24x36_Template_ONWManhattan Bridge © 2012 – 2015 Remko Heemskerk

You’ll recognize the work of Netherlands-born artist Remko Heemskerk in New York City’s colorful and stylized See the City campaign. Now he’s revealed how every artwork is inspired by a personal connection to each of the buildings. Heemskerk first moved to Manhattan when his wife got a job at the United Nations three years ago. After working in advertising as a graphic designer and art director for 15 years, he decided to take a sabbatical when he arrived in Greenwich Village, rethink his career and start drawing again. It was then that he started creating his block-color works of streets and places – but he would only depict those that meant something to him and his wife.

Remko Heemskerk-East Village-Illustration-Posters-See the City-NYCEast 10th Street, East Village © 2012 – 2015 Remko Heemskerk

He said: “Every illustration has a personal story for us. East 10th Street was the street where we lived. When I was smoking out of the window I saw basically that picture. Every morning my wife and I walked to our work places. At a specific crossing on Park Avenue we kissed each other goodbye, while facing the Chrysler Building, which was beautiful highlighted in the morning sun.

Remko Heemskerk-Chrsyler Buliding-Illustration-Posters-See the City-NYCChrysler Building,  © 2012 – 2015 Remko Heemskerk


“My wife worked in a building next to the Chrysler on the 9th floor. When I visited her I was staring at it through the window always thinking: I have to draw this one, all those details, those lines, they’re fascinating.”

“And on the Lower East Side, the Bowery to be exact, there’s a large stencil by the street artist Shepard Fairey, called Obey.

“As we saw this artwork we knew that we had to go into Rivington Street because we were in the neighborhood of our favorite pub, the Hair of the Dog, on Orchard. So, for us, Obey is a gateway to the Lower East Side with cheap beer and good snacks.”

Remko Heemskerk-Obey Shepard Fairey-Illustration-Posters-See the City-NYCShepard Fairey, Obey, Lower East Side.  © 2012 – 2015 Remko Heemskerk

Heemskerk sketches ideas on paper before transferring these images to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. And all of his New York works seem to have a building, or an aspect of a building, highlighted more than the rest, drawing the eye to it.

The artist says this is deliberate. “I had that idea for a long time. Some buildings are so grey and boring that I can’t see them without color. I always say that my artwork is pure architecture but the color represents the vibe and the people in the city.

Remko Heemskerk-Empire State Building-Illustration-Posters-See the City-NYCEmpire State Building.  © 2012 – 2015 Remko Heemskerk

“A striking composition is more important than reality. I like to change the real world. Sometimes I put photos in Photoshop and copy and paste everything until I have the perfect picture. Those files can be a basis for an illustration file. But even then, I change everything in Illustrator.

“Sometimes the perspective isn’t right. Or the shadows don’t fit. That is just what I like about being an illustrator. I’m playing God and creating my own world.”

Remko Heemskerk-Flatiron Building-Illustration-Posters-See the City-NYCFlatiron Building. © 2012 – 2015 Remko Heemskerk

That self-created brightly colored world has seen the popularity of his work take off, with NYC & Company recently hiring him to design the beautiful vintage-style posters encouraging New Yorkers to visit their own city as tourists.

24x36_Template_ONWManhattan Bridge  © 2012 – 2015 Remko Heemskerk

Now residing in Haarlem in the Netherlands, Heemskerk continues to create his New York artworks from the many photos he took during his time there. But it’s clear that he still has an affinity for Manhattan.

He says: “I was born and raised in a small town in the Netherlands, which was so quiet and peaceful that I got stressed out. I don’t know why it is, but I sleep better when there are fire trucks driving through the streets with loud sirens.

“NYC is the most filthy city I’ve ever seen – the most chaotic too. It is noisy and crowded, you’re never alone, even when you’re in your own apartment, but I love it. I love the high-rise buildings, the long avenues, the people. It never stops, there is always more.”

See the posters from the See the City campaign. Art prints of Heemskerk’s work can be found here. This article was originally published on Boo York City.

One thought on “See the City Artist Remko Heemskerk Captures NYC Architecture in Vivid Color

  1. i absolutely love this artwork, i think it is fabulous and amazingly interesting. i adore him and everything he does. i wish to one day meet him and shake his hand and to become an artist just like him.

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