Friday 8th Feb 2019
Two great artists united last night at Harry Potter Book Night to discuss their work illustrating the wizarding world: Chris Riddell and Jim Kay. Here’s what we learnt from their rather off-kilter art lesson.
Did you know Chris Riddell simply loves Horklumps? Well, he does. A lot. Yes, the award-winning artist (and self-appointed Hufflepuff), notable for his political pieces and frequent collaborations with fantasy author Neil Gaiman, recently joined the Wizarding World family with his work on the illustrated edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, published by Bloomsbury in 2018. As Chris prepared to join fellow Wizarding World illustrator Jim Kay for a special panel at St James’s Church in London, the artist mused on going from reading Harry Potter to his kids, to bringing one of J.K. Rowling’s books to life himself.
‘I’m a particular type of fan. I’m old enough to have kids who I read the books to, so I read Harry Potter as a parent,’ Chris told us. ‘Unfortunately, I had the very sad experience about halfway through the series... my kids learnt to read independently and said, “sorry dad, we’ll take it from here!” A great shame! But we have discussed the books many times.’
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is first referenced in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which Ron refers to as an old book of children’s stories he, and many other young wizards and witches, grew up reading. (‘Like Hans Christian Andersen’ Chris says) Despite not illustrating the main Harry Potter books – there are many references we recognise across the book – with Chris even getting to have a go at Albus Dumbledore, who serves as an annotator for the book.
‘I feel it was a perfect project,’ Chris added. ‘I was able to dip a toe in the waters by doing 'The Tale of the Three Brothers' and also draw Dumbledore. But I was also led into this other parallel world, this other fairytale world, and so I didn’t feel that great weight of responsibility of drawing the much-loved characters, I was able to cut loose a little bit, and have a lot of fun with Horklumps and Bowtruckles.’
Horklump for Harry Pottef night . pic.twitter.com/lZH8tmItmE— chris riddell (@chrisriddell50) February 7, 2019
In a conversation with Jim Kay at the panel (‘I think his work on the Harry Potter books has been astonishing,’ Chris told us), the pair compared their work in discussion with Radio 1’s Chris Smith. Jim is currently working on the epic task of illustrating all seven Harry Potter books, with three already under his belt.
In the talk, Jim displayed some of his art while Chris drew some live pieces. From Hogwarts to the Marauder’s Map (‘it was like drawing a migraine’ Jim joked), Jim’s pieces are usually inspired by real-life people or places, such as the Herbology greenhouses resembling elements of Kew Gardens. Jim also likes to include Easter eggs in the backgrounds of the drawings.
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for example, there’s an image of Hermione standing by a door covered in graffiti. If you look closely enough you can pick out the initials JKR and A. Moody, just to name two. Take a look and see how many names you can find.
The pair, who first met at one of Chris’s exhibitions years previously, also compared their respective Dumbledores with each other. While Chris inadvertently drew his dad when creating his Dumbledore, Jim’s Dumbledore comes with many of the character's quirks, such as his knitting and sherbet lemons, and is modelled on a fellow illustrator with a strong Dumbledore likeness: ‘all I have to do is break his nose, effectively, in artistic terms,' Jim said.
In terms of choosing Wizarding World favourites to draw, Chris rather morbidly chose Death from 'The Tale of the Three Brothers' (‘there’s something very cathartic about it’) while Jim chose Hagrid (‘he’s just all scribbles!’ he said.)
When it came to sharing tips on how to become artists to the audience, Chris advised keeping a sketch book at all times and to ‘draw anything at all times’ while Jim added ‘and if it goes wrong, it doesn’t matter’.
‘I was able to really have fun with the characters, and I take my (Sorting) hat off to you Jim on doing the blueprints and architecture and creating the reality of the world,’ Chris told his artist friend.
Why not be inspired by these two great artists and have a go at some of your own?
To learn more about how Harry Potter Book Night 2019 went, check the Bloomsbury social channels.