Get To Know | Munir de Vries


Munir de Vries is an illustrator whose works you can find throughout Utrecht. Just take a cycling tour past Croeselaan and or walk towards Stadhuisplein. Online he has contributed to platforms such as De Correspondent, The Daily Indie and Vice. In our shop he recently did a wonderful mural in our staircase. Plenty of reasons to invite him for an ''Afkijken'' event! Enjoy this teaser via interview below. 

How did you start illustrating?

"As a child I was already drawing a lot, mostly under the table with chalks. My mother also encouraged me to do creative things. For example, I took drawing lessons at Artis. Every Saturday we strolled through the zoo with a whole group of people with various pencils and bits and we were drawing animals. At high school drawing subsided a bit. I was very busy with graffiti and especially focused on typography. After high school I ended up at the graphic lyceum and there I began to draw more figurative things. During this time I did an internship as a graphic designer with the magazine Memory, a career magazine for students. At one point they did not have a picture joining their article, and I just asked them: 'Is it possible that I do a drawing?' They liked the idea and that became my first published illustration. I thought that was really cool and realised this is much nicer than all of those 'dull' design assignments I've been doing before. Creating content yourself, instead of cutting and pasting everything.''

You then went to study Illustration at the HKU, what stayed with you over time?

"At the art academy they really want to put you in a certain mold, so you get different opinions and commentary from all sides. At a given moment you get really seasick, because last week you said that and now you say this. At one point I decided I was fed up with this mode of studying. I work according to my own standards and what I like. I am reasonably perfectionist and I found out that my standard was even higher than on their training. Happening during the end of my studies, that was really a turning point. I mean, I do this for myself - the school is more of a facility and the opinion of someone else should no longer be leading. I still try to live by this idea - I like to help a client with something because it is something that he can not do himself. In that respect, we stand side by side and makes sure that I feel much more responsible for the process and get the freedom, which ultimately improves the work. "

You often seem to work form-based, where does this approach stem from?

"This mainly comes from my graffiti period. Here I usually made lots of letters in quite large format. If you actually want to make a letter in large format, working by means of ''building blocks'' becomes very handy. When creating rasters, for example, you create fixed distances and sizes so all your letters are become equally thick. Through this method I am used to produce large-scale works. I also love puzzling with shapes. For a while I have only drawn shapes, without thinking - and afterwards trying to compherend what it is that I actually made. I was curious what my subconscious had to tell me. The nice thing about puzzle pieces is that you can keep sliding with them. My newest form of puzzle fun is using wood. Here I make different shapes and I can always change them around until I have found the right composition."

Mural at Swordfish & Friend

Mural at Swordfish & Friend

Just curious - do you have any favorite forms?

"I find that difficult to define, but what I find very beautiful is the contrast between very smooth round shapes and very tight angular ones. It is a dance between different forms that ensures a whole. I love it when forms seem to go into play with each other. Another contrast that I find interesting is, for example, between hard and soft, where I often use shadows. I am always juggling with that game of two contrasts. In the past I drew everything with contours, but it also make the method too much of filling a coloring book. That shouldn't be necessary. For example, if you want to colour a drawing of a stretched arm and a fist, the arm does not need an outline at all, because you already see the edge, but at the fist you might want to have an outline at the fingers, otherwise you risk not seeing the fingers at all. Using the combination of shadow effects and thinking in terms of light, I am now puzzling what I wish to accentuate per form. Where does one want to bring attention to? This way I llike the dance between shape, shadow and line. Because of this I often don't know when I start a drawing how it will actually end up. I also applied this method to the work that was previously on the Swordfish & Friend counter.''

Balie Swordfish & Friend

Do you want to win the work that was made for our counter? That's possible! Take a picture of yourself with Munir's mural in our store, place your photo in the event and Munir will pick the winner himself!

"What I also find more beautiful about abstract forms is that their meaning isn't so determinited yet, by which it creates a space in which people are able to project their own imaginations onto them. People can then see something in it which I have not intended at all, I think that's so nice! In editorial drawings I obviously take into account the story, there it must be crystal clear what the illustration is about. "

Your work is often in public space, what do you think illustrators can add to the public space?

"I want to evoke a certainting feeling when people walk past a mural or illustrated trash, soaking up the illustration and taking it along the road. Trigger something, or be supportive. At one point I saw something written along the train racks - 'today everything is going well' - you can just imagine if someone is on the train and that message comes along, the person is grumpy and thinks: 'yes, that just might be true", In this way public space can transmit loads of messages, feelings and that doesn't happen very often when you look at how many boring buildings and bad places there are around. I think it can really do something when seeing or feeling whilst on the street. In this way, the public space is really a stage and I find it beautiful since it's open for everybody. People do not have to wait in line. "

"I also love working for the public. For example. the project 'Vergeet de hoekjes niet' also includes work by people who struggle with fixed gender identities and their work holds loads of support messages for their communities. Another example, the project where I illustrated trash cans together with Philip Lindeman, our starting point was to portay the people who make the city. There are so many contributions that you actually forget. For example, who clears the square near you or who picks up your garbage? But if those people would not be there, you're going to whine that your garbage is stuck in front of your door. You actually forget that appreciation altogether. "

Vergeet niet de hoekjes | Munir de Vries

“"What I also find very nice and beautiful about working in public space is when the work reflects its environment.”


"What I also find very nice and beautiful about working in public space is when the work reflects its environment. Currently I'm approaching the Bijlmer in this manner. A very diverse palette of people lives there and we try to portray this in our mural project, so that the people feel represented by the artwork. Perhaps I could thereby help steering some people in the direction direction, towards a beautiful future. As an artist you can show what is not there. If you see something, you're going to actually believe more things are possible."

''I am also working on a new mural near the Munt building in Utrecht. It is a building of SWK, where creative entrepreneurs can rent a place. There, the idea is to make the building show to the outside world what is happening inside. In this project I work together with a Brazilian guy. It works nicely since he has an outsider perspective while mine is very much influenced by Utrecht. We are currently conceptualising, in October we're going to illustrate it on the walls. "

Thanks Munir! Hopefully we will see you on Sunday 5 August.

In addition to Munir, the band Djhagy will also perform. View the clip below where Munir also did the visuals for. 

Tessa Pals