'Give me some paint, brushes and canvas and I will give you gold, silver, ruby and pearl. I will give you the greatest treasures you have ever seen. I will show you magic. Artists are the greatest alchemists, the best magicians of all. They can make gold from base metals, they can make you laugh and cry and touch your very soul, and they do that every day - and more ... JH from the 'Modern Illusionists'.

The Magician - A following story will explain how these disciplines can interact and why the word illusionist applies to the master painter as well as the best magicians. Early this century a magician was sent to North Africa to quell a rebellion. He came on stage with a large wooden chest which he placed in the center and asked for the strongest man in the audience to step up. After some coaxing a warrior champion, a lumbering ox of a man was propelled up on stage. The magician told him not to fear but to lift up the simple wooden chest. This the man did this with consummate ease.
Next the magician told the audience he would steal the giantís strength and render him as weak as a kitten. He clicked his fingers and asked the man again to try and lift the chest. Now the strongman strained and pulled but could not move the wooden chest, even an inch, and finally gave up. To prove he had taken away the manís power the magician asked his assistant, a slightly formed young boy, to prove he could lift the chest - which he did.
There was much consternation which the magician stilled by suddenly announcing he could restore the former strongman's strength. Then after asking the audience if that was what they wanted, and with another click of the fingers, he did. Finally, upon ordering the strongman to lift the chest for a third time the man raised it with his former ease.
The chiefs gasped and the rebellion was quelled for who could oppose such power?

Of course a steel plate in the bottom of the chest and an early electro-magnet under the stage was the simple cause of the phenomenon. But what is important is the story. It was the magician's manipulation of the minds of the audience that was the real magic. That is the art of the illusionist. Not the trick. It is the same with a painting or a play. A good painting will make you believe what you are seeing has a reality in time and space even though you know it is an illusion, merely a picture on a wall.

The Application - The techniques of painting silk and satin, gold and silver or diamonds and rubies or anything else for that matter requires the artist to embrace the same three disciplines the magician uses in my story.

1. The artist must understand the nature of the objects or things he or she desires to paint. Just as the magician needed to understand certain principles of electro-magnetism the artist also must be a scientist. To create the illusion of gold or chrome the artist must know something of its molecular or crystalline structure, something of light and refraction. In other words some elementary physics and chemistry.

2. The artist must be philosopher enough to ask and answer questions regarding the nature of things in their ideal from - a conceptual analysis if you like. The artist must understand how people feel about the things he or she desires to paint. For the magician in my story it was his understanding of peopleís feelings and their views and prejudices regarding a manís physical strength that was the key. The concept and knowledge of how people feel about something was - and is - essential for illusion to succeed.

3. Whereas the magician needs the skill and discipline of the actor, performer so the artists must similarly have the ability to control the painting in the totality of its parts. The artist needs to be creative and know how best to construct and present his two dimensional painting as a three dimensional illusion. The artist will need to know and apply the techniques that painters use create form and depth (chiaroscuro and perspective).

To summarise then: we have the technical analysis, the conceptual analysis and the presentation technique. When we understand these things about an object or subject we can then paint it.

Many will recall the pearl necklace I made from scratch in a previous lesson - so now let us use that to demonstrate the study necessary to preform the task. Please understand that in this exercise painting without form and depth will produce merely a pale imitation, a sad flat thing that takes us back to kindergarten.
Technical analysis - the physical nature of a pearl.
The pearl's technical characteristics fall under four main headings;
a) Shape - various spherical - round, oval, tetrahedron with no sharp edges.
b) Texture - hard-edge satin, non-oxidising
c) Color - the whole visible spectrum with an underlying milky yellow-orange to blue-grey. Pacific island pearls are yellow orange while artificial Japanese blue -grey.
d) Reflective ability - partially diffuses the light rays with its semi-opaque non -crystalline surface.
Conceptual analysis - The pearl as it exists in the mind of most is usually round, glowing diffused and organic. It's most esteemed color is underlying gold. The pearl is natural and feels benevolent against the skin.
Presentation technique - To take advantage of the pearl's reflective nature I decided to place it in a situation where there was something to reflect. In this case in front of a window on a red table in a brown room with a blue ceiling and an observer between the window and the pearl.
A string of pearls is more believable than a single. Use a rich, soft background (prussian blue) that exaggerates the pale, glowing diffused nature of the pearl. That satisfies the form and the depth (perspective) is internal in the reflection.

STUDENT ACTIVITY: Painting the pearls:
1) Paint miniature scene as above in a wet medium and allow paint to diffuse.
2) Glaze in a semi-transparent mix of white, with a little red and yellow.
3) While still wet introduce the faintest touches of as many colors of the spectrum you like.
4) Sharpen the outside edges. Allow 40min.

The greatest illusion of all could be the illusion you never notice. The greatest magic could well be the magic you are never know. A retired spy once said to me ... 'You know, not all magicians wear capes and wave sparkling wands.'

GO TO ... Painting precious metals

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