Jim Kay: “Harry Potter”
By Jim Kay | Jim Kay – Home of Illustrator Jim Kay | July 14, 2016
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is out now! The Chamber of Secrets is in the bag, and I’m now working on Azkaban. In case you didn’t know, and have deep pockets, there is a deluxe version made by Bloomsbury too. The foldout of Diagon Alley came out very well, thank you Bloomsbury.
You can watch me working on Harry Potter in the studio, in a short film my partner and I made. Click this link. Our lovely dog Leroy is sadly no longer with us, (he was very old) I’m glad we made this film as we get to see him in action.
Working on The Chamber of Secrets was incredibly hard work, we spent two and a half years developing the first book, and then had eight months to do the second, and I managed to get ill during that time. Always the way! Anyway, I’m really excited about Azkaban, and fingers crossed, everything is running smoothly. Thank you to all of my friends for helping me through last year, could never have got the book done without you. By the way, this post on MuggleNet is fantastic, you can’t slip anything past Harry Potter fans. It lists the ‘Easter Eggs’ in the Philosopher’s Stone. Now, there aren’t any hidden things in the Chamber of Secrets, sorry about that, but I will make it my mission to work something into Azkaban! The portraits should lend themselves to that. I’ve been doing a lot of research into the imagery & symbolism of portraits.
Bloomsbury have released a few images from Chamber of Secrets….lets call it COS from now on…such as the Phoenix spread below.
I’m trying to be more colourful you see, and that was an ideal opportunity. I’m also a big fan of the Templar ‘Ology’ series of books, which this kind of reminds me of. I grew up fascinated with fact books about animals though, and cross-sections in ‘Eagle’ comics. There was originally a lot more information and a few more illustrations on that spread, but it looked very cluttered, so I stripped them out. It’s really tricky doing layout on these things.
This was a study of Hagrid’s face that ended up going in the COS book. I love Hagrid, he’s great to draw, one day I’m going to do my own book about giants, I’ve scribbled down a loose idea for a story (set in China), but it will have to wait til Potter is in the bag. Anyway, here is Hagrid’s Hut. It seems sensible to me that, living by a lake, you might recycle an old boat. Can’t wait to work on the interior, all that framing. I need to build a model of this at some point.
I’m very fond of the books the author mentions within the Potter World, I’d love to illustrate them! The text on Dragons in particular. This was good fun, and ties in with the descriptions of eggs in ‘Fantastic Beasts’.
The Sorting Hat. Described by the author as ‘heavily patched’ I seem to remember. One of the fabrics is from a beautiful book of fabric samples I saw years ago in the Royal Museum, Edinburgh. Never know when you’ll find a use for the little notes you make.
Here is Hermione making one of her little blue flames in a jar. The door is from a wonderful church, All Saints in Thornham, I visited last year. A beautiful building, and full of bats! I’ve been to a lot of churches, stately homes and mansions researching this book. When I lived in Harrow I noticed at the old boys’ school the names of pupils going back over many years scratched into the brick walls. I am fascinated by graffiti; some wonderful old carving can be seen at Aberdeen University, but the best by far is in the Tower of London
Malfoy at Madam Malkin’s. An interesting little trick is that if you illustrate a person’s eyes perfectly symmetrical, there’s something creepy about their appearance (most people’s faces are a little wonky in reality). It can be difficult getting the stare right. This was quite a quick illustration to do, I can’t spend more than a few days on an image – there are over 100 to do in each book! I put Malfoy in Slytherin robes, to imply how presumptuous he would be of his School House placement.
Hagrid in the Wooden Shack. My favourite character to illustrate, I have already decided on the badges he wears on his coat (when I was a child the school caretaker used to wear things the children had given him, which gave me the idea). I love illustrating giants. They remind adults like me of being a small child again, a time when everything was hard to reach, and adults were just a forest of legs. By the way, the little keychain is from a drawing I did many years ago of a ‘space monkey’, I’m quite fond of him, I’ll see if I can dig out the sketch.
Finally, this is a concept drawing of Ron which was used in the press release. I think these portraits are going to be important in book one, as we need to introduce to the reader our interpretation of the lead characters. Thank you for your interest. For all those young readers who like to draw, keep scribbling! Remember, it’s your ideas that are important, the technique will come along with practise. So don’t be down-hearted if things don’t always come out the way you’d intended. I’ve never produced an illustration that I think is ‘finished’ or that I’m particularly happy with, but I keep trying. Sometimes it’s the mistakes that make us interesting and different, in my opinion.