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The eternal youth of artist JEEJ

What would it be like to unleash your creativity as an artist on the 58th floor of the tallest residential tower in the Benelux? Jeroen (31), also known as contemporary artist JEEJ, can now answer that question. For him, it was an unexpected moment of reflection, a week to pause and consider everything he has achieved over the past four years. “Where am I now? What have I done, and where am I going?”

JEEJ Issue 81

Over the past four years, JEEJ has been making significant strides as an artist. His colourful work featuring cartoon characters quickly gained popularity, especially when well-known figures like Memphis Depay, DJ Afrojack, and rapper Frenna became interested in his art. His work is now also exhibited at Art Angels in Los Angeles, and he is busy preparing for Art Miami this December. Reflecting on his professional journey, Jeroen shares that he has been creative since childhood. “I was always drawing. I wasn’t a star in school, and during math class, I would be drawing in the back of my notebook. During my teenage years, I quickly realized that I found graffiti really cool. At that time, it was also trendy, and all my friends at school were doing it too.”

“At a certain point, everyone stopped because it suddenly wasn’t cool anymore,” says JEEJ. “You get older and develop other interests. I did too, but I always kept doing graffiti. Whether I was hanging out in the city during the day or evening or on the Meent in Rotterdam, I would go spray graffiti afterward.”

During his studies, JEEJ started taking on commercial jobs for companies in the Netherlands that wanted murals, but four years ago, he had had enough and decided to create art he wanted to make. Since then, he has also been making paintings.

A Childhood Dream

JEEJ had a flying start, and his first canvases sold immediately. “I think I created something that people felt connected with. I didn’t sell them for high prices, but it motivated me. This is what I want to make, and people like it. How beautiful is that? It can also be that you don’t sell anything for years and still have to keep going. Looking back on the past four years, I am very grateful and proud of what I have achieved. It’s a real childhood dream.”

Jeej artist

However, his career choice was sometimes met with skepticism. “When I started, everyone thought: ‘What are you doing now? An artist? Okay, good luck, but what job are you going to do on the side? How are you going to earn money?’ I remember when I was 25 and told people I was going to spray graffiti in the evening, they quickly thought it was childish. ‘Spraying graffiti? You’re 25 years old? What’s that about?’ And now it’s turned around. Now it’s cool if you become ‘successful’ with it.”

No Face, No Case

JEEJ’s artworks are distinctive and can be divided into several elements. “Firstly, you have the background, which consists of a lot of paint, graffiti letters, drips, and streaks. This is essentially graffiti in its rawest form. On top of that, you see a cartoon character that reflects the sweetness I always had. I was always a very sweet kid. People would tell my parents that, but they knew better. I was very sweet, but at night I did things that weren’t nice and weren’t allowed when it came to graffiti.”

“The next challenge was to make my work unique, and that’s when the idea came to draw the characters without faces,” JEEJ explains. “In the graffiti scene, you create name recognition by leaving your tag in as many places as possible, hoping people will see and recognize it. But no one has any idea who the person behind it is. So, I decided to leave out the face, essentially the most important and expressive part of a cartoon, giving it a different meaning. No face, no case. If you don’t have a face, try proving that I did it.”

Painting with Memphis

In 2022, JEEJ painted with Memphis Depay to raise money for charity. The footballer now also paints and has shared paintings on social media in recent months. “When I met him, I immediately noticed he was a creative person. He was already collecting art, but I knew he was painting himself. I enjoy it and hope he continues for a long time.”

JEEJ is also a football fan. He used to have a season ticket for Feyenoord and regularly attends European football matches. “At the bottom of the stands in Excelsior’s stadium is a mural I did when I was still doing commercial work. When Feyenoord became champions a few years ago, I also made a beautiful piece in a fascinating location. I won’t say too much about it, but it was a very special football-related mural. People in the graffiti scene know what I’m talking about.”


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Een bericht gedeeld door WITH JEEJ (@jeej)