Burn-out dagboek by Maaike Hartjes
'Burn-out dagboek'.

Maaike Hartjes is a Dutch comic artist, (live) cartoonist and illustrator from Amsterdam. She rose to prominence during the 1990s wave of alternative cartoonists in the Netherlands with lighthearted diary comics about her everyday life, which she draws in a minimalistic yet expressive style. Originating from the small-press scene, her work eventually gained a wider audience through publications in the young women's magazine Viva and the newspaper NRC.Next. Later installments of her diary tackle more serious subjects, such as her travel journals and the critically acclaimed chronicle of her burn-out experiences. Along with Barbara Stok and Gerrie Hondius, Hartjes forms the so-called "Big Three" of Dutch female comics, which popularized the autobiographical genre in their home country.

Viva Magazine comic by Maaike Hartjes
In the Viva issue of 13 November 2000, Maaike visits comics shop Lambiek. where Barbara Stok is signing her work.

Early life and influences
Born in Amsterdam in 1972, Maaike Hartjes started drawing comics based on her own life when she was only six years old. As a child she read comics like Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske' and the Dutch Donald Duck weekly, while she later developed a passion for 'Thorgal' by Grzegorz Rosinski and Jean Van Hamme and other fantasy comics by Loisel, René Hausman and Yslaire. Later in life she mostly underwent inspiration from American indie artists, such as Chris Ware and the comics diaries of Joe Matt. All the while she continued to draw herself. She broke off her studies in Mathematics at the Amsterdam VU university and enrolled at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU), where she graduated in Illustrative Design in 1997.

Maaike Hartjes' contribution to the chain comic 'Het Lieve Leven' in Incognito #8 (October 1995).

Comics career
While still a student, she published her first comics in the Dutch small press scene. She participated in a drawing contest organized by Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad, and caught the attention of jury member Jeroen Steehouwer. Steehouwer introduced her to his colleagues of Studio Funny Farm in Arnhem, who encouraged her to pursue her ambitions, and especially her diary comics. From 1992 on, Hartjes' artwork appeared in the Funny Farm magazine Razzafrazz, as well as Iris, Robin Schouten's Incognito, Sven van der Hart's De Stripper, Florijn and Michel den Hamer's Zookie-krant. Her work really caught on when it was featured in Zone 5300, an alternative comic magazine launched by Robert van der Kroft and Tonio van Vugt in 1994. One of her homemade mini-comix was even nominated for the 1995 "Album of the Year" award in the category "Originally Dutch" at the Dutch comic festival of Het Stripschap.

Lyla, by Maaike Hartjes

De Zwarte Handel
By 1994 she opened her own studio in Amsterdam with Floris Oudshoorn, called De Zwarte Handel. Besides Hartjes and Oudshoorn, other artists have frequented the atelier throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, such as Mark Hendriks, Floor de Goede, Ben Westervoorde, Peter Koch and Margreet de Heer.

Although Hartjes had developed a realistic style, as showcased in her fantasy epic 'Lyla' in Iris, she actually became known for the sketchy miniature doodles which she used in her diary. Her minimalistically drawn characters allowed her to quickly capture everyday experiences, and provided a personal and light-footed touch to her casual slice of life depictions. Inspiration came from working in the studio, a visit to the supermarket, her relationship with fellow comic artist Mark Hendriks and other events in the life of a young woman in the city. Close (artistic) friends like Floor de Goede and Ruben Steeman have regular guest appearances in her strips.

'Maaike's Dagboekje' from the first issue of Zone 5300 (1994)

Maaike's Dagboekje
Hartjes self-published several installments of 'Maaike's Dagboekje' ("Maaike's Little Diary") until her work was picked up by De Harmonie/Oog&Blik for the first time in 1996. With her comics diaries, Hartjes was at the vanguard of a group of female authors who came to notice in the 1990s. Barbara Stok and Gerrie Hondius began creating autobiographical comics around the same time, and the three were quickly labelled "The Big Three" of female comics. Although autobiographical comics had been made in the previous decades by Peter Pontiac and Gerard Leever, the 1990s generation surely popularized the genre. Since then, it has been picked up by such authors as Floor de Goede, Michiel van de Pol, Margreet de Heer, Edith Kuyvenhoven, Marq van Broekhoven and Sandra de Haan.

comic by Maaike Hartjes
Some of Hartjes' strips cover more serious issues, in this case the death of the three-year old daughter of her friends.

