Posted in Derren's Posts

Posted by Derren Brown November 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

Patrick is a remarkable and deeply fun artist: his works are hard to describe but I shall do my best. In fact, watch this wonderful three-minute film here and you’ll get the idea. They play with our eyes and minds and make us actively participate in the works. His pieces lunge out of the wall at you but you cannot tell as the perspective is painted in reverse… so that a bookcase or a line of Venice houses appears to recede into the distance but is in fact painted upon a trapezium that narrows as it approaches a vanishing point that is in fact struck right out in front of the picture. The effect is an image that appears to physically shift with you: when you pass it, it follows you. I have a few Hughes pieces in my flat: visitors can be seen stopping in their tracks before the first they encounter, swaying from side to side, bobbing up and down. Without exception they cannot tell how it works: they think they’re watching a clever projection until they step around to view the side of it and its three-dimensionality pops into apparentness and they all but drop their drink in disbelief.

Patrick is also a dear friend: his charisma and generosity strike everyone who has the delightful experience of meeting him. He’s seventy, handsome, impressively tall, dresses impeccably in bold, colourful suits and long scarves, and wraps his deep intelligence within a joyous playfulness that is reflected in the range of optical toys and jokes that fill his eccentric flat. He’s a lovely, lovely man, and a radiant example of how I and anyone should hope to be at his age.

I heard Patrick was applying his ‘reverspective’ approach to portraits. Some of you may be aware of the ‘reverse mask’ illusion where we look into the back of a mask and still think we are looking at a face pointing out at us. I have the Einstein head (as mentioned in The God Delusion) and other pieces that work on the same principle. Here’s a delightful old video of Richard Dawkins demonstrating the illusion:

The face variants of this sort of perspective trick work especially well on me. Whereas most people cannot see the ‘true’ nature of Patrick’s pieces and can flip back and forth with hollow faces, I am the exact opposite. So I was excited to hear that Patrick had cast his own face to make a ‘reverspective’ portrait of himself, and we spoke about making one of me. Patrick suggested a portrait swap: one of his of me for one of mine of him. This was hugely flattering and exciting.

It was my turn first: I headed over to Patrick’s studio in east London to be photographed and cast. The pictures tell the story:

Patrick’s studio – you can see his portrait between us in the background.

His colleagues cut a sheet of cardboard to accommodate my unusually chiselled features:

And I don a swimming cap which will stop my hair from getting plaster in it. I think this was the only expression I could make with the cap on:

Vaseline applied. At this point I’m starting to get aroused.

And I’m just going to presume those are drips from the plaster process.

I actually found this quite relaxing. Same way i quite enjoy the dentist: something about not being able to move or do anything, I switch off well and go to my happy place.

Patrick thought this would be funny. Had no idea he had done this until I looked back at the photos:

The removal begins. I gesture for a pen and paper and write the following plaintiff note:

It fucking did.

Gin and Tonic, I think. A look inside the cast, and the illusion is already working:

Time then passes. I photograph Patrick to do my own portrait. After a couple of weeks I receive news that the portrait is complete. I head over to see it, but first Patrick’s partner, the writer and equally gorgeous specimen of humanity Diane Atkinson, prepares an excellent supper. Patrick shows me some of his new toys, including a ‘true mirror’ which shows you as you actually, genuinely look (instead of in normal mirror-image as you can only ever see yourself). It’s a disturbing experience. I order one for myself that night: you can buy them here.

The finished, painted portrait is astonishing. Ironically, it does show me in mirror image: it’s a logical result of the casting-and-reversing process that the finished piece offers a flipped version of the subject.

It now sits in my library – it needs flat, soft light to work at its best. Whenever I walk past it, I see it pay close attention and watch my every move.

Video doesn’t quite capture the real-life effect. The movement is bigger, clearer, and so inextricably linked to one’s own movements that it’s a very eerie experience. But here’s a look at it:

And in a separate post – most likely tomorrow – I’ll set out how I painted my own portrait of Patrick. Ta-ta for now.

