'Vera de muis'.

Marjolein Bastin is a Dutch watercolor painter and illustrator of wildlife sceneries. A longtime contributor to the women's weekly Libelle, her work gained international fame through books, calendars and merchandise. All of Bastin's drawings are made out of her fascination for the tiny details of nature, and depict plants, birds and other animals. In terms of storytelling, she is known for the children's book series about Vera the Mouse, whose adventures were serialized in Libelle and regularly use sequential illustrations in the narratives.

Early life
She was born in 1943 in Loenen aan de Vecht as Marjolein uit den Bogaard . Her father was school teacher, photographer and children's book writer John Henri uit den Bogaard (1911-1993), known for his 'Swiebertje' books (1936-1974). This loveable tramp character became even more famous through a popular TV series adaptation (1955-1975). Already in her earliest childhood, Marjolein spent hours in the family garden, observing the plants and animals. At age nine, she and her family moved to the Veluwe, a region rich with forests. The natural surroundings offered a wide range of new trees, birds and insects for her to discover. She collected the skeletons of dead birds and field mice, and kept spiders, ants and bugs in bottles. To share her passion with the world, she began to draw her observations.

Early career
Bastin enrolled at the Art Academy of Arnhem, but felt restricted by the imposed instructions and techniques. She did meet her husband Gaston Bastin there. After graduation, she spent the 1960s working for advertising agencies and publishing houses. Her talent fully came to blossom in 1974, when she became an illustrator for the women's weekly Libelle. The magazine gradually opened up its pages to nature-related topics, and by 1980 Bastin received her own column, called 'Natuurlijk' ("Naturally"). Since then, she reports her readers about her observations in nature through detailed watercolor illustrations and handwritten commentaries.

Marjolein Bastin's activities quickly multiplied. In 1979, she also got a regular spot in the newly launched nature magazine Grasduinen, for which she illustrated a monthly wildlife spread. She filled several nature-related books with her drawings, either created on her own or in collaboration with Grasduinen editor-in-chief Frans Buissink or bird watcher Nico de Haan. She additionally illustrated her father's children's book 'Het Voorleesboek van Hops' (1977). Bastin found a worldwide audience through the many diaries, notebooks, calendars, eiderdown covers, dinnerware and greeting cards filled with her depictions of butterflies, birds, flowers and Dutch polder landscapes. The Italian nature magazine Airone also ran her illustrations and, since the 1990s, Marjolein Bastin's artwork has appeared on a great many Hallmark cards in the USA.

Vera de Muis
Most of Bastin's drawings are true to nature, but she also tried her hand at fantasy. Inspired by the British illustrator Beatrix Potter, she created 'Vera de Muis' as another weekly section in Libelle during the 1980s and 1990s. The adventures of the little field mouse also appeared in several booklets published by Terra in Zutphen (1985-1988). Vera lives in a cosy house in the forest, where she has both funny and exciting adventures with her friends, including the wren Kipje, Mrs. Bumblebee ("Mevrouw Hommel") and Fritsje the mouse. Bastin's dog Saar also got a role in the stories. The animal characters are dressed in long skirts, cute aprons and sweet bows, adding a sense of nostalgia to the series. While the tales are best described as picture stories, several illustrations follow a sequential narrative, like in comic stories.

Marjolein Bastin's success prompted her husband Gaston to give up his dayjob with an architectural firm to become her agent. Since 2001, daughter Sanna runs the Marjolein Bastin webshop. Marjolein and Gaston Bastin divide their time living in the Dutch Wadden isle Ameland, the rural town Wekerom and their international country homes in Missouri, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. Their unique landscapes have offered new inspiration, but Bastin's focus has remained on typical Dutch sceneries and wildlife.

It would be unfair to simply dismiss Marjolein Bastin's colorful drawings as kitschy. Not only because of the worldwide interest in her work, but also because of the artist's meticulous devotion to her craft. Each painting is made with a keen eye for detail and sincere fascination for her subject matter. Her drawings capture the beauty and cohesion of nature, but also its transience. Her book 'Vindsels' (1989), for instance, collected several of her drawings of dead animals and rotting plants. In her own words, Marjolein Bastin likes to "offer people a simple reminder to pause and enjoy nature and allow it to be a source of serenity, energy, and healing."

'Vera de muis'.


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