Scroll down to learn more about this illusion.
Click on the picture above to invert the image and see what appears to be a fully carved deer with smooth rounded edges. Click again and it goes away. The seemingly irregular wooden shapes, are in fact the negative spaces of a leaf-and-deer motif derived from an early 20th century ironwork fireplace screen (pictured below). When inverting the image, the figurative design is upright and therefore more apparent, but the soft shadows of the seemingly random pieces on the dark wood give a distinct impression of a smooth rounded-edged carving. This is most likely due to our being conditioned to seeing objects most often in light shining from above with shadows falling below. – an assumption that can occasionally work against us.
The woodworking tools help us properly orient the workshop setting – and also provide a visual joke: they are not proper tools to make the square edged pieces on the table, but rather more appropriate for the rounded-edge carving of our imagination.
Phantom of the Forest, originally published in Walter Wick's Optical Tricks (1998), is similar to an illusion you may have seen before. If you photograph footprints in the sand, and turn the picture upside down, the impressions will appear to pop out. Click on the picture above to try it out. Without other objects in the picture to provide proper orientation, it can be hard to see the footprint impressions properly.