While Stok and Hondius have always covered serious personal problems in their comics, Hartjes' strips initially contained mainly comical anecdotes. This changed a bit when she gained a larger audience with her weekly half-page comic in Viva, a magazine for young women, from 2000 until 2009. From then on, identifiable subjects for Viva's readership, like relationship problems and overall insecurities, became part of her diary pages as well. More global themes were also present in 'Maaike's Grote Dagboekje' ("Maaike's Big Diary", 2002), the first extensive collection of her work. Besides episodes of her Viva strip, the book also chronicles the author's correspondence with the Serbian comic artists Aleksandar Zograf and Nikola Vitkovic during the NATO bombings in Kosovo in 1999. De Harmonie/Oog & Blik subsequently released other collections of her work, such as 'Hartjes 1' (2004), 'Hartjes 2' (2005), 'Zo lief ben je nou ook weer niet!' (2007), 'Hartenjagen' (2009) and 'Gruwelijk!' (2011). A French language comic with her work was published by La Cafetière in 1999, while samples of her work have also appeared in Roberta Gregory's 'Naughty Bits' comic book in the USA.

Hong Kong by Maaike Hartjes
'Hong Kong Dagboek'.

Besides Viva, Maaike's autobiographical comics and travel chronicles have appeared in NRC.next, De Volkskrant and Francine Oomen's Hoe Overleef Ik magazine. The editors of NRC usually gave her a funny assignment to do, which she could then cover in her comics reports. For the children's magazine Hoe Overleef Ik (2008), Hartjes made comic strips based on real-life stories submitted by readers. The trips Hartjes and her partner Mark Hendriks made through Asia inspired her to experiment with different lay-outs and graphical styles, often influenced by Japanese design. This became visible in her travel journals, which can be read as a mix of diary and comics journalism. Through a government grant, Hartjes and Hendriks spent a month in the fascinating city of Hong Kong. The chronicle of their journey was a joint effort, published by Oog & Blik under the title 'Hong Kong dagboek' (2008). When Hartjes travelled to South Africa for a series of workshops, she was confronted with the remains of colonialism and Apartheid, as well as her own prejudices. Her report appeared under the title 'Donker' at De Bezige Bij/Oog&Blik in 2010.

Burn-out diary
In late 2014 an overworked Hartjes suffered from a burn-out. Unable to work, the artist did manage to find comfort in her comics diary. For months, she wrote and drew an openhearted account of her severe tiredness, panic attacks, despair, feelings of guilt and the general ignorance about her condition, but also about the support of her family and friends. Graphically, the burn-out diary was a true tour-de-force. Hartjes had incorporated photographs and other snippets in her travel journals before, but now she fully blended her trademark drawing style with the art of collage. Post-its, washi tape, wallpaper pieces, cut-outs, public transport tickets and even tax authorities enveloppes were used to construct metaphorical expressions of her emotions and a unique narrative style. Maaike's 300-page 'Burn-out Dagboek' (2018) was eventually released by Nijgh & Van Ditmar, to much critical acclaim. She has since then continued to post similar diary comic strips on her social media channels, most notably ones about her relfections and experiences with the 2020 corona pandemic. She uses an iPad Pro for making her online strips since early 2020.

'Tekeningen Rekeningen'.

Promotion of comics and creator rights
Maaike Hartjes has always been a strong advocate of comics as an artform and the rights of their creators. In 1997 she compiled a comic book called 'Old Cake Comix', which contained work by solely female creators. With Jean-Marc van Tol, Albo Helm, Mark Hendriks, Marcel Ruijters and Nardja Kerkmeer, she founded the Nukomix collective (2000) in order to promote a different and more innovative form of comics in the Netherlands. In 2011 she accepted a joint chairmanship of the federation of Dutch comic artists BNS, together with Hanco Kolk. During her term (2011-2013), she strongly focused on copyright and image rights for comic creators. In a series of informative comic strips called 'Tekeningen Rekeningen' (2013), she furthermore gives business advice to freelance creatives. In 2017 she was in the race to become "Comic Artist Laureate of the Netherlands", along with Margreet de Heer, Pieter Hogenbirk and Robert van der Kroft, but the honor eventually went to De Heer.

Graphical interpretation of 'De Kinderballade' for Strips in Stereo.

Other graphic projects
In addition to her comics, Maaike Hartjes does commercial assignments through Hans Buying's Comic House agency. She makes illustrations in all sorts of styles, and is for hire as a live cartoonist at business events. She has furthermore participated in collective projects like 'Strips in Stereo' (2006) and 'Mooi is dat!' (2010), to which she contributed comics interpretations of the Boudewijn de Groot song 'De Kinderballade' and Paul van Ostaijen's poem 'Boem Paukeslag!', respectively. Between 2004 and 2006 she wrote the scripts for the comic strip 'Siglo XXV', which was drawn by Ben Westervoorde and published on the back-page of National Geographic Junior.

On 28 February 2016, during the Stripdagen in Rijswijk, she was awarded the Dutch Stripschap Prize 2016 for her body of work and commitment to the industry. She reluctantly accepted the prize, but refused to join the jury for next year's award, largely because of her critical opinion about the conservative organization behind the event.

Comic strip from 2005 with use of photography.


Series and books by Maaike Hartjes in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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