Senior Content Editor
@kkelliott9Earlier this week, PopWrapped had the privilege of sitting down with award winning London based artist Jonny Duddle, set to create the new Harry Potter book covers, and asked him some questions about being chosen for such a big job. Known for his award-winning picture books such as The Pirate Cruncher and The Pirates Next Door, Duddle's artistic talent does not go unnoticed.
PW: How did you feel when you found out you would be illustrating the new Harry Potter jackets?JD: "It was a bit of a shock. I painted the first cover as a ‘test’ piece last year, but was concerned that I couldn’t give it the time I would’ve liked due to other commitments. So when I heard that J.K. Rowling and the team at Bloomsbury wanted me to paint the rest of the series, I was gobsmacked. And then I worried that I just wasn’t qualified for the job, having only read the first book years ago. I felt like an impostor, amongst millions of Harry Potter fans. A proper Muggle. But then I realised that this gives me a fresh perspective, and I’m hugely excited to work my way through the wonderful books, reading each one as I produce artwork brimming with fantastic creatures and unforgettable characters."
PW: Are you a Harry Potter fan? If so, what are your first memories of reading the books?JD: "I am now very much a Harry Potter fan. I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’ s Stone a few years ago, and I bought a boxed set with the intention of reading all of the books. But I’ve had a very busy few years with my career as an illustrator and writer and, along with a young family and late nights in my studio, I just don’t read as much as I would like, and nowhere near as much as I used to. And as a country bumpkin with no cinemas nearby, I’d never seen the Harry Potter films. I saw the first one at the cinema, after I read the book, but that’s it. In some ways that probably makes me unusual, and I think it’s a good place from which to approach the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, without any preconceptions. I’m reading each book in turn and immediately developing the cover, taking the images that are conjured up in my head by J.K. Rowling’s magical words."
PW: Is there a particular character or scene that you are looking forward to putting on the jackets?
PW: How do you as an artist approach such a large job? Where do you begin with such a wide range of possibilities?JD: "I’m taking one book at a time. I read the cover brief, and then I read the story, making notes and occasional sketches. I collect references, from my library of non-fiction books, search online and take my own photographs. I’ve recruited my neighbours’ son, who is suitably Potter-esque, although he annoyingly had his slightly wild hair cut for the new school term. I make numerous sketches of the main elements of the cover and then cobble them all together digitally, until I have a cover rough I feel happy to send to Bloomsbury and J.K. Rowling. I hear back very quickly with comments on my rough, which I then tweak or redraw until everyone’s happy for me to progress. Then I ‘paint’ each cover digitally."
PW: Who is your favourite character from the Harry Potter universe?JD: "I love Hagrid. I like his bumbling, well-meaning nature and how things often go wrong because of something he’s said or done or his general clumsiness, in spite of his best intentions. In that way he reminds me of myself. When I was briefed on the first cover, he was the first character I tried to draw. I also like Arthur Weasley because he likes tinkering with old cars (like my dad used to), and I like his approach to his job at the Ministry, as a slightly naughty and mild-mannered rebel."
PW: How would you describe your own art style?JD: "I think I have a number of ‘styles’. The illustrations I’m creating for Harry Potter are very different to the artwork in my picture books, which are probably what I’m best known for. Before becoming an illustrator, I worked for eight years as a concept artist in computer games, and I recently spent almost four years working with Aardman, as one of the character designers on their stop-motion movie The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! As a concept artist you have to be thick-skinned, as drawings are tossed aside with barely a glance form your art director and open-minded with style and subject matter. I worked on games that were cartoony, realistic and sometimes almost abstract, producing thousands of drawings in pencil and on computer whilst developing a digital toolset that’s been carried over into my illustration work. On computer I work in a very similar way to my techniques with real paint, progressing from a sketch to a finished drawing, laying an under- painting and then working on a final layer of colour. I love the flexibility that digital artwork gives me to change the direction of a painting and move elements around at any stage. The common threads, however stylised or realistic, are probably my desire to emphasise character, drop in some vivid colours and a tendency to cram as much as I can into an illustration. These work well in my picture books, but often have to be tempered a little with book jackets, particularly for older readers."
PW: What tips would you offer to young people who are keen to become artists/illustrators?JD: "I think anyone can become an artist or illustrator. I don’t believe in ‘talent’ in art, just the desire to practise. If you practise every day, you’ll get better every day. The younger you are when you start practising, the sooner you will begin to feel confident in your abilities. There is such a wonderful diversity in children’s book illustration today, and a few hours in a bookshop or library can reveal artists working in all manner of styles, techniques and mediums. If you find a selection of artists you like, study their work and try and create something similar you can learn a lot.
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