Julian Beever, whose amazing spidey sidewalk pic is at left, continually wows people with his artistry and imagination, tricking them into believing they’re seeing three dimensions instead of two. I think artists can learn a lot from musing about the other arts, especially watching and listening to the masters of those arts; and to me, the art of illusion is no exception.
I recently saw David Copperfield make a stage full of people disappear within feet of my eyes. “Explain that one,” I said to my skeptical husband, who then admitted he was stumped. It was impressive, because of course the whole audience knew it was being had. Somehow. But Mr. C took us all down a merry road of his paving until there was no way to look at it except for the way he meant us to.
When you think about it, a writer who transports readers into their world using only the written word is, in a sense, a literary illusionist. This doesn’t mean the story must be set in a world different than our own, though some could argue that fantasy authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling are among the most gifted literary illusionists known to us. Every fiction writer creates a world they want readers to believe in, as well as nonexistent characters with imaginary problems they want readers to care about.
So are there lessons for the writer hidden in the art of illusion? Let’s take a close look at the man Harry Houdini named himself after, Robert Houdin (1805-1871). [Read more…]