Illustrator Jonny Duddle on taking on the “Harry Potter” challenge
Jonny Duddle’s new Harry Potter covers were released a week ago by Bloomsbury UK. The new covers aim to give the Potter books another life and appeal to a new, younger readership who may be discovering them for the first time. The Telegraph posted an interview with Jonny over the weekend, which included some interesting thoughts about Jonny’s working process, including how he tried to make the characters look their age.
However, Jonny was uncertain at taking on the challenge at first:
Bloomsbury picked Duddle’s cover – an inky, mysterious scene in which Harry, Ron and Hermione are shown the way across Hogwarts’[s] lake by Hagrid – because he was the only illustrator of the four they tried out to have Harry, bright-eyed and androgynous, face the reader.
And so Duddle’s studio began to accommodate Stephen Fry-narrated audiobooks, a Slytherin cloak (“it’s cheaper than any of the others”) and a chocolate frog box among the pirate drawings and animation books that weigh down the ‘wobbliest, creakiest floor in the house’.
In the interview, Jonny comemnts on the way that the characters changed as he got further into practice (an early Harry, he says, has a “quirkier face“) and how he had to keep reminding himself of Harry’s most famous feature:
In one, five little Harry heads surround an unpainted face, pasted there temporarily for reference. While he was working, Duddle says, a Post-it note reading ‘SCAR’ was stuck to his screen, a reminder not to forget Harry’s most famous feature.
Needless to say, there is a certain amount of pressure in re-imagining the world’s best known wizard. ‘All I can really do, as an artist, is draw my vision of that scene,’ Duddle says. His covers were shaped by feedback from Braithwaite, Rowling’s agent Neil Blair and Rowling herself. For each rough he submitted, Duddle would have a number of revisions suggested. He says he could never be sure which of them came from Rowling herself.
Jonny talks, too, about his preferred use of digital drawing methods:
I can move things or shrink things, adjust the colours of some things but not others,” he explains, flipping between the layers to show how a sketch goes from grey line to fully realised colour in seconds.
Jonny comments on the reaction people have had to the apparent youngness of his depictions:
He’s only meant to be 17, and he’s always described as being quite slight. Ron is meant to be tall and skinny. The problem is in the film Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint are grown men by that point, and they’ve been working out.
Jonny also talks about the amount of research he did to create these characters and how certain things had to be changed on request:
Duddle evokes Rowling’s sharp-minded, bossy heroine Hermione with inquisitive eyes, thick eyebrows, unruly hair and a slightly pointed chin. His interpretation of Dobby, the tragically loyal [h]ouse[-][e]lf, has the pencil nose and bat ears described by Rowling – he looks more vulnerable than the film’s CGI version. Professor Snape, the unpleasant potions master, is Duddle’s favourite. His nose was made more hooked at Bloomsbury’s request.
When Rowling’s lengthy descriptions aren’t enough, Duddle has a well-organised library of reference images: hundreds of iridescent beetles, which informed the scales of the Hungarian Horntail dragon on the cover of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; another folder of bats helped to create the pink, fleshy skeletons of the Thestrals on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
A couple of the early sketches are also available to see:
Check out the full feature here.
If you missed it, you can read MuggleNet’s exclusive interview with Jonny here. Back in August we were also able to reveal the full set of images for the front and back covers, thanks to Bloomsbury UK. And if you’re wondering whether to get these new editions, make sure you read our review of the new covers.
Also, make sure you visit Bloomsbury’s new Harry Potter website here.
Do you like being able to see some of the early sketches? What are your thoughts on the new covers?