Comics, Cats and Commandments

Yesterday, a new book was launched in The Netherlands with my comics in it – a collaboration with poet and writer Karel Eykman, who wrote the most influential children’s bible in the 1970s, among other things. Both his and mine position towards Christianity are much the same: we’re not exactly devout believers, but fascinated by its stories and teachings, and each in our own way trying to translate them to modern times.

book

This book, titled ‘Zodat het je goed gaat’ (‘That you may prosper’) contains ten stories by Karel and ten comics by me, about the ten commandments. Our takes are not literal, but rather reflections, and I’ve also tried to make my comics reflect Karel’s stories, often by basing my story on a side-figure from his story.

Here’s my comic about the third commandment, ‘You shall not take the name of God in vain’:

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deargod3

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The presentation was a well-attended affair, especially thanks to the presence of more than 50 kids from the Karel Eykman school (yes, Karel has a school named after him!). They were listening intently as Karel read a few of his stories and I showed a few of my comics on a big screen. I also made a videoscribe of one of them that I put on Youtube, it’s in Dutch but here you go:

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Here are some pictures of the gathering:

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school

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The first two books were presented to the teachers of the Karel Eykman school:

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Drawing for Free

Making cartoons or illustrations for free can be a tricky subject. It involves an ongoing discussion which raises points such as:

  • are artists “businesslike” enough to ask professional compensation for their work?
  • how fair is it for viable companies to ask an illustrator to contribute work in exchange for “exposure”?
  • are artists who work for less than they deserve undermining the market?
  • are artists valued at all in monetary terms?

I’m not going into these points here; I just want to show a little of my considerations in doing work for free, and what I recently got out of it.

heart-lift

A while back, a medicine student sent me a mail, humbly asking for cartoons for an informational flyer to be distributed in Namibia amongst women with a heart condition who are pregnant or planning to be. She apologised for the fact that they only had a small budget – and I answered that for a cause like this, I’ll gladly draw for free.

I am in the lucky position that I don’t need that much money. This is mainly because I have a very low rent and no kids – a few paid assignments a year, next to my ongoing comics, are more than enough to live off. This gives me the freedom to say no to paid jobs that don’t appeal to me, and yes to others that pay nothing but are for good cause. Such as this one.

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I went into this like I do with any assignment, paid or not: there are preliminary sketches, tweaking, adjusting, last-minute changes as a team of people gives feedback on the results. Luckily, I can work rather quick, and I find it very gratifying to know that I’m delivering something that everyone involved is happy with (within bounds, of course, sometimes the team of people is too big and people come with ridiculous demands, just to make their mark among their coworkers I figure, but this happens very seldom and never in free work. If this happens, I simply let them know more adjustments are going to cost extra.)

The medicine student sent me mails from Namibia to tell me of the enthusiastic reaction she encountered from doctors, nurses and patients alike, and this in itself is enough reward for me. In these cases, I feel that something like a simple cartoon can actually make a big difference. It makes information more accessible, especially in areas where not everyone is literate. A non-illustrated flyer might completely miss the mark, whereas appealing pictures are an invitation to reading.

This was months ago, and today I was pleasantly surprised when this student and her team (back in The Netherlands again and busy finishing their studies) sent me a lovely Thank You card, by snail mail no less, including these pictures:

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namibia2

I absolutely love this! It is worth far more to me than a few numbers in my bank account.

I wish every artist could be in the position to do this kind of free work. I wish every person in the world would not be burdened so much by this constant need to generate money. Money has become a form of tyranny, preventing people from being creative or generous. I sincerely hope new forms of economy will win out in my lifetime, and for instance basic income will become a reality for many, if not all.

Here’s another cartoon I made for free, for an event about New Economy, to illustrate how money should allow us to play and move, instead of locking us into these patterns of hoarding and coveting…

money

 

Women in Science

It’s been Women’s Day, so here’s a nice opportunity to post some comics about women scientists I recently did for magazine Wetenschap in Beeld – the first is about Alice Ball, who caused a breakthrough in the treatment of leprosy, 100 years ago…:

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And then there’s ballsy Maria Merian, who quite independently steered her own career as an entomologist in the 17th century:

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I drew Maria Merian before, in my book Science: a Discovery in Comics – in fact, I drew two pages about women in science through the ages (I think I posted them on this blog before, but it’s still worth repeating):

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Hurray, women!

Here’s to many more Women’s Days beyond the 8th of March…

Lesbian Protestant Science!

Ha, got your attention with that title, right?

In this blog, I’d like to showcase the three running comics series I have right now: one is for lesbian magazine Zij aan Zij, the second for protestant magazine Predikant & Samenleving, and the third is popular science magazine Wetenschap in Beeld.

minnie-plato

The comic about bisexual Minnie is the longest running, I’ve been drawing it for 13 years! In this episode, Minnie gets philosophical (as I get in Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics). I used this story as well in my latest book, on Love.

dsdeheer_refugees

Reverend De Heer (my alter ego) has been running since 2012. I love drawing it, it gives me a chance to comment on a lot of current issues. Most Dutch Protestant reverends are rather laid-back people who are pretty open-minded about everything – I should know, I’m the product of two of them (see for more on this my graphic novel Religion: a Discovery in Comics).

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The third comic is the newest: I’ve been drawing this for a popular science magazine for less than a year. I love doing research on different scientific topics (much like I did in Science: a Discovery in Comics) and it’s always a challenge to get all the information in the panel.

I like that being a simple comic artist gives me the chance to touch upon so many different subjects at the same time!

Love is out there!

My newest book, about Love, is now out in The Netherlands! It is a colorful, funny, semi-autobiographical and informational comic about all the ins and outs of love – with dating tips, a critical look at romance, notes on sex, kids, the seven year itch and a whole lot more!

liefde-stapel

This month is all about book promotion – there will be an official presentation in bookstore Scheltema in Amsterdam on February 9, then I will be at YaYCon on 19 February where I’ll sell the book and be on a panel, and on 4 and 5 March I’ll be at De Stripdagen in Rijswijk.

love-banner

It feels a bit strange. The world is on fire at the moment, every day seems to bring new fear and anger, and here I am, trying to generate attention for something as silly and trivial as love…

But is it? Is Love not exactly the thing that is lacking in the world right now? Is it not what all the protests are about? About this great unifying force that seems to be under threat? Is it not what all people really want – to love and be loved, and to have a safe place where to do just that? It goes beyond left or right, beyond politics and culture. Love is of all times, of all people. And yet, it’s still this mysterious energy, or as I say in my book [SPOILER ALERT]: “Love is an everyday mystery.”

So I’ll just give in to it, and make sure to enjoy it: after all, this book is also a celebration of the love in my life, with Yiri in the center, and a great circle of beloved family and friends around us.

There’s nothing wrong in reminding ourselves every now and then.

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(our marriage in 2009, p. 77)

 

Not My President

Technically, Donald Trump will not be MY president, but since the world is dealing with so many global issues and the US is a key player his presidency affects everyone. Like many others, I am deeply concerned.

not-our-president

I drew this comic as a submission for protest newspaper Resist! – it did not make the cut though, so I hope it will spread online.