Maarten Wolterink

Cartoonist/Maarten Wolterink

-In my family, my mother and my eldest brother had the ability to make nice pencil drawings. Later on my youngest brother went to the academy of arts and later even came to be a teacher of Typography over there. Both he and my sister had been educated to be painters (just walls and doors) but this education also had commercial drawing incorporated. Still, I was the ‘best’ in drawing, probably just because I did it a lot more as a kid and got credit for it. I became interested in cartoons through two occurrences. One, my study at the academy of arts came to a dead end because I was bad in abstract painting. Two, I developed a political view on international and national matters and I wanted to express that with drawings and have fun with it.
-In my childhood, comic books were lying around the house, there was even a subscription to a weekly magazine with all sorts of comics. Movies like ‘Once upon a time in the West’ and ‘ One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest made a huge impression on me. My favorite comic artist was Hermann, creator of the series Bernard Prince, Comanche and Jeremiah. Among Dutch cartoonists I was inspired by Peter van Straaten. He did short comics and both political cartoons as cartoons commentating on daily life (depicting it as a mostly tiresome existence).
-My academic study didn’t really get into comics but I did learn a lot over there. Not being afraid of large formats for example, using techniques other than just a pencil and mixing everything up and finally grasping the shape and movements of the human body whilst sketching models. The rest was learning by doing. You just work on (when there is work) and develop. Sometimes a big step is made by just using different materials. I went from paper to drawing pad, to drawing directly on the screen. But when I started doing the latter on an iPad my artistic education and vision suddenly burst out and changed my cartoon style radically.
-My work exists of well- and less well-paid commissions. Sometimes even no commission if I want to push an idea with no financial support in sight. For instance, I’m fond of my comic book ‘Kas… whatever…’ but I’m afraid it cost me more money than it provided. Also, my international political cartoons are not always on commission. I just make them out of a strong urge to share my view on matters and post the stuff on social media platforms and professional cartoon-sharing websites for news agencies. Only then, and not always, newspapers pick it up and pay me for the use of a cartoon. ‘Born’ in the short comics with Kas (in English better known as Cuzz), the family dog Bas (Buzz) has his own Instagram account (@cuzznbuzz) and I had a lot of fun with him. It was nice to draw a non-political series for once because sometimes the world’s suffering weighs heavy on this cartoonist’s shoulders. Still, that category gives me the most satisfaction. To be able to change the public view (at least, that’s what I hope) by showing them the world in all its weirdness, hypocrisy and inconsistency.
-The Netherlands, my country, is a small country with only a few important newspapers and websites. But it’s amazing how many cartoonists live here. Good quality cartoonists who get to know each other through live cartooning events and expositions. As I do, most of them try to get published abroad on countries like the US and the UK. Some manage, most don’t. Dutch publishers have little interest for cartoonists abroad. Their work is used in international (web) pages. Prices are going down due to the internet and the large community of artists waiting around to get a piece of the action. Only a small group can make a living from it working full time. Newspapers are coping with decreasing benefits of advertisements so the freelancers are sharing that pain. Meanwhile, the readers are getting more lazy and superficial. A joke has to be understood within three seconds or else they will swipe on. For me that’s a handicap since I aim at a well-read and information- craving public.
-Comic books do have an impact on the sociopolitical realities of societies. At least I think they do. Political cartoons even more because they appear in newspapers and websites following the latest news. Back to the comics: like books, they bring us to worlds that reflect our societies and comment on them. Like the coronavirus that’s crippling us at the moment; loads of stories with a scenario like that have been published already.
-It’s hard to say what my greatest achievement would be. I’m always super proud of my last baked cookies, so goodbye to objectivity. But this one cartoon I made on the death of George Floyd and the rise of Black Lives Matter sticks out. In black silhouette I sketched the position of the officer, sitting with his knee on poor George Floyd. In all the triangular places in the drawing that remained white I drew two dots. At first a lot of people overlooked it (which is okay), but with the two black dots, the triangular forms reveal themselves to be a Ku Klux Clan costume. And so you reveal the crime and its past in one picture.
-At the moment I’m working on a series of illustrations for an A to Z book about ‘3 Oktober’, when the people of my hometown of Leiden celebrate the liberation from the Spanish who besieged the town from 1573 until 1574. 26 Illustrations of the fair, Spanish helmets, a dove sitting on William of Orange’s head and more. Projects of my own are scarce. Most are made out of commissions because people (luckily) do hire me. I pride myself on the fact that I experiment with new things, animation, video, drawing in different perspectives; my skills and style are still — after almost 30 years — a work in progress.
-My advise the new generations: Don’t sit around waiting to be discovered. Get out there showing yourself and get to know the right people; your talent alone is not enough to have a career in this form of art. And look around you. How do things look? A bus, a skateboard, an octopus, a weird tree. It’s a good thing we can search and see everything we want on the internet, still it’s better to have some things ready to use in your mind. And then, look at and listen to the people around you. How do they interact? How does language sometimes hide the real reasons for their behavior? Learn to unscramble the messages. That’s where the jokes are.

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