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Duck/Rabbit Illusion for Nautilus

NOVEMBER 6, 2014
'Rabbit/Duck at Sunset' 18" X 11" Oil on Board

Every now and then an assignment comes along that is just perfect with where your head is.  A freelancer should be ready to work with assignments and ideas that may not be right in one’s wheelhouse, thus is the reason it’s called a collaboration.  Good illustrators can maintain their look and identity while working with another’s idea.  This is the real job of an illustrator.
Recently, when Len Small of Nautilus contacted me about an illusion assignment, I was immediately inspired.  
The assignment was to attempt a realistic version of the Duck/Rabbit illusion.  Investigating these illusions, I saw that the more simple the artwork the harder it was to see either animal as the definitive choice as the eye goes back and forth trying to determine which is which.  
I made several attempts with the illusion in digital comps and then let myself play a bit.  I had several solutions and I liked the floating rabbit a lot, but the more direct illusion in the grass fit the article better.  Nautilus kindly ran both.
Click to see the article at Nautilus...


What an amazing publication Nautilus is.  There are certain places out there in the editorial market that are warm and sunny and have all that we dream of when a client calls. PlanSponsor,  Scientific American, Playboy and Smithsonian are just a few examples.  We all appreciate when illustration is loved and is used to enhance the writing.  In Nautilus, the work is always beautiful and effective so I do hope other publications notice.
'Rabbit on the Pond' 15" X 10" Oil on Board (Alternate Final)

'Rabbit/Duck at Sunset' close-up. To make the illusion work I had to find a way to reduce the rabbit's head so that the silhouette still looked like a rabbit while also looking like the back of a duck's head. The ears also had to reduce and hint at yellow. This is why I went with a golden sunset.

'Rabbit on the Pond' close-up Thinking of this solution, I am reminded of my admiration of paintings by Michael Sowa. Sowa's Ark is a book I would highly recommend.

© 2024 Tim O'Brien