'Ragebol' ("Today is my birthday! Hurray!") from the 3 January 1976 issue of Okki.

Stef Vanstiphout was a Belgian children's book illustrator and political cartoonist. From the late 1950s until the early 1970s, he livened up the pages of various children's books for the Belgian and Dutch publishing houses Standaard Uitgeverij, Van In, Opdebeek, Altiora, Goudvink and Van Goor Zonen and Shalton. For the Dutch children's magazine Okki, he drew two gag comics, 'Puk De Nar' (1974-1975) and 'Ragebol' (1975-1977). Between 1956 and 1981, he was one of the house cartoonists of the right-wing conservative magazine 't Pallieterke, despite being actually more left-wing in his personal life. In 1972, he drew a two-page satirical comic strip for this magazine, lampooning politician Paul Vanden Boeynants.

Early life and career
Stef Vanstiphout was born in 1931 in Hasselt, the capital of the Belgian province Limburg. His father taught technical drawing at the local Limburgse Ambachtsschool. Between 1947 and 1951, Vanstiphout studied art the École Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc in Liège. While still a student, using the pen name "Willem Tell", he submitted his drawings to Robbedoes, the Dutch-language version of the comic magazine Spirou, published by Dupuis in Marcinelle. The first one was printed in the 30 October 1947 issue, and a half year later, the seventeen year-old artist was hired as a freelance illustrator. Between 1948 and 1955, he provided spot illustrations for the Dutch-language Dupuis magazines Robbedoes and Humoradio (nowadays Humo), making drawings for the sections 'Snuffeltje' (Robbedoes) and 'Even Testen' (Humoradio).

In 1954, a design contest was held for the poster of the next edition of the Virga Jesse Festival - held every seven years in Hasselt. Vanstiphout sent in two illustrations and won both the first and the second place. Since he was already the winner, the jury felt it was only fair to give the second prize to another contestant. The contest led to several commissions from the Hasselt tourist department and the local publishing company Hasseltse Uitgeverij Heideland. In 1956, Vanstiphout got married and moved to Berchem before settling in the Antwerp city centre.

Illustration for the 'Inge en Bart in de Sprookjestuin' (1971).

Children's book illustrations
Throughout his career, Vanstiphout was most visible as a children's book illustrator, even though at times he also worked on publications for adult readers. From the late 1950s until the mid-1960s, he worked for the publishing house Shalton, doing cover designs for Dutch-language editions of books based on the popular TV series 'Lassie', 'Bonanza', 'The Texas Rangers' and 'Ivanhoe'. For the Zuid-Nederlandse Uitgeverij, he also livened up the covers of Dutch-language pocket editions of the 'Bob Morane' adventure books by Henri Vernes. Together with Eugène Winters, he illustrated novels based on the TV sitcom 'Schipper Naast Mathilde' (1955-1963). This comedy show also inspired comic strip adaptations by Willy Vandersteen, Eduard De Rop and Eugeen Decamps ('Geschipper Naast Mathilde', 1960) and by Johan Anthierens and Eddy Ryssack ('Kapitein Matthias', 1960).

'Pluk de Nar', from Okki magazine.

Between 1959 and 1981, Vanstiphout illustrated many youth books for Standaard Uitgeverij, varying from historical adventure novels by Johan Ballegeer, socially engaged books by René Swartenbroekx and thrilling boys' books by Aster Berkhof. Also for Standaard, Vanstiphout illustrated the 'Rode Ridder' novel 'De Slavenjacht' (1979), written by Leopold Vermeiren. From the mid-1960s through 1980, he was also a prominent illustrator for the children's book line of Uitgeverij Jozef Van In in Lier. Together with Gommaar Timmermans, he illustrated Cyriel Verleyen's children's book 'Nuk Op Het Orgeltje' (Van In, 1966). 

Around the same period, Vanstiphout was present at the Averbode publishing house, contributing to the popular children's book series 'Vlaamse Filmkens' (nowadays 'Vlaamse Filmpjes'). Internationally, his best known work was the 1970s children's book series 'Inge en Bart' by Gerda Van Cleemput, published in Belgium by De Goudvink, and also translated in English ('Susie and Sam') and French ('Mireille et Vincent'). For the Dutch children's book publishing house Van Goor Zonen, Vanstiphout used a photo-realistic drawing style for illustrating the popular 'Marieke' books (1973), a series originally illustrated by Rie Kooyman.

Okki magazine
In the mid-1970s, Vanstiphout drew comic features for the Dutch pre-school children's magazine Okki. Based on stories by Antwerp scriptwriter Jo Briels, he first created the gag comic 'Puk De Nar' (1974-1975) about a funny jester. It was followed by the 'Ragebol' comic (1975-1977), starring a young boy with messy hair.

'In Dienst van Moskou - Een Nieuw Avontuur van James van den Bond' (political satire for 't Pallieterke, starring politicians Paul Vanden Boeynants and P.W. Seghers, 23 March 1972).

't Pallieterke
Between December 1957 and 1981, Vanstiphout was a cartoonist for the satirical right-wing conservative magazine 't Pallieterke, making both political and non-political drawings, as well as caricatures for the movie section. A long-running Pallieterke feature by Vanstiphout was 'Onze Vlaamse Woordenschat', which features literal visualisations of proverbs, sayings and other figure-of-speech. In 1972, he created a satirical comic strip that featured the Belgian Minister of Defense Paul Vanden Boeynants in a 'James Bond' parody. In the strip, Vanden Boeynants travels behind the Iron Curtain to fight P.W. Segers who, just like Vanden Boeynants, was once Prime Minister as well as Minister of Defense. Both politicians were christian democrats, but in this comic, Segers is a Communist spy. In real life, Segers was also head of the Christian-democratic union (ACV), while Vanden Boeynants was a wealthy businessman active in the meat industry. 

Even though he spent many years working for a right-wing magazine, in his personal convictions, Vanstiphout was actually more left-wing. His sister-in-law Gabby once saw him drawing with his left hand. When she expressed her surprise that he “was a lefty”, the cartoonist joked: “Yes, but don't tell my boss.”

'Commedia dell'Carte' playing cards (1977). Various 20th-century Belgian politicians portray famous people from Belgium's history. Willy Claes is cast as Archduke Albert VII of Austria, Louis van Geyt as Nicolaas Zannekin, Wilfried Martens as Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle, Rika De Backer as Margaret of Austria, Leo Tindemans as Desiderius Erasmus and Hugo Schiltz as Pieter De Coninck. 

Playing cards
Another satirical project by Vanstiphout was making parody playing cards with caricatures of Belgian celebrities. The first set, 'Commedia dell'Carte' (1977), depicted Belgian politicians and was produced for Aurelia Games in collaboration with the TV journalist Jan Bauwens. The second set, made in 1978 for the Belgian public TV channel, featured caricatures of Flemish media stars.

Final years and death
In 1973, Vanstiphout moved to Edegem, a town five kilometres south of Antwerp. By 1981, he was showing early symptoms of dementia, and his graphic career came to an end. Vanstiphout spent his final years in a rest home in Mortsel, where he died in 1995, at the age of 64.

Over a quarter of a century after his death, the life and work of Stef Vanstiphout is far from forgotten. Between 20 February and 16 May 2021, his work was exhibited in the Hasselt City Museum. The catalogue 'Stef Vanstiphout (1931-1995), Dertig Jaar Tekenplezier' was released by the museum to accompany the exhibit.


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