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Who is......?


Who actually is Johann van Rossum? (from “Trail”) 

Almost anyone known with sleddog sport is familiar with his drawings. Who is the man behind these drawings? We will try to find out. Paolo Cesare had a short interview with this Dutch teacher of biology..

Is your profession really teacher of biology? I had expected something else:  designer, illustrator,  painter or sculptor.

I ‘m sorry, biology and drawing were my great passions at high school and as I decided to become a teacher the colleges of arts were overbooked, so I chose biology. It was quite an advantage there to be able to draw rather well.

You draw easily, did you have any education for it?

No. I learned by self education. It ‘s a pity that I have to fetch a lot of basic techniques of painting and drawing “from the library”. It hasn’t become a second nature, as you see with professional designers and painters. I am an amateur in drawing. The only thing I have settled professionally is the protection of my copyrights of my drawings, paintings, sculptures and books. For the rest I like to remain an amateur.

But a very good one!

Do you think so?  In any case I paint and draw for fun and I like it when a customer is pleased with the result. And it always hurts a little to hand over one of my drawings. I made some paintings and sculptures I will never sell, just because I can’t part from them.

How old are you?

Do you really want to know? I ‘m from 1948. A child of the sixties. Sex, drugs and rock and roll; I had it all. I now tell my students at school how dangerous drugs and nowadays sex can be! I teach biology and technology at a secondary school and my students are at the age of being anxious to learn about these things.

A lot of mushers are acquainted with your drawings of sleddogs. How started it all?

In the early seventies I started with my first Siberian huskies. I had two dogs of my own and I  borrowed three. I was completely in love with those beautiful dogs and I started to draw them. At first small illustrations for the club magazine of Mushing Holland. Later on I made posters and charters for almost every sleddog race in Germany. By making these designs and sculptures with Eskimo motives I could afford this rather expensive sport of racing sleddogs.

Were you very successful in racing sleddogs?

Actually no, not with my Siberians. However when in 1984 I started my four dog team of Alaskan Malamutes and I could avoid all the things that went wrong with my first team, I had a pretty fast team. I won the Dutch championship once and one time my team and I became second at the European championship. Last year the last dog of that team died.

Winterberg 1980

Liebenscheid 1983

La Pesse 1991

Are you thinking of a new dog?

No, after twenty-five years I decided not to have a dog for a while. But it ‘s still itching and I don ‘t thrust myself near puppies and sleddog races.

But you surely are still active in sports?

You can say that again. Not only do I like drawing, but I also have a passion for sport climbing,  archery and sea kayaking. I do my climbing in a climbing hall, the Ardennes in Belgium and the Eifel in Germany. Once a week I ‘m a bowman. I have a compound bow and practice archery at a distance of eightteen and twenty-five meters. I will probably never be the best in this kind of sport, but I like it when I make a fine shot. Kayaking at sea is something quite different. I ‘m a real sea kayak fanatic. I paddle twice a week in spite of the weather. Big trips I only make in the summer holidays.

As a teacher you have six weeks holiday in the summer. Where do you paddle then?

Seven weeks! When I had my sleddogs I always wished I had so many weeks in the winter! Now I make sea kayak expeditions. I take everything with me in my sea kayak: tent, sleeping bag, cooker, drinking water, dry clothes etc. Two years ago I made a trip along the Dutch Wadden shallows, last year my oldest son Maarten and I made a trip along the westcoast of Corsica.  Next year we want to visit the Scottish islands by kayak. During these trips I kept a logbook and these stories can be read on my website. Unfortunately for the readers of Trail only in Dutch.

Your website. How did you get the idea? By the way it looks good!

Thank you. At first I had no intention of doing something on the internet, when however the webmaster of DCNH asked me for some drawings for their homepage and he offered to make a link to my site in return, I had to tell him I had no website of my own. But the idea had got into my head and when I had the possibility to claim my own domain ‘www.johannvanrossum.nl’ it didn’t take long before I could present my own site. I have enough drawings in store to renew my homepage every month.

Johann, I want to thank you for this interview, we have come to know the artist behind the fine drawings of sleddogs a little bit more.

My pleasure!