Jan van Haasteren FAQ


For decades now, Jan van Haasteren has been creating highly detailed, colourful and, above all, humorous illustrations exclusively for Jumbo.

Seasoned fans get straight to work searching for the characteristic shark fin – Jan’s trademark signature. But there are other characteristics too: Saint Nicholas (or Sinterklaas in Dutch), the hands, the dentures and Jan’s self-portrait almost always feature as well.

The Jumbo collection includes dozens of Jan van Haasteren puzzles of 150 to 5,000 pieces. Each year, the Jumbo collection is expanded to include new Jan van Haasteren puzzles.

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Who is Jan?

1936 The early years – little Johannes

Johannes was born in Schiedam on 24 February 1936. He is the oldest of three sons born to Van Haasteren. His passion for drawing kicked off from the moment he could hold a pencil.

1945 After liberation – plans for the future

The war years were hard in Schiedam. After the war, Jan was such a thin lad that the Red Cross sent him off to England to get back into shape with a foster family. It worked: four months later he returned to the Netherlands weighing twice as much! At technical school in Schiedam, he chose to study as a home and decorative painter. This certificate provided the added advantage of opening the door to the Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam (ABK). Jan’s report reflected his talent, to say nothing of his plans for the future: a six (out of ten) for all subjects, with the exception of a nine for drawing and an eight for application and behaviour.

1950 (1) The 1950s – brushstrokes and other antics

Acting on his father’s advice, Jan studied Publicity & Advertising at the academy. “You can’t make a living from drawing and painting; it will only bring you poverty,” was his father’s opinion. The study took four years to complete. Jan shone out because of his talent and his antics. He cracked bicycle locks in the cycle shed and climbed through attic hatches to get to other classrooms. He was often sent to the ‘headmaster’ with his mates. Despite his love of pranks, Jan passed with flying colours and already had two job offers on qualifying.

1950 (2) The 1950s – sniffing around comics

After a brief spell at a small ad agency called J. Grijseels in Rotterdam, Jan had to do national service. After finishing with the military, Jan returned to Grijseels, but soon switched to a bigger ad agency, Nijgh & Van Ditmar. There he met Mr Van Delden, who asked Jan if he’d be interested in assisting him with his daily cartoon ‘Smidje Verholen’. And so Jan took his first steps as a professional cartoonist.

1960 The 1960s – acquiring a taste for comics

Jan took to drawing comics like a duck to water and traded in the advertising world for Marten Toonder Studios. He began at the bottom, working at the animation department, but soon graduated to the comic department. He worked on well-known comics including the likes of ‘Kappie’, ‘Tom Poes’ and ‘Hiawatha’. After four years he left Toonder, worked with Joop Geesink for a year and then finally opted to continue freelance. He pencilled comics like ‘Erik en Opa’ (started off as ‘Bartje en Opa’ in the local paper ‘Stadskrant’) and ‘Polletje Pluim’ (taken over from Dick Matena). Around this time, Jan worked for comics like ‘De Vrije Balloen’ and the ‘Donald Duck Magazine’.

1970 (1) The 1970s – bizarre Baron

Baron van Tast – written by Lo Hartog van Banda (author of Ti-Ta Tovenaar) – was published in PEP in 1972. The comic provided a great way for Jan to express his bizarre ideas. The world of the Baron is never what it seems and Jan can get on with enjoying himself in the background. Many of Jan’s typical characteristics, including the hands and shark fin, date back to these works.

1970 (2) The 1970s – bombs and grenades

Jan’s comic about dynamite expert ‘Tinus Trotyl’ ran in youth magazine Sjors between 1973 and 1975. Philip Sohier wrote the script for this series. When PEP and Sjors merged to form the EPPO magazine in 1975, ‘Baron van Tast’ disappeared from the stage much to Jan’s regret. The editorial team opted for dynamite expert ‘Tinus Trotyl’. But when the bombings began in Ireland, Jan felt it would be inappropriate to continue with the Tinus comic strip. He focused his energy on ‘Oom Arie op safari’ (Donald Duck), ‘Erik & Opa’ (JIPPO) and ‘Sjaak en Oom George’ (KRO guide).

1970 (3) The 1970s – finding lemons

Jan was often called upon to draw the illustrations for advertising campaigns. Bernard Fienieg, a huge ‘Baron van Tast’ fan asked Jan to create an image for Bokma lemon-flavoured Geneva (Dutch gin). The first poster became ‘het Café’, a festive picture with a billiard ball flying off the table and lemons hidden all over the show. The image was a hit. The trick was to buy a single bottle of lemon gin and take as many posters as possible! Assignments from ad agencies poured in as a result of the lemon gin poster. Jan created cartoons, comic strips and – every so often – a poster.

