3D Wall Paintings by John Pugh

These photos are of work done by John Pugh. Pugh paints murals on walls of buildings that give the illusion of being 3D. Not only is the mural an illusion but there is such great detail in the smaller pieces of the painting!

“I have found that the “language” of life-size illusions allow me to communicate with a very large audience. It seems almost universal that people take delight in being visually tricked. Once captivated by the illusion, the viewer is lured to cross an artistic threshold and thus seduced into exploring the concept of the piece.” -John Pugh

Siete Punto Uno – Los Gatos, California

Los Gatos suffered the most significant damage from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

She looks real, but she is not.


Mana Nalu Mural – Honolulu, Hawaii

Located on the east side of the Lani Nalu Plaza building at 401 Kamakee Street in Honolulu. The name of this painting means power of the wave.


Queen Lili’uokalani



There is a story of firemen stopping in front of this building at night because they saw the children and thought they were lost. When they got closer they realized the children were not real.


Totem – Anchorage, Alaska

This is just half of the entire mural.


Here you can see the entire mural including the DNA from above.


The Doric columns support a ceiling fresco of Mycenaean flying fish.



Close up of the DNA helix.


Drain – City of Bishop, California

Several years ago Bishop was required to drain Owens Valley so that Los Angeles could have more water and keep from a drought. Bishop’s residents battled but it did not help, and the result was the loss of most of their once fertile land.






Pool of Thought – University of Alaska in Fairbanks

Full Mural


Close up of corner


Study With Sphere & Water – University of Northern Florida in Jacksonville

Full Mural


Close up of armillary sphere


As in his other murals, this man is not actually real.


The Joshua Tree Chronicles – Victor Valley, CA

Mural on a the landing between floors in the library at Victor Valley Community College.




A reminder of the first residents of the area.


Mrs. E.M. Potts, founder of the Golden State Portland Cement Co. in Oro Grande; William S.Hart, the cowboy actor, director and producer; and Maria Chapuli, known to locals as Indian Marie.


Reverse, Lateral, and Loop – Tehachapi, CA

New Zealand artist Marc Spijkerbosch helped Pugh in creating this mural.


Marc Spijkerbosch is renowned for his landscape paintings.


“The loop concept was a suggestion given by a nine-year old water boy when railroad engineers were trying to solve the problem of maintaining a required train grade on the steep Tehachapi accent. As depicted in the mural, the trains circle literally over themselves as they climb up to the pass.”


Reverse and Lateral refer to the type of faults causing a 7.4 earthquake in 1952 that destroyed most of this small downtown.


The Dirt on Bishop – Bishop, CA

“This layered core sample of Bishop earth represents a sedimentary survey of the town’s heritage.”


A piece of history, bullets and rusted water valves


All the way down to ancient roots and trilobites


Green Treasure – New Zealand

This time Pugh went to Marc Spijkerbosch’s hometown to collaborate on a mural. And remember, this wall is absolutely flat!


“Through metaphor we can journey from the exterior mosaic layer — the external surface world — into the inner spirit world.”


River of Mercy – Merced, CA

“As the ‘river runs through’, it flows from Yosemite Valley, past the foothills, through an old mill until it reaches thirsty orchards and crops of the Central Valley. While chronicling geological passages, it also ushers-in the rich and colorful history of Merced County.”


Under Construction


Pugh hard at work


Rancher or farmer looking out his window


“It’s seen harmony and destruction from irrigation to devastating hydraulic mining.”


Academe’ – Chico State University, Chico, CA

Chico was where Pugh received his art degree. This mural is one of his earlier pieces that really kicked his career into high gear.


Detail of the broken wall


“My intention was not only to use the Doric column, a symbol that is easily recognized in our culture, to represent the classic architecture of the Greeks, but to tap into the concept of the greek academe as the essence of our western educational system” -Pugh


Internal Melody – City Hall, Hayward, CA

This is a grotto monument paying homage to Hayward and its heritage.


“The left front column represents Hayward’s more recent history including Hayward’s Hotel – the cities’ namesake – and the era of Blues artists and Juke Joints of the Russell City distict. The back columns depict a coastal Ohlone village, the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and the settling of the great land grant ranchos.”


“The sculpture, with its subtle harp-like shape, provides an elegant and lyrical center piece.”


Exotic new chambers – Park Meadows Shopping Center, Denver, Colorado

Notice how the wall looks like it is recessed in places or has “chambers”, but it does not. The wall is actually perfectly flat!


Detail of fountain in Grotto


Detail of candle cage


John Pugh

“It is important for me, as an artist, to interact with the community, formulating concepts based upon a multitude of viewpoints. Artists must be continually aware that their work can serve as a bridge between diverse cultural backgrounds. Public art is of great interest to me; providing me with a sense of purpose as it is a very powerful form of communication. It can link people together, stimulate a sense of pride within the community, and introduce the viewer to new ideas and perspectives.” -John Pugh


All quotes and information came from artofjohnpugh.com.


  1. Kyle James says:

    I love this site a lote ! These are great photos!!

  2. I helped John start the Wave mural up in Truckee. It was 2007 , March. I helped sand the wall , and helped erect scaffolding for this . I was 56 years old at the time , and wanted so much to PAINT on the work.
    Alas , I became very , very ill . Bedridden for the pst 8 + 1/2 years with Crohn’s Disease. I never knew what happened to this fantastic IDEA , and now ( March 2017 , exactly 10 years later ! ) as I am finally
    re – gaining my good health , I google – searched the Wave . Oh My God. I wish I could’ve helped John Through the end of this piece….. even installing it in Hawaii ! Oh well.

    John’s favorite teacher was my painting mentor for decades . I worked with Bill Martin many , many weeks ….. over many , many years . Bill was the best teacher I have ever known . He passed 5 years ago ,
    and is sorely missed. I know John must have benefitted from his work with Bill , too. I am looking forward to getting Brush In Hand , again !!! Bill always told me that he painted his way through one divorce
    and 2 bouts of cancer . The last I saw Bill was at the unveiling of his 7 + 1/2 foot circular painting , ” Ascension” . It took him 2 years to paint this incredible work. That was his THIED bout of cancer , and
    we lost him shortly thereafter. John , wherever you are , i think of you often . I love our Del Bro Theater painting you did for our town. Are you still in Truckee ? Warmest Wishes , John … Marcie Stepovich.

  3. Michelle Daugherty says:

    I am an art teacher at Fairfield High. I have executed a couple of basic murals and would love to learn more about how to create the incredible works of art you do. Ultimately, I want to write the curriculum for a mural class and have the students make our campus and surrounding community a representation of public art.

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