With the expanding complexity of faux finishing, the craft now falls under the umbrella of decorative painting, which encompasses a broad range of centuries-old painting techniques including muraling, trompe l’oeil, stenciling, graining, leafing and gilding, plaster and stucco techniques, and patination.
Trompe l’oeil (a French term for “deceiving the eye”) is an art form that’s been practiced for over 3,000 years as a way to create the illusion of three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface. It has also been described as a heightened form of illusionism.
The Trompe l’oeil Society of Artists Web page lists three characteristics of trompe l’oeil. First, the objects rendered must be full-size and look believable from a foot away from the picture surface. Second, the objects painted tend to be relatively flat so that the human eyes cannot detect any lack of real depth to them. Many artists will overlap flat objects—such as envelopes or currency—to create the illusion of depth and space. Others will use dramatic lighting so that the shadows painted underneath the objects will create the depth deception. Third, the artist will use a variety of painting techniques to create realistic-looking textures in the painting. Broken glass, scarred wood, satin ribbons, rusted metal, crinkled paper, smeared chalkboards, and frayed string are just of a few of the textures a professional trompe l’oeil artist needs to be able to paint to fool the eye of the viewer.
According to Saskia Ewen Fox, a Bozeman decorative artist who owns Whole Art, LLC, with her husband Michael, the three dimensional aspect of trompe l’oeil is often used on walls to give the illusion that that a door or window exists. [there are some photos that depict this]
Cookie Hanson, a decorative artist and owner of Tour de Faux in Missoula, said that she can transform any surface into a work of art using faux finishes. One of her favorite examples is a client who wanted columns made from Brazilian cherry wood in his house but discovered how expensive the exotic wood was and nixed the idea. Hanson told him to put in PVC columns and she would make them look like they were made of Brazilian cherry wood. She did her magic and insists that you can’t tell it is just a decorative, wood-look finish.
“There’s not a surface I can’t do,” Hanson said, describing a cement floor that she recently finished to look like a rug.