Bloggin The Blog

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


View From The Rose Garden

SCBWI Picture Book Rretreat 2015

Wood pigeons are dictating to me on the last morning in the rose garden at Holland House. There is chipping and chirping all around me as I write. I've ended in a place I hadn't planned.

I started the SCBWI Picture Book Retreat thinking that I was coming to play with my picture book characters but everything changed with the workshops and experimenting over the next few days.

How amazing that in all my 'Scoobie' (SCBWI_BI in conversation) years, I hadn't thought about harvesting my own childhood memories of wonder and discovery - as early as aged 4.

Loretta Schauer and Alexis Deacon played the Post-it quiz, pairing us up to ask each other questions about our childhood experiences.

We ended up with a wall of post-it note inspiration - real childhood moments that could spark a story idea.

It has been a weekend of telling stories to each other and I've met so many new Scoobies with fascinating other lives and we didn't stop talking about picture books all weekend.

How amazing to still be in the conference room after midnight sharing art and character and ideas.

Each morning, I woke at 6:30am and went into the garden for an hour. On the first morning, I packed my paintbox and mini stool and sat with the cat beneath the sundial and drew in the fairtrade sketchbook I'd bought from the Holland House gift shop (why wait until the end of the retreat to exit with a souvenir?).

I made several ink sketches focussing on colour. I returned later to add the watercolour when the ink was dry.

Concertina Sketchbook Holland House Sue Eves

Last year, I made great progress with my colour work and dummy book. This year I made my first concertina sketchbook (Bockingford lightweight paper with cardboard box end pieces) - cutting, sticking (PVA glue) and making something that looked a little like my childhood ice-cream wafer sandwich.

My concertina sketchbook was a little blank invitation to play (I made the shortest version - 6 pages of watercolour was less intimidating and as it turned out - enough for me to complete one in the weekend).

Well, you could knock me down with a paintbrush. How come I didn't know about these?

I finished painting my little sketchbook this weekend because Lynne Chapman showed us how to make the most of them - paint tones rather than outlines - keep the flow from one page to the next - add snippets of overheard dialogue or your own text. Use small bulldog clips to stop the pages expanding out of control. Limit your colour palette. I'm pleased I brought my folding camping stool - essential to getting exactly the right POV of your chosen subject and I finally had a use for my Pentel water brush ( I carry a screw top plastic pot of water too).

I always thought that to paint in watercolour, you dipped your brush in water, loaded it with your colour and sploshed it on quickly before it dried. No! No! Wet your watercolour paper first where you plan to colour and then add the colour. As soon as the paint was dry, I added line and text. 

I had worked in acrylics, oils, pastels and inks at art school but I had never tried watercolours because I'd been painting with them all through my childhood. I wanted to try something new.

This weekend, I rediscovered them and plan to make a full length storyboard for one of my picture books.

Emily Lamm, Commissioning editor at Hodder Children's Books. From the bigger picture to 'the finer detail' of picture book making

Andrea MacDonald, Executive Editor for picture books at Penguin Random House Children's Books.

The picture book is a '32-page stage'.

More photos of the SCBWI Picture Book Retreat on flickr

Harvest stories from your own childhood.

What was your memory of the death of your first pet?

What food did you most fear or look forward to at school?

What accident did you suffer through your own stupidity?

Unwinding Into The Weekend

Concertina Sketchbook

Lavender sweet and long

Barrows short and strong

Don't sit under the apple tree

How sweet the sound

We all went away knowing we had work to do - but we left with new tools to tackle it

But first we are in need of sleep
But first we are in need of sleep

The BookMap and the Golden Egg

Sue Eves BookMap at The Golden Egg Academy
BookMap - folded first pages

I know where I'm going - I've been there before and I'm going back - with my BookMap.


I've made 16 poster-sized pages of the journey through my story. Unfolding each page reveals columns filled with words about setting, characters, motivations and revelations.


I had no idea how important 'mapping' my novel would be when I began analysing the 2nd draft.


