Jan van Haasteren is a Dutch artist, who started out making many humorous comics for a variety of publications, of which 'Baron van Tast' is probably the best-known. He is most famous however for his large and crowded drawings, which have appeared on posters and jigsaw puzzles. His work is characterized by its high density of (visual) jokes and absurdities.
Van Haasteren was born in Schiedam as the eldest of three sons, and grew up during World War II. After the war, he first attended the technical school, where he learned to become a home and decoration painter. He then studied Publicity and Advertising at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. Although he was already a persistent prankster, he graduated with ease. After fulfilling his military service, he began his career with the small Rotterdam-based advertising agency Grijseels, before landing a job with the larger agency Nijgh & Van Ditmar. In his spare time, he had his first experiences as a comic artist, when he assisted Loek van Delden on his newspaper comic 'Smidje Verholen'.
He joined the Marten Toonder studios in 1962, where he initially worked in the animation department. He eventually joined the comics production. From 1963 to 1966, his main work was pencilling Marten Toonder's newspaper strip 'Kappie'. Through Toonder, he also illustrated numerous stories for the magazines with licensed characters of De Geïllustreerde Pers. In alternation with Jan Steeman, he drew a story with Walt Disney's 'Little Hiawatha' every other week for Donald Duck between 1965 and 1969. He also drew several 'Hiawatha' gag pages for the women's weekly Margriet in 1966. Van Haasteren additionally drew stories with 'The Big Bad Wolf' between 1967 and 1969, as well as as comic stories with Hanna-Barbera's 'The Flintstones' for the comic book of the same name. The scripts for these productions were mostly by Andries Brandt and Patty Klein.
Van Haasteren left Toonder in 1966, and joined the studios of Joop Geesink. There, he worked on a comic based on the TV puppet series 'Rick de Kikker', which was published in the Heintje comics paper of supermarket chain Albert Heijn. This strip was under supervision of Frits Kloezeman, and made in cooperation with inker Ton Beek. Van Haasteren also illustrated a book with the character, called 'Rick en de gestolen gemeentekas' (1967).
He started freelancing in 1967, and the Toonder studios remained one of his main clients. He created 'Bartje en Opa' with Patty Klein, which appeared in free local papers from Amsterdam (1967-1970) and The Hague (1970-1971). One of the first Dutch family comics, it was continued under the title 'Erik en Opa' in Malmberg's school paper Jippo from 1975. In 1968, he took over the funny animal comic 'Polletje Pluim' from Dick Matena in Prinses for a couple of years.
In 1969, he did pencil work on the somewhat absurd and supernatural Toonder newspaper strip 'Horre, Harm en Hella' in cooperation Thé Tjong Khing, which had previously been drawn by the Spanish artist Juan Escandell and was later continued by Georges Mazure. The stories were written by Andries Brandt and Patty Klein and published in De Telegraaf. Van Haasteren worked with Brandt for De Telegraaf again from 1970 to 1972, when he was the artist of 'Aafje Anders', a comic about an adventurous girl in Amsterdam. The artwork of this comic was later continued by Robert Hamilton and Richard Klokkers. Van Haasteren furthermore penciled five stories of Marten Toonder's 'Panda' strip. In addition, he did promotional work for Joop Geesink's 'Loekie de Leeuw'.
Jan van Haasteren was present in the comics magazine Pep of De Geïllustreerde Pers from 1972 to 1975. He started out with the absurd series about the hallucinating 'Baron van Tast tot Zeveren', in which nothing was what it seemed. It was the first comic strip in which Van Haasteren hid his trademark background jokes, such as shark fins and snorkels coming out of the ground, peeking eyes, false teeth, mysterious hands and monsters. For the scripts, he got help from Renee van Utteren, Lo Hartog van Banda, Patty Klein and Frits van der Heide. He also made 'Voortvluchtig' (1973), a gag strip about an escaped prisoner being chased by a prison guard. With Patty Klein, he made a story of Dick Matena's comic 'De Argonautjes' in 1974.
He returned to the pages of Donald Duck with two stories starring Wim Meuldijk's character 'Ketelbinkie' (1973-1974). It was then taken over by Jan van der Voo, while Van Haasteren started his own series 'Oom Arie op Safari' (two stories in 1974). In Sjors, Van Haasteren created the comic about 'Tinus Trotyl', a character with a sickly fascination for explosives. The scripts were written by Philip Sohier with assistance from Patty Klein from 1974. The comic was continued in Eppo after Pep and Sjors merged to this new magazine in 1975 and 1976. For Eppo, Van Haasteren also drew 'De Stuntels' in cooperation with Toon van Driel (1978) and his final new comics effort, 'Brian en de Brainbox' from a script by David Ireland (1985).
Throughout the years, Van Haasteren has worked extensively with scriptwriter Patty Klein. Besides previously mentioned productions, they created 'Ole en Kreutel' for Vecomijkrant and, for Geesink Productions, a series of stories under the title 'Zij Maakten Geschiedenis' for the TV show 'NOS Kiosk'. Between 1978 and 1987, KRO Gids ran their comic strip 'Sjaak en Oom George', about a boy and his inventor uncle.
Van Haasteren and Klein were also the initiators of the satirical magazine De Vrije Balloen in 1975. Launched out of dissatisfaction with the dismissals of many artists after the merger of Sjors and Pep to Eppo, this magazine offered its contributors full artistic freedom. This resulted in more experimental and adult-themed comic stories by Robert van der Kroft, Jan Steeman, Thé Tjong-Khing, Andries Brandt and of course Jan van Haasteren, who often used the pseudonyms Harold Hurry and Jean Pion for these stories. Van Haasteren also created the magazine mascot, the little devil Tobias Quintenpreut. The team was helped by Jan's brother Herman for the production, and by Hans van den Boom for the finances. Later on other artists joined, such as Willy Lohmann, Harry Balm, Gerrit de Jager, Wim Stevenhagen, Eric Schreurs, Paul Schindeler and Paul Bodoni. The final issue appeared in 1981.
Van Haasteren has additionally worked as an advertising illustrator, and especially his crowded posters became well-known. The first one he made was for Bokma lemon gin. The posters were such a success, that boardgame manufacturer asked him to produce these type of drawings for a series of jigsaw puzzles, which earned him international fame. Van Haasteren has made about a hundred puzzles for Jumbo, which are all set on different locations and vary from 150 to 5.000 pieces. The many background jokes from his 'Baron van Tast' comic returned, and he added several more. Besides the shark fins, hands and eyes, most of the puzzles also feature Saint Nicholas and a cameo of the artist himself. Although over 80 years old, Jan van Haasteren still makes an average of three puzzles a year in his atelier in Bergen, Noord-Holland. To cope up with the demand for more puzzles, Jumbo opened Studio Jan van Haasteren in 2013 to secure the production. Affiliated artists are Rob Derks and Dick Heins.
In 2006, Jan van Haasteren won the Bulletje & Boonestaak Scale and in 2013 he became a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau for his contributions to Dutch comics culture, and for his role as inspirator of comic artists and illustrators. He was guest editor of the second edition of the StripGlossy by Uitgeverij Personalia in September 2016, and for the occasion he made two new stories with 'Baron van Tast', of course in cooperation with Patty Klein.