'Kwab en de Wereld van Watals?'.

Stefan de Groot is a Dutch visual artist, who is active in several creative fields through his company Creative Cave. He makes comics, animated shorts, interaction designs, motion graphics for apps, and is a specialist in visual storytelling for museums and painting with the iPad. As a comic artist, he came to the attention in the 1990s with the adventures of the hippo 'Kwab', a character allegedly originating from a series of silent-era animated cartoons. De Groot also maintains Striptekenaars.nl, an agency for comics and illustrations in commission.

Early life and career
Stefan de Groot was born in 1968 in Brussels, Belgium, to Dutch parents. He started drawing at an early age, and developed an early passion for music. Fascinated by the world of Disney, he learned English at age ten from reading biographies and all books related to Walt Disney. Later on, he had to choose between his two talents, and decided to study percussion for jazz and light music at the Conservatories of Music in Rotterdam (1989-1990) and afterwards in Alkmaar (1990-1993). In his spare time he began working on comics and illustrations as well. Among his major influences are comic artists like Walt Kelly, Marten Toonder, Yves Chaland, Will Eisner, Piet Wijn and Jeff Smith. Together with his former teacher Paul Rooyackers, he self-published three limited edition illustrated booklets about 'Professor Dr. Anton Mol', a mole researcher who investigates rare animal species. One of the first animals the mole encounters is the hippo 'Kwab', who quickly branched out into a comic book series of his own, written and drawn solely by De Groot. The self-published 'Kwab en het Refrigeraat' (1992) was created in the classic text comics format. A wrist injury eventually ended his musical career, and De Groot fully focused on an artistic career from 1994 onwards.

Kwab poster by Stefan de Groot Kwab poster by Stefan de Groot
Film posters from the 1920s designed by De Groot to support the fictionalized story of Kwab's origins.

Originating from his creator's passion for classic animation, the hippo Kwab is presented as if he originated from the 1920s. De Groot concocted a backstory about his grandfather "Marinus Hollanders", who animated a couple of shorts with 'Kwab het Cloecke Nijlpaard' through his fictional Haarlem-based animation studio "Teekenfilmfabriek Hollandia". To illustrate his concept, De Groot designed a couple of vintage style film posters for these alleged silent era cartoon films. 'Kwab van het witte doek' (1996) was released through Yellow Paper Publishers, and has the author interact with the rediscovered creation of his grandfather in a mix of photo-comic and classical comic. Comics news magazine Stripschrift at least bought the backstory, as they were glad "readers had the chance to get acquainted with a piece of lost animation history" (Stripschrift #298). Zozolala also praised the artist's "tribute to his grandfather" (Zozolala #92).

In 1998, De Groot self-published a couple of mini-comics in which Kwab assumes a starring role in literary classics, after which the author embarked upon the more epic tale 'Kwab en de Wereld van Watals?'. The first installment, 'De Retroflits' (1999) is full of meta-humor and has Kwab revisit his previous on-screen adventures, before he ends up in the "World of Whatif". Released by the Groningen-based Gopher Publishers in January 2000, 'De Retroflits' was the first Dutch comic book which could only be purchased online by printing-on-demand. In the summer of 2000, Gopher also released an English edition, 'The Retroflash: Kwab and the World of Whatif?'. Always at the vanguard of new technologies, De Groot was already experimenting with the e-book, webcomic and motion comics formats at the same time. However, Kwab's paper adventures came to an end. Distribution to normal bookstores was impossible, as Gopher refused to offer retailers profitable margins. De Groot began posting new episodes on the website kwab.net in 2001, and on the Kwab weblog from 2004 on. Both are now defunct, and the character eventually went on a long hiatus. In 2022, to celebrate the character's 30th anniversary, De Groot released the compilation 'Kwab 30 jaar', containing comics, illustrations, interviews and previously unpublished daily episodes of a proposed newspaper comic.

Professor Dr. Anton Mol - 'De Laatste Wereldkampioenschappen'.

Creative Cave
Stefan de Groot is mostly active as a multimedia artist through his own Creative Cave studio in Haarlem. He makes illustrations, animated cartoons, concepts and apps, and designs interactive multimedia experiences for museums. Creative Cave also publishes children's books, picture books and comics for print and interactive eBooks with sound and animation. Among his commercial clients are KLM Airlines, Stiching Kinderpostzegels (children's stamps), VKG Recycle and the local broadcasting company RTV-Noord. By 2003 De Groot had experimented with an interactive webcomic about solar energy called 'Het Zonneschip'. With John Croezen he was responsible for the 2008 animated series based on Dick Bruna's 'Miffy' for broadcasting foundation KRO. From 2010 on he has specialized in making animated cartoons based on existing children's books illustrations for apps, such as 'Timo en het Toverboek' and 'Timo en het Toverstokje' by Rian Visser and illustrator Klaas Verplancke, as well as 'De Gelukkige Olifant' by comedian Youp van 't Hek. He also teamed up with Paul Rooyackers again to rework their book series 'The Incredible Tales of Prof. Dr Anton Mole' into the interactive audiobook 'Anton Mol en de ontdekking van het eiBoek' (2014), for which De Groot provided both animation and voices. Creative Cave also released the eBook 'Olivier Flap Kleuravontuur' (2014), starring the little elephant created in the 1990s by Dirk Arend.

Besides his multimedia activities, De Groot manages Striptekenaars.nl since 2004, a creative studio for comics and other artwork (like puzzles and coloring pictures) for print and digital media. In an early stage, De Groot worked together with Dutchmen like Dirk Arend as a consultant and Piet Zeeman as a scriptwriter, but nowadays several of his commissions are made in cooperation with the Argentinian artist Atilio Millan. Striptekenaars.nl makes comics for organizations and staff magazines, and designs mascots for campings and recreation parks. Among the notable productions were the daily comic strip 'Fondsie & Friends' for the 3FM fund (aimed at the support of charities and non-commercial organizations), the children's book 'Dex & Zo' for the Dex Foundation, the comic strip 'Huize Nooitgedacht' for the magazine of mortgage intermediary De Hypotheker, and 'Professor Kruisinga en de Luizenjager' (2012) for the Plant Breeding lab of the University of Wageningen. Striptekenaars.nl was also responsible for a satirical 10-page comic about Dutch queen Maxima for the Maxima special of Morks' Magazijn (2011).

iPad painter
Stefan de Groot is an expert in drawing and painting in an impressionistic and realistic style on the iPad. He spreads his knowledge though books, workshops and with tutorials on his YouTube account 'Stayf Draws', and was invited by Apple to demonstrate their new  iPad Pro and Apple Pencil in Amsterdam. Popular projects are his 'LookUp Haarlem' series with details from buildings in his hometown Haarlem, and his multimedia exposition 'We Gaan Naar Zandvoort!', which opened at the Zandvoort Museum in November 2018. With a series of iPad paintings, De Groot retraced the route of the original 1920s tram ride from Amsterdam to the seaside resort Zandvoort, both from a historical and a contemporary perspective. Also part of the exposition is a large panorama of the town's recreational beach life in 1928. In 2020, he released the book 'Het Spaarne Stroomt', an ode to his hometown Haarlem with watercolor paintings based on the city's cultural life in the past 50 years. The paintings were made for an animation to the 1973 song 'Het Spaarne (Stroomt Voorbij)' by Boudewijn de Groot and Lennart Nijgh, which is part of the permanent exhibition in the Museum Haarlem.

Stefan de Groot was nominated for the Art and Culture prize De Olifant in 2016.

Part of Stefan de Groot's Zandvoort panorama.


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