Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Olivia Lomenech Gill Talks “Fantastic Beasts”
On the heels of Olivia Lomenech Gill’s illustrated edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was released in November, the artist revealed details about her experience working on the project in an interview with her hometown newspaper, the Northumberland Gazette.
Gill believes that her first big illustration project, Clare and Michael Morpurgo’s 2012 children’s book Where My Wellies Take Me, is what won her the chance to illustrate Fantastic Beasts.
As far as I can gather, someone at Bloomsbury liked Where My Wellies Take Me and they showed this and some other work to J.K. Rowling. The first I knew about it was when I had a call from the agent I work with, Alison Eldred, asking me to do some dragons! Apparently, that got me the job.
But once she had the job, she couldn’t share the good news.
I was sworn to secrecy. When it comes to Harry Potter, everything is under wraps and for a year I worked on something that I wasn’t allowed to talk about or show.
Gill also admitted that she wasn’t too familiar with the wizarding world before taking on this project. She sees the fact that there have been so many different adaptations of the books as a testament to the richness of the world J.K. Rowling created.
I haven’t seen any of the Harry Potter films, and I didn’t see the Fantastic Beasts film. I was aware that there would be some big differences in the Warner Bros. interpretations and my own but when I asked Bloomsbury about this they said it was fine. What is great about the J.K. Rowling world is that it has given birth to so many different interpretations of the same things, it is a very generous world in this respect and that is brilliant.
Despite the fact that Gill wasn’t part of the fandom, she did know the magnitude of Harry Potter and felt pressure to live up to the expectations of the fans.
It has been a huge privilege, but you do go through the mill a little bit with something like this. Working as an artist is a very private thing, nobody sees your work unless you choose to exhibit it. Illustration is different, and Harry Potter is something else! I was aware of this enormous following for J.K. Rowling’s work and the fact millions of people around the world would be seeing my work, but if I had stopped to think about it too much, I would have stopped dead in my tracks. I had to put it to the back of my mind and forget who I was working for, which was difficult.
Millions of people around the world have certainly seen Gill’s work by now, and we love her beautiful artwork! After seeing her depictions of magical beasts, however, it’s a bit surprising to learn that Gill says she draws mostly from life.
Because I am not good at making stuff up, I really draw on a lot of the domestic things around me… I think that if you examine the ordinary, you find the extraordinary. Once you start looking, you realize we have lots of our own fantastic beasts right here.
Gill definitely captured the magic of the wizarding world in her interpretation of Fantastic Beasts. Perhaps we should keep our eyes peeled for the fantastic beasts all around us!