The steam train on bridge over the Chemainus River mural features a hidden raccoon added after it was reproduced. (Photo submitted)

Mural artists incorporate hidden characteristics or surprises

Be on the lookout for optical illusions, hidden images

Many of the murals in Chemainus have illusions or secret hidden images that most observers never notice. Artists have been known to trick the viewer or surprise them in a subtle way. Here are a few to check out for various forms of trompe l’oeil and other unique characteristics.

Waiting for the Whistle on the side wall of the former Chemainus Foods building on Cypress Street has a very interesting optical illusion. As you walk past it, keep your eyes on the centre portion of the mural where the railway tracks are positioned. The direction of the tracks will follow you and appear to move. Walk in the reverse direction and the angle of the tracks will change again. It is a very impressive illusion to experience.

Another mural that has a similar illusion is The Company Store in the alley between the post office and the Telus building. The lines of the floor boards and the ceiling in the store will angle towards you as you walk past. From the left side of the mural, the lines appear to face in your direction. Move to the right side and the lines will follow you. Another interesting feature is the hanging mannequins. They will keep an eye on you as you walk by, giving you an eerie sense that you are being watched.

As you walk down Willow Street in front of the Telus building, take a close look at the mural Steam Train On Bridge Over Chemainus River. This is a reproduction of the original which was destroyed when the old fire hall was demolished. Our creative member of the Mural Board of Directors, Art Carlyle, photographed a sketch of the original mural and enhanced it digitally. He then decided to have some fun and hid a raccoon in the forest to surprise the observant viewer.

Mural artist Mario Labonte also likes to hide images in his murals. He painted By the Bay – Inspired by Emily Carr which is in the lane way on the rear wall of the Rexall drug store. Look into the clouds and you will see a hidden face. Another artist, David Goatley, took some artistic liberty and included an image of himself in one of his murals on the post office. Look closely at Letters from the Front and you will notice a man halfway up the left hand edge of the mural walking in front of some buildings that is supposedly the artist.

Of all the murals in Chemainus, the one that fools the eye the most is probably the one on the side of the Chemainus Theatre along Chemainus Road. When observed from across the street, Emily Carr’s Beloved Trees appears to be an outdoor art gallery that you can walk into, sit down in and enjoy viewing the five Carr paintings. Look at the shadows and observe how realistic they are. It appears as though the sun is shining through the open roof of the gallery with the blue sky in the mural matching the actual blue sky above. It is an incredible artistic marvel created by Steffen Junemann.

So the next time you are out walking through our famous outdoor gallery, make sure you are seeing the whole picture.

Some of the murals are more than they appear to be. Take a tour and see what you’ve been missing! For more information, check out

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