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SHERMAN OAKS : Artist Adds a New Dimension to Storefronts

Keith Blum has spent the last seven years of his life earning a living doing what he got punished for as a child--painting on walls.

For the past two weeks, at Fashion Square Sherman Oaks mall, Blum has been decorating the plywood barricades placed in front of stores. Many of the mall’s 140 stores sustained water damage during the earthquake and are busy remodeling behind the barricades.

Using a three-dimensional painting technique known as trompe l’oeil, which means deceptive to the eye, Blum has been painting life-size flower pots and benches on the bare wood.

The idea is to replicate the images of real benches and flowers that decorate the mall. One day last week, Blum put the finishing touches on a bench, giving it a three-dimensional look by filling in shadows with off-white paint.

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At first glance, he said, the artwork invites you to sit down. He leaned against a completed image nearby to illustrate his point, pretending he was actually sitting on the bench.

“I wanted to do the barricade art because I thought the plywood was just too boring,” said Sandy Stavig Turner, the mall’s marketing director. “We wanted it to be more festive.”

Without Blum’s paintings, the storefronts would simply show the names of the still-closed shops, she said.

Turner spotted Blum painting a trompe l’oeil storefront on the back wall of a West Los Angeles clothing store and asked him to work his magic at Fashion Square.

Though Blum paints mostly in private homes, several businesses have called on him to create illusions. At Maria’s Italian Kitchen in Northridge, Blum created an outdoor scene with a couple walking side-by-side under blue skies on one of the 25-foot dining room walls.

Blum expects to be finished at Fashion Square within three weeks. On April 23, his paintings will be accompanied by art created by San Fernando Valley schoolchildren.

Blum is preparing for the artworks by painting decorative vines to surround and complement them.


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