The Sinister (Following Eyes) Illusion

If you ever visited WDW's Haunted Mansion prior to 2007, you may remember the Sinister 11, a gallery of portraits down the first hall that your Omnimover (Doombuggy) pass through where the eyes of each portrait appear to follow you. An impressive effect, similar to the marble busts that follow you as well. This effect, like many others at the Mansion, can be achieved with no form of high-end technology whatsoever. I was able to replicate this effect one at least one of my paintings.

This is an effect anyone can try with the simplest of supplies; mainly an X-Acto Knife and some ping-pong balls. There are many other weblogs and sites that suggest how to do this. So, here's just another recommendation. Parental discretion advised for those under age.

Step 1: Paint something, preferably a person, depending on how weird you want to be. A 16 x 20 canvas will suffice. The eyes shouldn't be any larger in diameter than that of a ping-pong ball. If it was done on paper, it would be best to glue the back of it to a foam board, white or black, depending on if you decide to backlight it.

Step 2: Remove the eyes. Carefully use an X-Acto Knife to remove the eyes, but do not throw them away after they have been removed.

Step 3: Using the X-Acto Knife, cut along the seam of the ping-pong ball into two halves. It's very difficult to cut exactly on the seam because the surface is thicker, so just cut alongside it, using the seam as a guide for the knife.

Step 4: Glue (or tape) a cut-out eye inside the half of the ball for each eye. Once dried, place the hollowed side of the ping-pong ball half on the back of one of the eyes and secure using a tape that can stick to the back of the canvas or carefully glue along the perimeter of the halve. Make sure that the eye is properly aligned to its original spot on the painting prior to when they were cut out.

Step 5: Once dried, stand the painting up to eye level or higher and step back. The effect will work better at a distance, as a closer distance gives too much away. Walk around and try it out.

You should notice the eyes shifting upon your movement, giving the effect. However, frontal light sometimes gives away the depth and shading of the ping-pong ball halves, revealing too much, in my humble opinion. The best way to get rid of this is to place the painting in a room with not too much light and/or backlight the eyes. A simple led for each light will suffice. Another neat suggestion is if there are any parts of the painting that indicate a form of light, and extra LED could be used for a more spooky way of enhancing the rest of the painting.

I used LED flicker candles for the candlelight effect. LEDs are highly recommended as they can be battery powered and don't generate a lot of heat which could risk burning the painting and anything around it. You could also use a strand of LED lights to surround, also know as "rice lights." Be warned, though, the strand is an exposed lead wire so gloves are recommended when handling them. Again, parental discretion is advised for those under age.

I used foam board rectangles as mini-platforms on the back of my canvas to hold up the lights.

You can substitute whatever you want for the effects, just be careful. For example, you don't really need ping-pong balls. Anything with a concave light solid surface will work, but ping-pong balls are cheaper and can be replaced if mistakes are made.

Practice, have fun, and check out many other sites that suggest how to pull off this awesome and practical effect. That's how I learned it! Here is a video of one of my paintings with the effect and some verbal instructions to create the effect on your own.

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