The jury’s decision to award this prize to me filled me with pride.
But also with amazement, since winning prizes was never my aim.
Does this mean that I am “the best”?
Of course not.
There are a lot of talented illustrators who are probably better than I am.
But I regard this honour as a sign of recognition that I am one of them.
And today, I can dwell on the mountaintop, and be somewhat proud.
However, when I think about the road I walked and the struggle I fought to get here, I am also filled with a sense of sadness. Nostalgia wells up in me when I think about the time when Frog was born. How I tried to convey a feeling with only a paintbrush, some paint and a piece of paper.
But is drawing this difficult?
When you happen to be born with a little bit of talent, it’s not so bad.
Drawing a Frog is not so difficult.
But how do you draw a Frog in love? Or a frightened frog?
Are there rules or guidelines to help you?
For this, talent alone is not enough.
Now you need feeling.
The essence of this profession is to share something with the onlooker.
And when I hear from parents and children how much they love Frog and his friends, I am overcome with joy and a feeling of accomplishment.
And when you ask me how I did it, I have to answer that question with a simple “I do not know”.
I can only say that I did my utmost best and that I tried to convey my feelings in an honest way. Because that is what this is all about.
The recognition of the jury fills me with pride and joy.
But the one who reaches the top of the mountain, must also descend from it again.
Back to the drawing board, because life continues.
Shortly, I will find myself again in front of an empty piece of paper, with a paintbrush and some paint, and then the fight begins anew. The fight to translate one’s fantasy into images.
No Andersen prize can help me then. I can only hope that I will be able to do it again.
Because it is always as difficult as the first time.
Stories have been told since the beginning of time, and passed on from generation to generation, so that they are not forgotten.
The fact that the IBBY called the Andersen prize into being, will help make sure that they never will be.
5 September 2004, Artscape Opera House, Cape Town
Translation by Eva Rondas