L’Atelier de Santi has opened a Shop on the web, so I wanted to take the opportunity to explain once again how the company’s star product is made. For me, trompe l’oeil is more of a handmade product than a purely artistic one, without detracting from it. All realistic paintings tend to be trompe l’oeil. Depending on their quality and to the extent that the observer is introduced into the motif or subject, he can be introduced more or less into that painted reality. But the craftsmanship of a trompe l’oeil, as I compose or make it in El Atelier de Santi, works the other way round, that is to say, it is the motif that is introduced to some extent into reality. And I explain it below.

To paint a trompe l’oeil is to discover how an illusion is created. Velázquez said that art is any activity that involves the use of reason. This is a humanist definition of art, as it rules out the direct action of chance and nature in the creation of a work. Therefore the resulting work must and can be explained in its intention.

Every work has a beginning, a base or a foundation. And in the process of painting a trompe l’oeil, its beginning is the key to reaching the end. That is to say, from the beginning we must know where we want to go. An “Ithaca”, regardless of what we find on the way and the detours we have to take. Depending on the goal to be achieved, the technique is selected, the means are chosen, the tools are sought and the work is programmed. This is how a trompe l’oeil is painted and following this script I will explain the procedure I use in El Atelier de Santi to make the trompe l’oeil.

The process of making a trompe l’oeil

Painting a trompe l'oeil, process

Painting a trompe l’oeil, process

Regardless of the pictorial technique used, it is necessary to plan and programme the execution. The work can be started in the middle of the journey, recycling an object as a support, but sequencing and knowing how to achieve the steps to be carried out. By this I mean that the object we want to recycle already has a material reality, and this determines in a certain way the result of the work. It can even be the inspiration for the composition of the work. This is the reason for the rusticity and vintage style of many trompe l’oeil works that have come out of L’Atelier de Santi.

Remember that testing and sketching are warm-up and rehearsal exercises. And when you paint a trompe l’oeil, rehearsing will help you to advance more quickly and safely. Based on this preliminary advice, El Atelier de Santi begins the search for elements such as doors, tables, blinds, etc., on which to stage his work. These elements, selected as a support for each case, help as well as condition the execution. Theming a door is not the same as “theming” a table or a shutter, as far as the result is concerned. But there are a series of rules to follow in any case.

Sketching process for painting a trompe l'oeil

Sketching process for painting a trompe l’oeil

Plans and levels

For the result to have some depth, it must have several levels or planes. Depth will give us a field to create a stage. Therefore, it will be the space where the lights and shadows will be distributed. The light that illuminates the scene of the composition must be coherent throughout the space represented, and must have the same focus of origin as a reference. When painting a trompe l’oeil, all the lights, glows, shadows and shadows must have the same size, a window, a lamp or whatever light source is determined. If this light also has an external reference to the work, it is more effective.

Painting a trompe l’oeil interior or exterior

The format and size of the recycled and “themed” object are decisive, the space must be filled and with an intention. With a function that consists of creating an illusion, in a specific place and space. And, at the same time, the work can suggest new spaces and places different from the surrounding reality. Something very baroque, as is the very origin of the genre “trompe l’oeil”.

Trompe l'oeil with exterior and interior motif

Trompe l’oeil with exterior and interior motif

The objects we select as motifs and represent between the different planes and levels must have a thematic coherence. There is always some reason to relate these objects, however different they may be, and that reason must be in the background of the work. It is the theme of the work (for example). Therefore, the theme is the key on which the consequent actions are executed. Composition, lighting, colour, etc., will have as a reference the theme chosen to be represented.

And finally, inspiration will ultimately determine the theme of the work. Thus seen the process, from beginning to end, or from the end to the beginning, the interesting thing is in the process itself. The way in which we learn and enrich our experience.

If you liked this publication about trompe l’oeil, I encourage you to consult the website to find out more about the Activity, the Shop and the Courses and Workshops of L’Atelier de Santi;


Visual illusion, brief explanation of the “trompe-l’oeil”