ILoveyou500 recently spoke with Nanna de Jong, artist and illustrator. Nanna is one of the leading voices of a new generation changemakers. An activist by heart while battling fiercely to reclaim the city in Utrecht, the Netherlands. We discussed how she got into illustrating and why there’s an itching need to step up and make awareness about the environment, gentrification, women’s rights, gender equality and refugee issues.
Who is Nanna?
Nanna grew up in Friesland, the north of Holland. Influenced by her mother who is a fashion designer and her father, the first squatter of the artist village Ruigoord, art and politics were already imprinted in her genes. At an early age, she got very inspired by all the fabrics her mother used for homemade clothing. It would be very strange if Nanna didn’t pursue a career in Fashion. While graduating high school, she felt very pressured to go to university. She took one year off to figure out what she wanted to study and stayed for four months in Istanbul to study realistic drawing at Mimar Sinan Üniversitesi Istanbul. In Istanbul, she learned about how to connect through art and that it’s a great communication tool and was getting used to the idea of studying illustration at the art academy HKU in Utrecht.
The importance of togetherness
Nanna speaks off the importance of togetherness and making connections with new people.
She felt that people in Turkey were more connected to each other than in western countries. Studying abroad has widened her awareness and shifted her perception about her own life in the Netherlands. For her internship, she lived in Berlin and worked together with illustrator Jakob Hinrichs and Katia Fouqet. The lively city was wildly inspiring and she got to know a lot of interesting people from all over the world, discovered every day new places and art was everywhere around her. No wonder that it was hard for her to leave this animated metropolis.
Finding meaning through art
She likes to invite her audience to interact with each other, through making engaged art and talk about the key elements of her work. She often challenges her audience to discuss subjects they would normally avoid. Seeing illustration as a form of protest, Nanna doesn’t consider her work to be commercial. Her illustrations often incorporating people on the move. They are either, dancing, playing around, working or celebrating life. For Nanna art is work and art is play. To play is the most important part of her work. It is necessary to never ever stop playing in life. She likes to explore the idea of finding meaning in life through illustration. She feels good knowing she can speak through her art and that people recognize themselves or their thoughts in it.
“It is very important to have a good idea and concept”
Nanna likes to be inspired by different people surrounding her, that’s why she participated in an art project organized by ‘De Voorkamer’ in Utrecht. The main reason for participating in this project is to help integrate refugees while contributing to a creative community and being able to tell the refugee’s story through art. She volunteered because it continuously teaches her something new about people, about art, about compassion, about new techniques and about herself. In helping others, we are reminded that we are all in this together and we need to remember to support each other. Life has so much to offer if we remember to look beyond ourselves.
This project was a great opportunity to work with refugees who are interested in art and to get to know each other in an interactive way. While working on the project with a Syrian refugee who is blind she could let the girl experience her life story through a linocut which they created together. After finishing the project she became friends with the refugees who inspired her by their strength and life stories. An illustration is all about understanding concepts and mixing it with the right communication, the right words and the right message. Art is not only about making pretty pictures, it’s more about making a statement.