The timing was perfect for me. I couldn't wait to finish my accounts' spreadsheet in April. It was such a relief to be filling columns with words instead of numbers.


The April Mapping Your Novel workshop with Imogen Cooper and Vanessa Harbour was a little terrifying. Especially the 'Spider Chart'. How could I begin to work out what my novel was really about?

Golden Egg Academy Spider Chart for Mapping Your Novel Introduction
Spider Chart for 'Mapping Your Novel'

What amazed me was how much of my 48,000 word story I remembered. I'd finished the 2nd draft of my 'middle grade' fiction at the end of last year. Drawing the spider chart was an adrenaline rush to get to the heart of it. What are the main themes of the story? What do they all lead to? I remember being so excited about telling all to my piece of paper that it made me cry . But it was O.K. Vanessa was nearby, watching over the brood of Egg writers. She gave me a reassuring smile and there were mini chocolate eggs on standby.

Golden Egg Mini chocolate treat

It took me a month to complete my BookMap. 24 spreadsheet style pages. 10,000 words. I loved discovering my story all over again. Reading every chapter and noting down everything, including time of day - details, details, details. Then it was time to meet Mother Goose (AKA Imogen Cooper).

Imogen Cooper, after Golden Egg Academy Editorial in Bath
Editor, Imogen Cooper - Mother Goose clutching her Golden Egg Academy bag

  • What's your story about?
  • What's at stake?
  • What are the points of no return?
  • What's missing?
  • Why is there a ...?
  • Who is...?
  • What does she want?


Write down the things you can't  write the story without.

And I did. I revised my BookMap to a focussed 16 pages, 8,000 words. I have a new title, a new ending and a clear story. I've molted 7 chapters. It was all down to answering Imogen's insightful questions.


As a result of all this mapping practise I have completed 2 of my picture books and devised 2 more. My 63-page 'swipe book' for ipad is now also a traditional format 32-page picture book after a glorious 2 hours remapping it. Bonus!

Big thanks to all at The Golden Egg Academy for nurturing this little Egg.

Poster-sized pages folded to make my BookMap at The Golden Egg Academy
BookMap - Act I

I couldn't resist making a real map out of my BookMap pages.


I never dreamt I'd be more excited about my story now that I'm at the rewriting stage. I've prepared Act I. Now I'm ready for the inaugural Golden Egg Writing Retreat this weekend. I've downloaded Waze, there's a Sat Nav in my car and with my BookMap, I'm good to go.


I realise, after talking with Vanessa Harbour on facebook this morning, that my BookMap makes me feel like I have a book now. Also, I was surprised to read that it's not only new drivers who use a BookMap. Read Vanessa's blog about hers here.

BookBench Authors & Artists

Photo of Sue Eves By Candy Gourlay
BookBench - Sherlock Holmes stories Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Artist: Valerie Osment

Such a fine day and an amazing opportunity yesterday to see all 51 beautifully illustrated BookBenches in Gordon Square, London WC1. Pictured here from the back - wait until you see them from the front! And this is only half of what's up for auction. Click or hover over photos below to see book titles, author & artist credits.

Or jump to the Auction Catalogue


Want one? Auction is tomorrow, Tuesday 7th Oct 2014 - "Proceeds will go to the National Literacy Trust’s vital work to raise literacy levels in the UK." You can bid online too. 


Quote Monkeys

"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall." - Roald Dahl
"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall." - Roald Dahl

Done it! My illustration for our Quote Book - Just Imagine Centre Illustrators' Group


Our last one, the Travelling Sketchbook, took a year to complete. I am number 2 in this round. You can follow the illustrators'  journey on facebook.


We each chose a sealed envelope that revealed a quote about reading books. I was excited by mine but I avoided searching for the root of the quote so that I wasn't influenced by any illustration that had gone before. Now I know the text is from Roald Dahl's  Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. I'm glad I didn't recognise the Oompa-Loompas' words in the quote but I must find Quentin Blake's illustration for it! 




Copyright 2015 - Sue Eves