trompe l'oeil muralist john pugh painting a ship on scaffolding for a mural in santa cruz

About John

“For more than three decades, world-renowned trompe l’oeil artist John Pugh has engaged and captivated the public with large-scale mural projects in spaces across the world, including San Francisco, Miami, and New York, as well as Taiwan, Mexico, and New Zealand. His “trick of the eye” murals cleverly fool the viewer into seeing a modern facade’s broken wall revealing Greek columns or a woman reading in a cafe. But Pugh’s paintings also capture the imagination and engage the mind. Within a framework of artfully rendered illusionary space, he orchestrates layers of historical, social, and mythical commentary that challenge the viewer to find deeper levels of meaning.

With a body of work now exceeding 200 murals, Pugh has been instrumental in revitalizing the trompe l’oeil genre, turning it into a legitimate and vital mode of artistic expression that is both aesthetically and intellectually challenging. In Pugh’s own words, ‘It can link people together, stimulate a sense of pride within the community, and introduce the viewer to new ideas and perspectives.'”

-Kevin Bruce, Author of The Murals of John Pugh: Beyond Trompe L’oeil, 2006

Artist Statement

I am a trompe l’oeil artist focusing primarily on public art. I have found that the ‘language’ of life-size illusions allow me to effectively communicate with a very large audience. People take delight in being visually tricked. Once intrigued by the illusion, the viewer is invited to visually cross into the mural to explore and discover the deeper concept of the piece. I have also found that by creating architectural illusion that integrates with the existing environment both optically and aesthetically, the art transcends the separateness that public art sometimes produces.

Public art is a very powerful form of communication, and with it comes great responsibility. To truly connect with most viewers the concept message needs to be an authentic one and in no way commercial. People crave human connection. Ironically, this humanistic draw is the most effective way to spur economic development.

With a clear intention to create a public art attraction, I strive to design a mural in a way that is atypical or not in a commonplace mural format; that I “think of the box”. Often this includes creating an illusion that is iconic or a dynamic anomaly. The passerby is much more apt to engage with an uncommon architectural event or phenomenon while he or she unconsciously surveys the urban landscape.

Creating a ‘sense of place’ is paramount. It is important for me as an artist, to research the area and its community, formulating concepts based upon a multitude of historical, environmental, and cultural viewpoints. If the mural can serve to educate about the culture and heritage of a place, it will deepen roots, and create a pride of place. This inspires new possibilities, the sharing of ideas, and assist in bridging cultural gaps in the community.

Clarity of language allows the artwork to ‘elevate rather than alienate’, and with an initial trompe l’oeil impact that tantalizes the viewer, no translation is needed. Yet layers of heritage, the human spirit, or of dreams can be woven together in innovative ways — dynamic or subtle — that will inspire. I like to play with the mural composition so that the layers will unfold sequentially, creating a multi-dimensional narrative and prompting exploration. I also like to treat the layers as music, composing with color, texture, and form to create melodic overtones and the timbre.Ultimately the goal with the mural is to conjure fresh feelings and perceptions, and evoke a sense of connectivity with the mural, within us, and the world around us.

john pugh trompe loeil artist headshot

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Studio

My studio is located high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, near Lake Tahoe and the town of Truckee, California. Here, amidst towering pines and cedars, snow-covered peaks, and pristine alpine lakes and rivers, I am immersed in beauty. My studio is a haven for friends, apprentices, and master painters alike. Pot lucks and informal round table discussions have helped create an important community center for artists. Patrons and clients are encouraged to come by, discuss ideas, and see projects in progress.

trompe l oeil muralist john pugh artist studio in california

Commission a Mural

Interested in working together? Have questions about commissioning artwork? Let’s connect!

Get In Touch

Public Spaces

Public art commissions for outdoor spaces, shopping and financial districts, historic buildings, parks and recreation facilities, and redevelopment zones.

Commercial Buildings

corporate trompe l'oeil mural at a juvenile hall in Northern California

Interior and exterior murals for private and government organizations. Universities, hospitals, museums, corporate headquarters, public transportation buildings, parking garages, and more.

Private Residences

trompe l'oeil mural at a private residence with horse by john pugh

Private commissions for trompe l’oeil enthusiasts, art collectors, and anyone else who shares my love for tricking the eye.

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