Jim Kay - illustrating Harry Potter

 Ever since January 2014, when Jim Kay shared the news that he'd be illustrating the Harry Potter series, I've been transfixed by his preliminary illustration of Hogwarts on my desktop screensaver.

Last night, the House Of Illustration hosted the global launch of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, illustrated by Jim Kay. Moments before Jim Kay was about to speak, I turned the pages of a copy of the book I'd just bought. I've read the book ( a few times) - seen the films ( a few times) - how could anyone possibly re-imagine Harry Potter? It must have been hard to shake off all other images but Jim Kay has done it. Harry Potter - the boy who lived again!

"Embrace The Deadline!"

 I could see the 2 years, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day that he dedicated to illustrating it. I've been reading the pictures as much as possible before I hand over the book to the small boy I bought it for.

It's breath-taking, moving, funny and - you even get to see inside a troll's mind!

I'm thrilled we had a peek inside Jim Kay's brain too. He works to music, alone (he can't draw with anyone watching) and he references photos of his child characters - his real-life models. He discovered his Harry Potter on the London Underground and Hermione is his niece! He built a model of Hogwarts and the Hogwarts Express, using cardboard tubes, cotton wool and scraps. He paints with 'anything that makes a mark.' He painted with a rolling pin and a bread board for texture in A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness & Siobhan Dowd - "Anything to avoid drawing."


Jim Kay claimed that he finds colour really difficult - particularly watercolour. He asked if anyone could teach him. Lynne Chapman - you helped me. I nominate you!


But how can anyone who produces this stunning ghost say he struggles with colour? It was an accident - he said - when he hit a reverse colour button on his keyboard.

Make It Personal

Of all the illustrations he shared on the big screen, Diagon Alley was the most awe-inspiring. The detail is exquisite and the illustration stretches across 4 pages in the book (the original art was 4 to 5 metres long). He was given permission to invent his own shops. His dog is lying outside 'Belcher's Bottled Beers' and Bufo - the Frog And Toad specialist, was the name of his pet frog. Personal stories and life experiences are in the foundations of Diagon Alley and the 115 illustrations throughout the book.

photo of spider by Sue Eves
Somebody's Eaten All The Flies - photo Sue Eves

I'm sitting back after a day of throwing water and colour at my next dummy book (a tiny model of one of my characters beside me on the desk ) imagining Jim Kay living with his model of Hogwarts and fattening up spiders for The Chamber Of Secrets.


With 2 years gestation, Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone "popped out like a huge spikey baby." The next one shouldn't take so long, he says. All the designing is done.


Such a gorgeous baby. Good luck with your new family, Jim Kay!


I'm dreaming of a pull-out double gatefold of Diagon Alley


Copyright 2015 - Sue Eves