1980 The 1980s – from posters to puzzles

Through an agency, Jan made a grab at assignments for Jumbo in the 1980s. He was unsuccessful at first: Jumbo found Jan’s illustrations too small and therefore unsuitable for puzzles. That is, until Jumbo saw the big posters. This generated an interest and started the ball rolling. The first Jan van Haasteren puzzles (like the ‘Olympics’ and ‘Some like it hot’) were in fact recycled posters. ‘Some like it hot’ was originally a poster for a German company specialised in air conditioning and fire safety. It’s a scene at a garage where the air conditioning has broken down and people are trying the strangest things to cool down. Jan soon began drawing especially for the puzzles. Cooperation intensified and Jan began developing new ideas with Jumbo. New puzzles appeared year after year.

2000 and to date – keeping pace

Jan lives together with his wife Romi in Bergen (NH). He draws daily in his studio. He creates images for around three puzzles a year for Koninklijk Jumbo BV. Today, there are roughly 100 Jumbo puzzles depicting images by Jan van Haasteren in circulation. Each of them reflects Jan’s hallmark features such as the shark fin, Saint Nicholas, the dentures and many more. Jan has more than 40 specific characteristics!


How does Jan work?

First the topic

“How do I start off? Well, I’ve always got loads of ideas. Sketching crazy things that pop up in my mind every day. Jumbo also has ideas and we get together to discuss these too. But, in principle, I’m completely free to choose the topics myself.”

Studies and sketches

“I first work out the idea in a detailed pencil drawing. In the process, I carry out the necessary research. For the ‘Tour de France’ puzzle, for example, I picked up a few folders from the local cycle shop. But I found most of the bikes too modern. It’s much more fun to draw the cyclists in old-fashioned outfits. I try to reflect feelings from my youth, when the ‘Ronde van Schiedam’ cycling race was held. The Dutch champion back then, Wim van Est cycled along, and the streets were lined with cheering fans. Wim did it for fun. It was a big thing to see someone famous like that peddling along in his rainbow jersey. Such a small guy with his dark, piercing eyes. Incredible!"

Enlarge and perfect

“I ink up the pencil drawing using the finest Rotring pen. Then I have a copy the size of the puzzle made. On a light box, I trace the blown-up image again in pencil, so that I can add all sorts of details and funny elements. I then stretch the drawing so that I can ink it up using Indian Ink and colour it in using Ecoline.”

Saying goodbye

“A picture like this takes just over three months to complete. Once it’s ready, inked up, coloured in and as it should be, I set it aside for a week. I always see room for another dot here or a line there. An image like this remains inviting and it’s hard to say goodbye; but at a certain point it has to head off. I get my own puzzle of each picture so that I know what the end product looks like. Nowadays, I create around three images a year for Jumbo; ideas for new pictures just keep bubbling to the surface!”

Are you curious to find out how Jumbo puzzles are made? Read all about it on our ‘In our factory’ page.


Interesting facts...

…Jan also draws for a newsletter produced by his local chess club, where he’s been a member for years.

… Jan discovered that he is an ‘avid collector’ some years ago.
He keeps everything! Once he’s finished the drawing, he makes an exact replica of the piece for himself because the other one has been delivered. Over the years, Jan has created piles of sketches and drawings! His ‘career folder’ (now consisting of four parts) contains every letter he’s ever received or sent. He also collects his old reports, along with all the fan mail. Letters from smaller and bigger fans are all filed in sequence. Jan knows every letter and can relay each accompanying story.

… All the drawings made by Jan for Jumbo are being digitised.
This will protect them forever. Sometimes the colours fade in old drawings. Jan cleans them up and restores them where necessary. After this the old drawings are saved digitally.

… Jan is followed by a black cat.
Jan once drew a really strange, fat black cat for a Japanese customer. The project didn’t get off the ground, but the fat cat still haunts him. Jan is somehow connected to the feline, even though he’s actually allergic to cats. While you hardly ever find the big fat cat in the puzzles (takes up too much space…), his half-brothers are always about.

… Jan sometimes features in his puzzles and comic strips.
In principle, Jan always draws fictitious characters – not people that he knows. But every now and then he draws himself. For example, you can find Jan in the puzzle titled the ‘De vertrekhal’ (departure hall). And he sometimes features in the background in his comic strips. Particularly in the last ones (‘Sjaak & Oom George’), you’ll see Jan walking past with his dog. Jan refers to this as the ‘Hitchcock effect’, after the famous director who also gave himself bit parts in his movies.

… Jan does not make puzzles himself.
He does help his wife, however, if she can’t find a piece. For each drawing, he knows exactly where each piece goes – much to his own surprise. He even remembers how he came up with his ideas! And those for each of his puzzles!

… Jan is crazy about Saint Nicholas.
Jan tries to fit a drawing of Saint Nicholas in on every stage or in every crowd. “To bring across the ‘Made in Holland’ feeling,” he says. “Not such a crazy idea, if you consider the fact that your puzzles even pop up in Japan!”