Hans de Beer, in order to get a good look behind your shoulder, we are curious what your work desk looks like?
Please tell us more about your creative process:
The little polar bear was my first attempt to do illustrations for children and to use watercolors. Previously, my drawings had been for adults, and were always photographic and very precise. I could no longer do what I’d done before. Watercolor fits in well with my pictures and my style.
It all begins with an idea, and I draw little sketches. I do these with a pencil. These sketches are often no bigger than a postage stamp. Sometimes I do them on a Post-It or the back of an envelope. I write the text of the story at the same time. If I want to improve something, I mark the spot with arrows or stars, or make a little note.
At art college, I learned that when somebody falls over, you can draw them just before they fall, during the fall, or when they’re already on the ground. I generally choose the moment before something happens. When the little polar bear is homesick, I show him looking out across the sea, so that the reader can imagine what he’s feeling.
The sketches get bigger and bigger, and more and more precise. For the final picture I use watercolors and rough watercolor paper. This makes the picture lively, clear and light. Incidentally, for the first Lars book I used the paintbox given to my wife at her First Communion.
Can you show us a very early sketch?
And one last question: What makes you happy?