News - November 13, 2014

Van Ruitenbeek keeps on finding new dimensions

Rob Goossens

He draws with pen and ink. Not because that was how he had been
taught, but because he saw other people doing it like that.

He liked the result and set about teaching himself. That is typical of Henk van Ruitenbeek, the illustrator whose career has been so closely bound up with Wageningen UR. For more than 30 years he has been illustrating for a long series of magazines related to Wageningen UR, the latest being Resource. In every number he illustrates one of our most popular features: Typical Dutch, on the back page. For the next few weeks there is an exhibition of Henk’s work at Impulse. Nice, he says in his studio, but it feels a bit weird too. He sees himself more as an illustrator than as an artist. ‘I like it when my illustrations serve a purpose, they are a kind of tool.’ A modest statement for an illustrator with such a clear signature style. Extravert and rich in imagery and big gestures.

• Resource illustrator Henk van Ruitenbeek exhibits work in Impulse.

• From failed student to illustrator for Wageningen UR.

Foto: Guy Ackermans
Foto: Guy Ackermans

Boom time

Van Ruitenbeek first came to Wageningen as a student. In 1972 he enrolled on the Plant Diseases degree programme, but that was not a success. After being failed he ‘hung around’ in the organization. First in cleaning and secretarial jobs, but it soon because clear that he was a talented poster designer and he decided to go in that direction. That is how he ended up with the Wageningen magazine of the time. In the nineteen eighties his illustrating career really began to take off. ‘Editors and freelancers from the magazine moved on to other magazines in the Netherlands and took my phone number with them.’ And so Van Ruitenbeek became a Wageningen export product. Especially when most higher education magazines abandoned a newspaper format for full colour glossies. ‘Nowadays, in the internet era, the boom has calmed down a bit. But I just about experienced the whole of the boom time,’ he concludes. What is on display in Impulse, entitled ‘Next Dimension’, is not an overview exhibition. Boring, says Van Ruitenbeek. Instead, he made a selection of his recent work, adapted and processed to the way it is exhibited: in a showcase. In other words, threedimensional instead of twodimensional. ‘One big shoebox diorama really.