November 21, 2010 at 2:01 am
Angela says:

Wow. Just wonderful. So much work and an amazing result

November 21, 2010 at 2:11 am
nettmac says:

Utterly fascinating, I will have to have another look at the vid tomorrow as trying to see it on the phone didn’t do it justice. Thanks for posting Derren. Xx

November 21, 2010 at 2:13 am
Shelley says:

Excellent! I find the dentist a rather pleasurable experience too Derren!

November 21, 2010 at 2:20 am

That… is… fuckin. epic!! Raspo (new name) Is the cutest liddl ball of fluff!!! ahhw! I now want a parrot!! haha I love when you just zoom up to the parrot an he’s watchin! haha the portrait looks lik the chubby effect on the iPhone ha no offense of course oh and ps. the painting you done of him is just unreal its so massive! his glasses look so real even tho they’re massive but alas Rufus is still my fav fav! can’t believe you too met – my hero’s : ) Smoot Cheese! pps. its insane that I’m the first comment there’s going to be lik 400 in a second! haha πŸ˜›

November 21, 2010 at 2:32 am
Pete says:

Ras could have tarted himself up BEFORE the camera started rolling…

November 21, 2010 at 2:47 am
ReliegiousMarie says:

Really Really Lovely,

what can 1 say? too much probably…i’m totally distracted by the process-description that i now am not able to react properly so, i’ll wait for the other post to complete this one first


November 21, 2010 at 2:51 am
nick k says:

I own a 1994 perverspective and every time someone comes to my home they are mesmerized and mind-blown. And I have not tired of it ever….

This portrait is just wonderful….

November 21, 2010 at 3:06 am
Del says:

spooky bit of narcissism, looks something like a possible elder brother of yours , whose also a lay minister of some dutch reformist church in the outback of South Africa πŸ˜€

November 21, 2010 at 3:11 am
jameshogg says:

Another way for you to freak people out :/

November 21, 2010 at 3:42 am
Dean says:

Living in Birmingham, I’m lucky to be able to visit a couple of pieces of Patrick’s work at the BMAG- I can heartily recommend paying a visit if you’re passing; they’re the very first exhibit you come to as you enter the door. Not quite as good as owning your own of course! Lovely account/video. Enjoyed Rasputin’s comeo too.

November 21, 2010 at 3:47 am
Julie N says:

Another talented artist. Those are fascinating and brilliant.
They have one of those true mirror thingys in Camera Obscura in Edinburgh don’t they? It is a disturbing experience so won’t be ordering one Ta. Not a lot of people can pull of the startled swimmer look by the way. Very fetching.

November 21, 2010 at 4:03 am
roz says:

that has gotta be the most amazing work of art i’ve ever seen!

November 21, 2010 at 8:00 am
Stephen says:

I recall seeing the effect for the first time on the Dawkins Royal Institution Christmas Lectures and being amazed. The effect is great on your own portrait and wonderfully executed, too. I do love how artists such as yourself and Patrick Hughes can bring such a sense of joy and creativity in to the world through expressing themselves wholeheartedly in their chosen medium.

Thank you for sharing this!

November 21, 2010 at 9:15 am
Llama says:

Wow, that’s amazing. Rasputin equally so. I want to rob him, he’s such a cutie.

November 21, 2010 at 9:30 am

I want one!! πŸ˜›

November 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm
Rachel says:

that is insanely creepy in a cool kinda way πŸ™‚

November 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm
Jasmine Fison says:

Wow that’s really clever! I’m amazed πŸ™‚ and i’ve seen your portrait of Patrick too and it captures an astonishing likeness πŸ™‚ you are very talented πŸ™‚ x luv Jazz x (coming to see you in June- can’t wait!) confessions of a conjurer is brilliant too! A man of many skills x

November 21, 2010 at 12:29 pm
Rhian says:

Wow! Love it… though wouldn’t want one in my house! πŸ˜‰

November 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm
Bridget Francis says:

That is AWESOME! I want one!

November 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm
Mark says:


OW!! Ouch!! Eeek!! (f**k, c**t, b***h??)

Recording of that would have been fun too.

