The Present is the second book I wrote and published – right after Ruby. The main idea here is mistaken intentions and animated sequences.
The story revolves around a slightly simple handyman in Denmark who wakes up to discover he must bring a birthday present to his nephew. So he goes in search of the “perfect present” , and at the local market he finds the “perfect present”: a rusty pocket knife that he fixes up, only to become a little too attached to it when it’s working again. He wonders now if this wouldn’t be the best present for his nephew after all, and at the last minute, fixes up an old bike for his nephew instead. But then… he has to get it there…and he doesn’t like to ride bikes, in fact he can’t ride a bicycle at all.
But with no way to get there and the encouragement of a friend, he learns to balance enough to get himself there. On the way he begins to get into the ride, the wind in his hair, the speed, the swooping downhill…and by the time he arrives at the birthday party, he is of two minds whether now this bike also is, in fact, the “perfect present” for his nephew. Now what does he do?
The short answer to the design is I was in Denmark not long before this book was illustrated so I incorporated Danish countryside and historic elements, then “animated” the action sequences with multiple images going across the double page spreads. I have always loved animation so I indulged this feeling for movement since so much of the story involves action with little words.
It’s all done in watercolor with a brown pencil for the line – the only time I’ve done this. I don’t experiment all that much with technique compared to some. The color was an exercise in mixing on the page. In other words I mixed most of the color by layering thin washes of transparent watercolor, such as painting the grass with layers of blue and yellow instead of green. Why? It’s supposed to look more luminous. And in the hands of a better painter, maybe it does. but in a printed book I think maybe it was just a waste of time…. Who knows? But I never did it again. Too much work.