When he was in secondary school, Van der Schot already knew he wanted to become a political cartoonist. His illustrations first appeared in a newspaper when he was nineteen. When he was on holiday on Curacao, he called in at the editorial offices of Amigoe, the local newspaper, to of ask if they were interested in his cartoons. They wanted him to start straight away. “I said: ‘I’d like to produce an illustration for you.’ One of my cartoons appeared in the newspaper every day of my three-week holiday.”
It was around that time that Van der Schot first contacted his mentor Fritz Behrendt (who died in 2008), who was at that time producing cartoons for newspaper Het Parool. “Fritz invited me to the editorial offices and gave me books about the profession. I learned so much from this.” In the end it was Behrendt who advised him not to go to an art academy, but to study something else. “He thought it wiser to gain a better understanding of the world.”
Safe training ground
Van der Schot decided to study Politics at the University of Amsterdam. He quickly started illustrating for the faculty newspaper and for Ad Valvas, the journalistic medium of the Vrije Universiteit (Folia from the UvA didn’t want to use him). In later years he also started working for Univers from the University of Tilburg, Leiden University newspaper Mare, and Erasmus Magazine. His first cartoons in EM appeared in March 2000: a homeless PhD student to accompany the news that PhD students were demanding better salaries. “University media are the ideal safe training ground”, stated Van der Schot. “You can make the odd mistake, but at the same time it’s a good stepping stone to national prominence. Many well-known cartoonists in newspapers and weekly magazines started in university media.” This includes Tom Janssen from Trouw, Jos Collignon from de Volkskrant, Fokke & Sukke and DirkJan. They all initially published in university media.
The big trends and themes at universities stay the same, noted Van der Schot: “The influence of commerce on science, bureaucracy, financial problems, student loans and the OV card are topics you can always fall back on.” Those in power are often the target of his cartoons: clown-like politicians, fat directors or foolish professors (always in gowns).
Van der Schot describes his style as ‘simple, clear and a little naive’. “I like children’s drawings and try to draw as spontaneously as possible without too much sketching. It doesn’t have to be pretty or good or a complicated puzzle; I prefer some free association. The spontaneity and associations produce a sense of freedom in my cartoons, which I hope the reader also experiences.” He aims to let the image speak for itself. “You need to be able to understand a cartoon in one go and I prefer doing that with an image over with text. A cartoon with a pun is usually nothing more than a pun.”
Van der Schot doesn’t think he’s someone who necessarily seeks boundaries or controversy. And yet he’s aware that people are increasingly responding sensitively to his work. “A problem for many cartoonists is that their cartoons take on a life of their own on social media. A cartoon has a fixed place in the newspaper and serves as commentary on the news or as illustration for an article. That context disappears on social media and then people no longer look at a cartoon with a completely open mind.”
He experienced this himself this year when he drew Thierry Baudet on a coffin for de Volkskrant, after the right-wing politician used the terrorist attack in Utrecht for his election campaign. “I received a shitstorm from Forum for Democracy supporters who saw death threats in my cartoon. Of course, it was nothing like that. And yet I felt compelled to explain what I meant with my cartoon.”
But that actually goes against his principles. He referred to Cristoph Niemann, ‘a really influential guy’, who is an illustrator for The New York Times Magazine: “If you can explain in words what a cartoon shows, it’s actually a worthless illustration.”