Rasputin is sooo cute and the awesome artwork he stands upon is smarteh pants good (I want one).

I also checked out that “true mirror”. Now when I look in the mirror I feel indifferent and think about how I want to see me properly so I can prune myself in proper manner.

Patrick’s portrait you tweeted yesterday is massive. He’d needa have a big house hehe. As Richard said in his tweet.. you are a very talented little man. More reasons to be a proud man and more reasons people will look up to you.


November 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm
atys says:

trippy as hell πŸ™‚

November 21, 2010 at 12:39 pm
Raymond says:

I hope Derren is going to sell these through his website. I would love to have Derren gaze up on me when I walk naked through my house πŸ˜€
No really that would be a great item to have.

Bloody nice house btw!

November 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm
Raymond says:

I miss the XMas lectures they were so much fun, I don’t know why they stopped doing them after 1997 sure I know kids are less literate as we were πŸ˜› But seriously that was a very good program and even though I was in my 20s I still racet down to watch it.

Also I found those lectures remarkably well presented! Uni lectures could learn a lot from these, I mean they were highly educational but also highly entertaining.
I hope the BBC will get them back go back to an old-tradition and have Derren lecture the first one about charlatans and magic.

November 21, 2010 at 12:52 pm
M@ says:

I’ve just read the bit in Confessions about trying to reproduce the 3D-looking nose of Fred Basset’s owner – looks like here’s a method which doesn’t rip the paper.

November 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm
Helene says:

Wow! Nothing less than amazing! πŸ˜€
Happy place <3

November 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm

The portrait is brilliant, but the whole process looked like so much fun. Rasputin seems to approve!
I now realise that I have an Einstein’s head made from filaments set in glass. Like yours, it moves and nods unnervingly when you look at the hollow from behind. I found it amongst the cheap, tacky touristy ones on holiday last year.
Looking forward to the pictures of Patrick’s portrait by your good self.
Thanks for sharing.
All the best,
Ryan. X

November 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm
Maria says:

Thanks for showing the pictures. I like the photo where Patrick and the assistant watching at Derrens white mask with the devil faces! I locking forward to see Derrens portrait of Patrick, because I like to draw pictures by myself.
And Rasputin looks so cute.

Viele Grüße aus Germany!

November 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm
fearglic says:

enjoyed that.. i want one done of me..

November 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm
Svava Dâgg says:

That is so fascinating! Now I really want one too! I am definitely going to get me one of those mirrors, truly amazing πŸ™‚
I aslo relax quite well when I’m at the dentist πŸ™‚ Or just in any weird situation were most people feel stressed or uncomfortable, I always feel excited or just very relaxed. I’m glad that there are other weird people in the world πŸ™‚

Your painting of Patrick is also amazing by the way! You are just full of talent Derren πŸ™‚

November 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm
Jacqueline says:

That’s fantastic :-D. The process is fascinating to see. I love optical illusions, I’d have them everywhere. Rasputin, awwww. He gave the recorder an objectional peck when his grooming was disturbed LOL. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

November 21, 2010 at 2:56 pm
ellie says:

Fantastic! I had to write an essay on the hollow face illusion and how it works for my degree, and found the whole thing fascinating. This takes it to a whole new (and beautiful) level though. For those that are interested, here is a link to make your own hollow face illusion at home. You cut out and put together a hollow face dragon and once you have made it you can watch as its head ‘follows you’ around the room πŸ™‚
The parrot is gorgeous by the way. xxx

November 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Thank you for taking the time to do this blog post, Derren. I find illusionary art fascinating and found this really interesting to read.
Wow, the end product was truly wonderful. What a great piece to own for yourself.

Oh and I think Rasputin is utterly adorable….. πŸ™‚

LC x

November 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm
Elise says:

Wicked! Really freaky, but cool. Don’t think I would like my face all covered up like that though, lol. Love the horns HAHA! And i am loving the cap…its so you, LOL!
In the second picture, that black smudgy thing in the bottom left, whether its a shadow or someone’s finger…..?….seriously scared the crap out of me…its looks creepy.

