Bloomsbury’s stunning illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philiosopher’s Stone was released world-wide yesterday. Jim Kay is the incredibly lucky illustrator who got the chance to bring his own version of J.K. Rowling’s world to life. Ever since I saw the first illustration that was released from the book I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the book. The digital images that have been popping up all over the place look amazing and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the book.
Thanks to the wonderful people at Allen and Unwin NZ I can share with you an interview that Helen Boyle did with illustrator Jim Kay.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Words by Helen Boyle
“So I got this phone call from my agent,” illustrator Jim Kay tells me, “and she said, ‘Are you sitting down? They want you to illustrate Harry Potter.’ As a big fan of the books and the films, Kay explains, “It was an incredible opportunity to design Harry’s world from the bottom up.”
But does the commission of a lifetime also come with the pressure of a lifetime?
“Yes, definitely. Everyone has an opinion on Harry Potter and that’s why it’s great, but that’s also why it’s challenging. But I’m not complaining, it’s an amazing commission.”
And Jim Kay likes to challenge himself. “My old art teacher used to say you have to keep testing yourself, don’t get comfortable. And I knew Harry Potter would be difficult for me: because it is children, because of the scale of it and because it’s fantasy. I probably think of myself more as a printmaker, expressing things through landscapes, but with Harry Potter I had to express emotions through characters.
“The hardest thing was the casting – I had to find my own Harry, Ron and Hermione. I’ve never really drawn children, so I needed actual references, especially as the kids grow up through the books. So my agent and I had to find children to cast as my characters.”
And how did he go about imagining Hogwarts?
“The preparatory stage, visualising the ‘architecture’ of Hogwarts, took a huge amount of time. I drew a floor plan of what I imagined Hogwarts was like, referring across all seven books. But when I started stacking different floors on top of each other, I found it difficult to understand how they fitted together. So the only way I could work out how to draw it was to build a model of it. It’s the same thing I did as a child – building things in Lego so I could then draw them. So I made quick models out of paper and Plasticine, and used these to draw from. Models are great also to work out the lighting and how the buildings relate to each other.”
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films also had a big impact on Kay.
“I’m a massive John Howe and Alan Lee fan, both of whom worked as concept artists for Lord of the Rings films. I’ve definitely been influenced by the way that Peter Jackson went about his films, getting artists involved to try out different creative avenues. And so the opportunity to approach Harry Potter in the same way was incredibly exciting and enjoyable.
“I can’t work in silence; I have to have background noise and it has to be something familiar. So while I worked on Harry Potter I had the Lord of the Rings films on as background noise. I played the whole three films on a loop all day, so I know the whole script of each film.”
Here is a video of Jim Kay talking about his illustrating process for Harry Potter:
Also check out some of the sample images from the book below: