Artist's stunning walk-in optical illusion becomes TikTok sensation

An optical illusion painting
(Image credit: David Hollowell)

We've seen some incredible optical illusions here at Creative Bloq, but this one is on another scale. David Hollowell, a seventy-one-year-old artist and former University of California art professor, suffered a devastating brain injury two years ago, when he fell off a roof. He now suffers aphasia, preventing him from being able to speak or write, but he can still paint.

He's been dedicating his time to finishing the transformation of the family's barn into an enormous immersive 3D optical illusion. His daughter, Adrienne, who works in design and marketing, has been recording the process on TikTok (see our pick of the best optical illusions for more mind benders).


♬ ART - Jack Madden

Hollowell began the work before his accident in 2021, but now unable to speak or write, his work has become one of the few ways he can express himself. Adrienne set out to make her dad famous on the social media platform and raise awareness of aphasia in the process. And she's getting there. The TikTok account now has almost 197,000 followers and the most-watched video 7.2 million views. 


♬ Agape - Nicholas Britell

Hollowell's previously rejected requests from people wanting to film his mural, so the TikTok account is the only view we have into the expansive work. Commenters have left words of praise and encouragement, and former students have shared memories of learning from the artist, described as "one of the most accomplished painters of his generation" by the New York gallery Hark Awik.

Looking to up your own TikTok game? See our pick of the best TikTok cameras and the best ring lights.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.