Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 15.10.35A North East academic is on the verge of becoming the world’s top illusionist – and you can vote to take his work onto the world stage.

Dr Mike Pickard who lectures at the University of Sunderland, where he studied for his PhD, Masters and degree in Design, has been named in the final top 10 in the international visual science competition, the Best Illusion of the Year. For the first time this year the competition, which runs in the USA and is considered the world’s most prestigious, is open to public votes.

Mike’s work, the ‘The Day it Rained on Lowry’, was created with fellow Sunderland academic Gurpreet Singh, and uses visual illusion to bring the legendary ‘matchstick men’ to life.

You can vote for ‘The Day it Rained on Lowry’ online this Friday (June 12) from 00:01 until midnight, at:

In Lowry’s original painting, ‘Returning from Work’, we see the industrial landscape and matchstick figures typical of the artist, with bent figures appearing immobile. However, this illusion changes all that as the figures seemingly start to shuffle along.

Mike says: “In reality, the characters are moving backwards and forwards and only seem to shuffle because a perceptual bias has been created that favours seeing the small forward movement. This appears much larger to the viewer who, in a way similar to how we navigate through crowds using just passing glances, unconsciously extrapolates the movement forward.”

Dr Mike Pickard and Gurpreet Singh are researching the link between visual science knowledge and art and design practice.

“Animated illusions are a useful way of doing this as they often involve visual principles that can be taken on board and used by designers to enhance their work,” added Mike.  “Our approach is based on this using multimedia to examine and test illusion effects and then use them in creative concepts created to show how they might be used in design practice.”

In 2014 Mike and Gurpreet an exhibition of fifty unique multimedia based illusions at the University of Sunderland’s Design Centre, with more exhibitions planned for the future.