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Dutch Artist Uses Optical Illusion to Turn Buildings into 3D Masterpieces

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Published: September 5, 2022
Dutch artist Jan Heinsbroek transformed a dull modernist building into a larger-than-life bookshelf with his masterful skills in optical illusion. (Image: Courtesy of Jan Heinsbroek)

Optical illusions play cunning tricks on the mind and eyes. Mastery in this craft enabled one artist to turn an entire wall of an apartment building into a life-like masterpiece of gigantic scale.

In the Russian town of Solnechnodol’sk, 2021, Dutch artist Jan Heinsbroek put his artistic skills to the test when he endeavored to turn an old Soviet-style apartment into something far more colorful. Hailing from Utrecht, Netherlands, Jan — who goes under the moniker of JanIsDeMan on Instagram — took on the challenge of painting what looks like an enormous three-dimensional bookshelf.

What was once a barren wall suddenly came alive as a towering bookshelf with books convincingly hanging over the edge, giving depth and a sense of tangibility. Adding interest among the books are a few other props, including a toy castle at the top, and a local matryoshka doll painted like the dress of an elderly shawl-wearing woman Jan had encountered.

“Inspiration sometimes stands next to you,” Jan said regarding the woman on Instagram.

This isn’t Jan’s first paint job; over the years, he has painted scores of amazing images on walls; including other 3D graphics and exquisite murals and portraits.

Mural masterpiece in optical illusion. (Image: Courtesy of Jan Heinsbroek)

In 2016, Jan created a similar 3D painting on the outer wall of a nine-story apartment building, turning it into a cubby-hole shelf fit for a giant. A collection of curios is displayed in each of the divided compartments; including a teddy bear, a Roman bust, glass birds, and a singing frog with a banjo. From a distance, the image is stunningly realistic.

Jan revealed that he used to have a fear of heights that caused his hands to tremble as he maneuvered his paint-filled aerosol over the towering structure. He has since conquered his fears and continues to paint his mammoth murals.

How does one transform the walls of tall buildings into magical pieces of art? 

Going back to the recent Russian bookshelf, Jan chose the side of a bland modernist building to work on — a highly visible and ample canvas for his vibrant art. With an aim to liven up the uninspired architecture, he gave the community something special and memorable. As a cherry on top of this artistic sundae, Jan used the Slavic alphabet on the book covers, which won lots of local support for his grand project.

(Image: Courtesy of Jan Heinsbroek)

“Most of the time, these are areas where people can use some extra color,” Jan told The Epoch Times. “All we need is a good wall and good people.”

Jan scouted the local shops, and obtained from a business owner a list of some favored books that might be featured. Then he sent out flyers to attract willing volunteers. Soon, residents flocked to work with Jan, coordinating with one another to make his masterpiece a reality.

“This concept was also a way to connect people through books,” Jan said. “It could be that your neighbor, who you don’t know, loves the same books as you.”

“In this way, you have more in common than you thought,” he added.


After gathering his manpower, Jan got to work, beginning with the “general blocks of color” before shading in light and dark into the rough shapes. After putting in the finishing touches, including the book titles in gold and other colors on rustic or colorful covers, Jan added the other items, giving life to the shelf.

Jan completed the bookshelf in the fall of 2021, when he was finally satisfied he had every detail down and was proud of his work. What stood before him was no longer a building from a dilapidated past, but something truly magnificent to behold; an eye-catching segment of an expansive library.

“The best ones,” Jan said, describing his art. “…are the ones that look realistic and have a lot of stories in them.”

“It makes people proud because it is their own story,” he added.

(Image: Courtesy of Jan Heinsbroek)

Between his 2016 piece and the 2021 grand spectacle, Jan continued to fill his gallery on Instagram with a myriad of superb paintings, ranging from a great white shark in a tank ready to break open, to many googly eyes staring around from houses.

(Image: Courtesy of Jan Heinsbroek)

Talented individuals like Jan show us that with a bit of creative trickery and a lot of artistic skill, any dull scene can become inspirational, beautiful and alive.