Meet J.K. Rowling’s Favorite Fan Artist
Aïcha Wijland, an 18-year-old from Dunedin, New Zealand, drew J.K. Rowling’s favorite James/Sirius artwork – we caught up with her to find out about her life, her love of Harry Potter, and how it felt to be one of J.K. Rowling’s favorite artists.
What was the idea behind your James/Sirius drawing, a.k.a. “1978”?
Being 18 at [college] and art school, everyone around me is a young person experiencing a new kind of independence, and a lot of them are looking for a place to live away from their parents for the first time, if they haven’t already got one. I thought it was interesting to make that parallel with Sirius and James’s lives, also since it’s a sort of golden age in between their high school experience and their respective unjust incarceration and *cough* death.
How long did it take you to draw it? Can you take us through the process?
I want to say it took me about 2ish hours? I always lose track of time when I’m drawing, haha.
And well, usually after I’ve thought of the idea, I start looking for reference photos online, depending on the context. Since I wanted it to look like a candid photo I looked for photos of people relaxing, preferably photos from the [‘]70s so that I could get an idea of the fashion too. Then I sketched it out, coloured it, and edited the colours a bit so that it would look like a polaroid. I really didn’t like it at first; I genuinely thought it was bad, and I was so disappointed, haha.
I actually just went back and found a chat conversation I had with my best friend (who[m] I always show my art for a second opinion), and after I sent her the art, I actually said the phrase “this drawing is so sh**[**],” and a few minutes later[:] “I changed it a tiny bit and uploaded it after all”. I do actually like the drawing now; I think I had been looking at it for too long at the time. Imagine if I hadn’t uploaded it, though!!
What was your reaction when J.K. Rowling tweeted your work?
I woke up to a bunch of messages in my [T]umblr inbox telling me about the phenomena. I don’t even know; it was so surreal, and it still is. I’ve been known to really freak out when stuff like this happens, but for some reason I’ve been strangely calm. It’s so so special for the creator of it all to acknowledge your work; it’s a possibility that never ever occurred to me, so it doesn’t really feel real. And I’ve gotten the most lovely messages since then congratulating me; it’s been a pretty crazy day.
What do you spend your time doing when you aren’t drawing?
Oh, [G]od, haha. For a second there I was worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything. I love music, so you’ll find me at local gigs or playing mediocre covers of songs I like on guitar. I also love movies.
Is there anything about Dunedin, New Zealand, that inspires you?
Dunedin is such an awesome town – and it is a town; people here call it a city, but [it’s] really [a town]. The majority of the population are university students, which means there’s a really great rebellious attitude and exciting music scene. That kind of ballsy freedom to be creative is really unique.
Speaking of [which], New Zealand is such an adorable country; I remember watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the movie theatre in Geraldine, which is a rural town. It’s just a few couches in a room with a heater and a projector screen.
What are your art inspirations?
Hmm, that’s a hard question. I’ve always been super into fantasy fiction, and I daydream all the time, so art’s been my way to push that into reality. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of the Bob Ross livestream on Twitch, and he has this great thing that he says about having “unlimited power” in art, which I love.
How did you get into art?
I’m never sure how to answer this, haha; I’ve just always been “that arty person”. You know at school how you get something that you become known for? It was around 14 or 15 that I started taking it seriously and drew with the purpose of improving rather than mess[ing] around, although I still do a lot of that too. Actually, the thing that made me take it seriously was seeing other artists on the internet [whom] I looked up to.
Is there any advice you’d like to give other emerging artists?
Make art for yourself and lots of it! Try to enjoy it and not worry about mistakes. There are no mistakes – only happy accidents. My buddy Bob Ross there again. You can tell I’ve been watching the show too much. Oh, also, use all the resources that are available to you! If I added up all the hours I’ve spent scrolling through tutorials online…
What materials do you use?
I use a Cintiq drawing tablet and Photoshop CC for my digital art. If my house [were] on fire, and I could only save one thing, it would be the tablet. For traditional art I like working with markers and fineliners.
How old were you when you first read Harry Potter?
I remember my dad reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my brother and I when I can’t have been older than 5 or 6?? I have many things to thank my dad for, and this is one of them.
What is your favourite thing about Harry Potter?
I think the thing that sets Harry Potter apart from a lot of other fandoms is how expansive it is. It’s not just a story, but a whole universe, and there are so many things still undiscovered. I say “undiscovered” like it’s the ocean or something, but what I mean is there’s so many things to be imagined. And that’s why there is so much fan art and fan fiction and so many fan theories! There is so much room to just make up random potions and spells, character quirks, history, culture…
How did you become so attracted to the Marauders in particular?
This is a bit of a follow[-]up from my last answer. Certain bits of the Harry Potter timeline are super vague, which leaves so much room to explore. Most of the accepted “facts” about the [M]arauders have been completely generated by fans. JK Rowling has made us fall in love with these characters, and we’re so desperate to know more about them that we just make it up, haha. They’re characters I can relate to, who also happen to be in a really cool time period in my opinion.
Personally, another reason I love the Marauders is the camaraderie, […] the tragedy, and their youth – God, okay, I could talk about this for hours, haha; I’ll stop.Which Hogwarts House are you in?
I’m a stubborn, proud, impulsive Gryffindor.
Which Marauder is your favorite?
I mean, I want to say that it’s like choosing my children, but it’s always been Sirius. I love his badassery. I mean, he was badass, but he also had integrity and loyalty and seems awesome to hang out with. His friendship with James is legendary.
What is your favorite Marauder headcanon?
Ahhh, there are so many!! I think I’ll go with that Sirius was a person of colour. I’ve drawn him a few different ways, but I’ve settled on a darker skin tone with maybe [M]iddle [E]astern heritage.
How do you feel about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (would you have preferred a Marauders prequel, or are you glad it will remain a mystery?)
Siiiiiiiiigh. It aches my heart that it wasn’t a [M]arauders prequel, yeah. You do raise a good point that the fans have done a good job of creating their own version of events because of the mystery, though, and it’s pretty cool that the imaginative side of the fans remains.
You write fan fiction, too. How is the process different for you?
Yeah, haha. Oh, gosh, you’re meant to keep that on the down low; no one can know, haha. Well, I’ve got one ongoing [M]arauders fan fiction that started when I was 15 as a self-insert into the Harry Potter world. That’s all we really want, isn’t it? So yeah, the coolest place to me would be hanging out with the [M]arauders.
It’s so fun to think about how they would interact and the crazy adventurous things they would get up to.
What other projects are on the horizon for you?
Well, at the moment I’m working on a 3[-]minute[-]long animation as my final project for my first year of art school. There’s a real charm to 2D animation; I’ve always wanted to get into it, and I’ve finally got an opportunity to really pursue that. I’ve got about a week and a half to finish it, so expect to see it online soon, haha.
It’s also meant to be the star of my portfolio to help me go on an exchange to the Netherlands next year. There’s a few amazing opportunities there to do with animation, and I hope to absorb as much artistic knowledge as possible.
Where can we see your work?
I’ve got my [T]umblr and my professional portfolio. Also, on my redbubble, you can buy merchandise with my art on it – fan art as well as original stuff. I added “1978”, aka “JK Rowling’s favorite fan art”, just today.