Corona in drawings

Illustrator Henk van Ruitenbeek has his own take on the corona crisis: playful and grim.
Illustration: Henk van Ruitenbeek

What does an artist do in times of corona? Draw, of course. ‘Whenever things happen, I always make something’, Van Ruitenbeek explains. And whenever a series is finished, an idea might pop up -in his head or someone else’s- for something more. Like an exposition. ‘It’s that simple, really.’


This time, it was Robert Kamphuis, a painter affiliated with Impulse in the capacity of consultant, who gave the push. ‘I am a little lazy. I need someone to organise things for me, who provides me with a goal,’ Van Ruitenbeek admits freely. ‘I’m an illustrator, so I’m accustomed to receiving commissions.’ In light of the planned exposition, Van Ruitenbeek made nineteen drawings, available for viewing at Impulse from Monday.

Touch. Henk van Ruitenbeek

The works are typical of Van Ruitenbeek. He addresses topics such as health care, death, working from home, guilt, religion and the contrast between the elderly and youths in times of corona. Through sometimes brilliant ideas, he provokes thought in his viewers. The drawing ‘Party blowers’, for example, a virus particle surrounded by party blowers instead of the characteristic spikes. Is this the virus that parties on? Or a cynical reference to the carnival, a festival that provided the virus with ample opportunity to spread?


Corona does not really affect him personally, Van Ruitenbeek says. ‘As an illustrator, my life is easy; I have a steady flow of commissions. Drawing is not a stage art. In my immediate vicinity, only my daughter was probably affected by corona. She is young, but she still suffers from fatigue. I follow all the news, but I guess I am too easy-going to be really affected or scared.’

Are the lives of the elderly less valuable? A society that thinks in these terms will eventually become coldhearted

Henk van Ruitenbeek, illustrator

However, as an illustrator, corona is a source of inspiration. ‘It is fascinating. Something so intangible, so profoundly affecting society. All those people seeing it as something magical. All those opinions. Politicians and their usual small-minded bickering and attempts to attack each other over formalities. This annoys me quite a bit.’


Van Ruitenbeek is fascinated by the contrast between young and old in times of corona.  Some of his best drawings touch on this topic. The young determine the fate of the old; the old restrict the young in their movements. ‘The dichotomy of young and old is a difficult issue. Are the lives of the elderly less valuable? A society that thinks in these terms will eventually become coldhearted. We must carefully guard this threshold.’

The exposition in Impulse is the first since the start of the corona crisis and is open from 24 August to 16 October. Impulse is open every day. Despite the WUR policy to work from home as much as possible, Van Ruitenbeek hopes people will visit. ‘As long as they stick to the rules.’

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to write a comment.