometimes written l’ oeil but in the french the “o” – “e” diphthong “Œ” is used.

Trompe l’ œil usually only works from a narrow field of view and it is the play of shadows that sells the illusion of three dimensionality.

Some of the murals on this page can not be classed a trompe l’oeil mural


The small sized trompe l’oeil mural

These above trompe l’œil murals show that one needn’t have the whole wall painted to achieve an illusion. I painted a number of the shelves in bars in Ireland. The staff derived enjoyment watching “people with drink taken” attempting to set their glasses down. In one instance I painted a Budweiser mat directly onto the bar. I suppose that insofar as it wasn’t on a wall it can’t be classed as a trompe l’oeil mural. The staff didn’t find that as funny at the end of the evening when trying to clear up.


Osterly west London – The Disney Room

I worked on this trompe l’oeil mural job as part of a three man team. There are examples of paint finishes, trompe l’œil and cartoon illustrations in this room. Due to contractual obligations I am not allowed to say for whom it was painted. I can say that as the client was Muslim and that we had to “snag” (get rid of) Piglet who was lowering the tone as well as Winnie the Pooh to the honey jar.

This seemed to be a little over the top to me. If the client was strictly orthodox Muslim then the depiction of life would also be excluded thereby negating nearly the entire mural including the view out of the painted window. In this instance I think the architects and interior designers were worried as the whole project was months behind and penalty clauses were coming into effect.


Osterly west London – The Racing Car Room

Painted for the same client as the Disney room we faced the same problem with painting racing cars with no drivers.

If the mural is seen closely it would be noticed that the crash helmets hang in mid air and there are no hands on the steering wheels. This mural was painted for a 3 year old boy whom I’m sure would rather have had something more similar to the Disney room. In this case the architects had their way although we did have to considerably redesign the brief we were given.


Cranleigh, Surrey – The Jungle Mural

Jungle mural painted in a 17c english farmhouse. The beams are real but the spaces in between are painted to recreate a aeroplane crashed in the jungle.

The crashed plane was built by a carpenter friend. It is in fact the wardrobe or closet, the drawers and shelving. The tail was for the school books and the aileron the desk.

Not really a trompe l’oeil mural in the strict sense but there are elements of trompe l’oeil work in the mural.

This jungle mural occupied all four walls and the ceiling area. A bed was also painted to resemble burst open packing crates with small lizards and insects inspecting the contents. Unfortunately photos of the bed no long exist.


Dublin Airport – Star Trek Ceiling Mural

Two space craft painted on 60cm square ceiling tiles that were eventually dropped into an aluminium frame giving the appearance of viewing through a window. These two craft were originally commissioned by Dublin Airport for the ceiling of the video games arcade. The full mural was finished with galaxies, stars and nebulae.

  • The Starship Enterprise – (6×3 tiles) – 1.8m x 3.6m
  • The Irish Space Shuttle – (6×4 tiles) – 2.4m x 3.6m

These two murals were painted in the 1990s, they no longer exist.


Mijas Pueblo, Costa del Sol – Molino del Cura

This Thai restaurant was excessively narrow and boring with its dark interior and cream walls. The owner asked me to come up with something to add interest.

Unfortunately it was decided 2 weeks into a 3 week job that we could go home.

The initial idea was to fill the walls with bamboo to try and give an bit of a tropical Thai feel. This never worked, but at least what bamboo there is looked real enough. Another case of spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar. This kind of attitude is prevalent on the Costa del Sol.


Adding interest to large blank surfaces

trompe l'oeil mural columns
Trompe l’œil columns painted on a chapel wall in Monomolin, Co. Wexford

Two trompe l’œil murals. One decorating a rather plain prayer chapel in Monomolin, Co. Wexford, Eire. The prayer chapel was painted in such a way to enable extensions to be painted if required.

The other enhancing a boring stairwell in Riviera del Sol, Mijas Costa, Spain.

trompe l'oeil mural stained glass window
Decorating a stairwell with a trompe l’œil stained glass window

Barcelona – Trompe l’œil banana

A painted banana tree decorating a 6.5m tall Barcelona stairwell. As normal with this type of mural, getting the scaffold to fit up the sairwell is the hardest part.

The picture on the right shows a detail of the trunk. The tree is approximately 6·5 metres tall not quite reaching the floor but stopping at the dado

It represents about two weeks work.


Fuengirola, Costa del Sol – Area 51

mural Area 51
Area51 UFO bar mural

The owner of this bar was obsessed by aliens and UFOs. He asked me to paint a rocket ship mural on the bar front. Due to the constraints of the mouldings on the facade it was decided to make the mural into a stylised view through the windows of a 1930s comic book rocket.

mural Area 51
Mural for Area51 UFO bar

Parts of the mural were painted with UV based paint so that when the black lights outside came on in the evening some of the details, screens, buttons and galaxies, glowed and came alive.

mural Area 51
Mural for Area51 UFO bar complete

The whole mural made from joining four photos. My daughter, then 10 years old, helped with the painting of this. I suppose it was only natural that she also ended up with a degree in graphic design.


Fuengirola shop front

La Ruta – (the route)

la ruta
Shop front for a business selling artefacts from around the world. Mijas Costa, Spain