November 21, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I’ve seen a few of these in Birmingham and they are visually quite amazing. Thanks for the true mirror link, will make a simple one this very afternoon!

November 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm
Bex says:

Amazing πŸ™‚ Saw a piece of Patrick Hughes work in Birmingham it was incredible! What an awsome piece of work to have, a magic moving Derren Brown portrait! Awww how cute is Rasputin! I want him!! Derren you’re awsome xx

November 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm
Heather says:

Reminds me of the cover for Spritualized’s Let it Come Down album cover. Fascinating stuff πŸ™‚

November 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm
Lindsey says:

hmmm …interesting πŸ™‚

November 21, 2010 at 9:46 pm
Jenny says:

A look into the cast… a film set freudian slip?

November 21, 2010 at 9:58 pm
Jenny says:

have you hurt your top back teeth or had sinus/ Atlas damage, last vertebra, top of neck?

: ) you could commission patrick, to create your gin and tonic photo

November 21, 2010 at 10:28 pm
Michael Weissman says:

Awesome! You’re quite the lucky one to have the honor of getting that done.
They use that technique in the DIsneyland/Disneyworld Haunted Mansion for some portraits as you walk in to sit in your doombuggy.

November 21, 2010 at 11:25 pm
Nigel says:

“And IÒ€ℒm just going to presume those are drips from the plaster process.”


November 22, 2010 at 6:24 am
unmevsworld says:

Wow. What a treat.

November 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm
Hannah says:

Thats scary! But bloody brilliant

November 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm
Kirsti says:

Cooool. But it looks a bit like the mummy of Lenin in Kreml, execpt that the eyes is open … A little scary.

November 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm
Paul says:

It totally looks like Lenin in that last photo!

November 22, 2010 at 7:38 pm
cordie:) says:

rasputin is legendary!!!!!!!
never seen anything cuter!

love the pics and video , v v interesting… sensational

November 22, 2010 at 9:06 pm
a-nony-mouse says:

Ooh… ahh…aww…HAHAHA…Oerr…wa?…oh…hmmmmmmmmm…WOW!
Well I had to say something.

November 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm
Jenny says:

Hm. I was inspired by your “happy place” and that you could find it so easily. I went to the gynaecologist today. I tried to apply the happy place method there. It didn’t work.
I realise this isn’t a gyn-forum. I’m sure Abeo will erase this. I wanted my happy place to work. Have to practice. Maybe I did get distracted for a while when I was there. Maybe it was the flourescent lighting.

November 25, 2010 at 12:44 am
Rachael says:

I heffing love this! I want to make one! xxxx

November 25, 2010 at 10:16 am
Dougeroo says:

The same reverse impression effect is used to great effect on the frontage of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – Christ looking down over the passion scene below – has a very eerie effect.

December 20, 2010 at 12:16 pm
Dan says:

Too much spare time…

January 5, 2011 at 4:53 pm
Simon says:

When you say that it looks a bit funny it actually looks like Ken Livingstone!

January 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm
Amy says:

“and it looks a bit funny if i do this…”
ahaha, trust you Derren!

January 13, 2011 at 1:45 am
li says:

just watched the video. that must be the most chaotic art gallery. this amuses me greatly.

January 13, 2011 at 1:46 am
li says:

just watched the video. that must be the most chaotic art gallery. this amuses me greatly. and everything he says sounds like poetry.

January 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm
zoe says:

cheeseeeeee…… :0

January 15, 2011 at 4:56 pm
zoe says:

haha rasputin climbed onto ur camera. if u were at home for a day, how many hours would little ras be on ur shoulder? i guess…. 14 hours.

January 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm
Yvonne McCoy says:

That is utterly bizarre! I love the effect and would love to see it for real!

April 8, 2011 at 12:24 am
Mark Cockerill says:

I love this effect – there’s a very quaint tourist spot in Wanaka, New Zealand I visited last year, that actually features an entire room of these faces following you around – they omit the ears and it actually works even better – totally weird though as the entire room is following you. Place is called Puzzling World and a link to a picture of the room is