Meet Dutch street artist Jan Is De Man, a creative soul who just spruced up an apartment building with residents’ favorite book titles. His artwork helps local communities better connect, and his latest masterpiece has made the love of literature larger than life.
His goal is to produce projects “where everyone can identify themselves.” He does so by asking the residents of the buildings he works on to collaborate and give their input.
His most recent work of art is a majestic tri-level trample l’oeil mural bookcase painted on an apartment building in Utrecht, Netherlands.
He worked with another talented street artist, Deef Feed, on the project.
Deef Feed and Jan Is De Man (great names, right?) have worked on other murals together in the past. The pair also co-own a tattoo shop called “Blackbook Tattoos” located at the center of Ultrecht.
Here is the result of Jan Is De Man and Deef Feed’s collaborative effort to turn an apartment building into a life-size library covered in the residents’ favorite books.
While many street artists are drawn to old and abandoned buildings to exercise their creativity, Jan Is De Man does things differently.
The artists picked out the location for this mural before they designed the concept.
“I know the people who live on the ground floor very well. They’ve wanted a mural by my hand for a while. They also wanted to let me feel free in my design as long as it would bring something positive to their neighborhood,” explained Jan Is De Man.
“The first idea was to paint a smiley. A very big smiley. Because I believe people become more happy when they see a smiley every day. But this idea didn’t feel complete, it felt too simple.”
The artist spent time observing the blank canvas of a building. That’s when the idea for an I’oeil mural came to him.
“Visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object,” he said.
“I studied the shape of the house and the location where this house stands in and suddenly the idea of making a huge bookcase hit me. I love making illusions on walls and I like to see smiles on people’s faces and this idea (I thought meanwhile) could bring all this together.”
Once he was struck with the idea, he began speaking with residents who live in the apartment, asking them to list their favorite books.
“We entered the community by asking people for their favorite books and we were able to put 8 languages and cultures together in the same concept.”
“Everybody, every age, every culture, every language was welcome. The only rule I set up to participate in this art project was: no political books and no religious books. Besides that every book title was welcome.”
It took a solid week of work to bring the mural from an idea to a beautiful piece of art that the entire neighborhood, and beyond, could appreciate.
Originally, the most difficult part of the painting was concept planning. “[I] think most of the time the most difficult [part] is to get the right concept, that fits the wall, that fits the neighborhood. But when you got the right idea, then there is not much difficult.”
The residents and the artists were perfectly captured in the end mural. You can see the artists’ names penned as two of the book titles. As for the residents, they now reside in a building adorned with their favorite book titles.
As for Jan Is De Man’s favorite book tittles, “I am really fond of the ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’ written by Mark Haddon. And of course ‘The Playboy’.”
The mural attracts all kinds of people wanting to take a literary selfie. Plus, it serves as a way to bring the community of vastly different people closer together.
“The neighborhood where this work was made is filled with different cultures. And I’ve noticed that this project brought (and hopefully for as long as it lasts) people together without pushing it.
They meet each other through books. Regardless of the differences in cultures, regardless of the differences in political point of views. Regardless of being extreme right or extreme left.”
Next up on the itinerary for these talented artists?
“There is a lot of things coming, but I don’t like to tell plans, because I believe that if you tell your plans they don’t work. It sounds corny, but in the end, actions speak louder than words.”