Sunday, April 19, 2015

Playing with perspective – the amazing street art of Julian Beever

When I write I always love playing with people’s preconceptions. My good guys are rarely all good, and there are usually some redeeming features in my bad guys. It’s not only the characters I try to do this with, but the situations and locations as well. And whilst I hope I never cheat the reader, what you think is going on might not be case.

When I worked as a photographer, it was often said that the camera never lied. Fortunately, though, it could be made to be exceedingly economical with the truth. It all depended not only on lighting and filtering but also on exactly where you placed the camera in relation to the subject of the shot.

Someone who is a master at playing with our visual perception is British artist Julian Beever. Julian studied art at Leeds Met. University and did a variety of different jobs, from English as a Foreign Language teacher to tree planter.

Julian Beever self-portraits

He began pavement (that’s sidewalk to anyone across the Pond) art as a busker to fund his journeys through numerous different countries, mainly pictures of well-known faces to grab the attention of passers-by.

Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots on Oxford Street, London

By the early ’nineties, however, he’d developed his anamorphic 3D artworks which have brought him commissions and acclaim around the world. Here are just a few examples of his work. More can be viewed on his website, or in his book: Pavement Chalk Artist.

A Slight Accident in a Railway Station, Zurich

Lift Off from Cape Dover: a drawing used to raise money for the BBC Children In Need appeal in 2013
Part of a series used by White's Electronics of Inverness in Treasure Hunting magazine
Waste of Water: sometimes it's hard to know what's really there in Julian's artwork, and what isn't!
Eiffel Tower Sand-Sculpture: this drawing in Paris was the subject of an episode of American TV series Concrete Canvas
Let's Be Friends: drawing for the TV show Unbelievable, done in Tokyo as a plea to the Japanese to appreciate the beauty of living whales
An amazing example of Julian's ability to incorporate features of the landscape into his artwork...
This wrong view of the snail really shows the skill of the 3D drawing. Julian had to stick paper to the glossy bench in order to be able to draw on its surface, and further back he used a standing steel post as one of the snail's horns.
Times Square: drawn, where else, but Times Square, New York!
Yorkshire Water: this drawing in Sheffield was never finished beyond this rough stage. Work was halted due to ... Yorkshire water in the form of heavy rain.

Julian works in pastels, and points out that the images only appear 3D when viewed through a camera  lens or on a screen like a phone or iPad.

His work is stunning, as I'm sure you'll agree.

This week’s Word of the Week is anamorphosis, which comes from the Greek anamorphoun, to transform. It means a drawing or projection, which presents a distorted image that appears natural when viewed from a certain angle, or with a suitable mirror or lens.


  1. I've always loved this kind of street art! Great word-of-the-week tie-in, Zoë! :-) I must say, though, that I was a little disappointed for JUST a brief instant. When I first brought up the site, my eyes scanned your headline and I *THOUGHT* it was about Justin Beiber. Fortunately, that proved to be an ill-conceived preliminary hypothesis...

    1. Justin Bieber eh, EvKa? How fortuitous that this site has the title it does ...


  2. Zoe, What fun! As it happens, I have a post for tomorrow about an artist too. And as is fitting, with the books we write, yours is contemporary, edgy, and exciting. Mine is historic, vivid, and adventurous. Both are intriguing!

    1. What apt descriptions, Annamaria! And although I've always hoped I'm more of a craftsman than an artist, we all create images in the mind, don't we?

  3. The technical expertise in this is truly amazing. I am quite artistic, I can do great portraits in pastel as long as you are William Shatner (In cpt Kirk era) or Emma Thompson. All my faces look the same.

    1. Isn't it just, Caro? The snail one in particular just blow me away. LOL on the William Shatner/Emma Thompson portraits. These I must see!

      BTW, I notice you responded to Jeff's comment on your Southern General blog this week by mentioning the little blue pills. Have you seen the new Fiat 500 TV advert?

  4. I saw that, Zoë. You tried luring me to comment by mentioning the little blue pills. No need, Beever's work did it all. Amazing.