Bart van Leeuwen is a Dutch illustrator, who also created the newspaper comic 'Brammetje Fok' in the 1960s. He was born as Bartel van Leeuwen in the Rotterdam district of Kralingen. The Van Leeuwen family fled the city after the bombing of Rotterdam by the Germans on 14 May 1940, and spent the rest of the war in a dikehouse in Kinderdijk. It was during this period that Bartel developed a fascination for boats and the sea. He has been an avid sailor his entire life, just like his wife. Their children have also inherited this passion for the sea. Son Wessel is a marine engineer, and daughter Martine is a keen yachtswoman, who has even participated in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Van Leeuwen's other early interest was drawing, and he grew up reading comics like 'Sneeuwvlok de Eskimo' by Wim Meuldijk and 'Kapitein Rob' by Pieter Kuhn. He studied advertising art at the Academy of Fine Arts in his hometown Rotterdam and spent the first years of his career working for agencies like Erro Studio, Publi Studio and Studio Brul. During this period he met Jan Kruis, Jan van der Voo and Martin Lodewijk, three local artists who also worked for Publi Studio and have become important Dutch comic artists. Van Leeuwen created the comic strip 'Roffeltje', about a little drummer boy who can't keep up with his band and gets lost. The comic ran in the local paper De Havenloods between 1961 and 1963.
It shall be no surprise that Van Leeuwen's best-known comic strip deals with a sailor. He presented the adventures of 'Brammetje Fok' and his sailboat Kokanje to the editors of the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad in 1964. The project was accepted, and Van Leeuwen was paired with journalist and crime novelist Cor Docter (1925-2006) to create the stories. They added new characters, such as the parrot Tutu and the cat Caro. Docter was succeeded by Maarten de Jong, another journalist, in 1970. De Jong gave Brammetje another sidekick in the clown Marino. 'Brammetje Fok' appeared in Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad from 1964 to 1972, and was additionally printed in other local newspapers, including the Haagsche Courant, Arnheemse Courant, Leidsch Dagblad, Gooi en Eemlander, Tubantia, Limburgia Pers, Zwolsche Courant and Gronings Nieuwsblad. The publishing house Sari released several book collections of the strip in the period 1971-1972.
After the sudden cancellation of 'Brammetje Fok' by a new editorial board of the newspaper, Bart van Leeuwen has been working mainly as an artist for commercial clients. These are mostly local retailers and companies from the Rotterdam area. He has made many cartoons, illustrations and ads for Delta Contact, a paper published by Van Cauteren for the local shopping mall in the Rotterdam borough Hoogvliet. Other important clients are the fastfood chain McDonald's (for whom he has designed many murals), Hallmark, Mobil Oil and Horeca Onderwijs. He has also continued to make drawings for De Havenloods. This included illustrations for articles about Feyenoord, and for a serial about the construction of the Rotterdam metro system.
Van Leeuwen's illustrations have also appeared in the children's magazines Donald Duck, Okki and Taptoe, and in many children's books published by Van Goor & Zonen. He was responsible for the illustrations in the 1970s reprints of the book series about the gnome 'Okkie Pepernoot' (1973-1980) by Leonard Roggeveen. Gnomes were also the main characters in the reading books he made with writer Marita Franken for the primary education, and in the controversial children's book 'Alvar en de kasteelkinderen' (1975) by Martha and Bert Mestland. The latter was eventually forbidden by the Netherlands Government Information Service because it prominently featured the Dutch princes Willem-Alexander, Friso and Constantijn. Since his retirement, Bart van Leeuwen has continued to make occasional illustrations for naval societies.