Illustrator Interview: Jim Kay, 'Harry Potter' The prospect of illustrating all seven volumes filled artist Jim Kay with "terrible panic" — but he left his comfort zone and did it anyway. Here's how he brought the boy wizard's adventures to life.
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Pictures Worth 1,084,170 Words: The 'Harry Potter' Series, Illustrated

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Pictures Worth 1,084,170 Words: The 'Harry Potter' Series, Illustrated

Pictures Worth 1,084,170 Words: The 'Harry Potter' Series, Illustrated

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/459071209/459503004" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally, today, a word about "Harry Potter." His world is well-known through books, movies and even a theme park. Now the adventures of the boy wizard will be shown through new illustrations featured in a special edition of the "Harry Potter" series out now. Creating such beautiful drawings is no easy task, as we found out.

JIM KAY: Hello. My name is Jim Kay, and I'm an illustrator. I'm currently scribbling away on "The Chamber of Secrets," which, hopefully I'll have finished by about February. But at the moment, you can read "Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone," which is currently out in America and is illustrated by me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEDWIG'S THEME")

KAY: Most illustrators have a very specific style in that you'd see their work and think oh, yes, that's - that's that illustrator. I know that person. And I've always had that slight problem that I still don't I have a style as such. And I think to start with, on the first book we just tried everything because I had no idea how the book would look to start with. And it was just a case of throwing all ideas, using any materials, everything from paints that you'd normally decorate the walls with to wax crayons and oil paintings, charcoal, some are printed, so anything at all to get some sort of visual response to the text. And that's just me trying to find my feet, really.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEDWIG'S THEME")

KAY: So, for example, the cover illustration, which is also a double-page illustration inside the book, that features Harry Potter on platform 9 3/4.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE")

DANIEL RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) Excuse me, sir, can you tell me where I might find platform 9 3/4?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Trainmaster) 9 3/4...

KAY: And it's seen from above. You can see the train, the steam and lots of people moving about. And Diagon Alley, I filled the gaps between the shops that are described in the stories, which, again, I thought might be bit cheeky because, you know (laughter) I'm creating things for the "Harry Potter" world. Usually, when you illustrate a book, you're working on something that nobody's read before. But of course, I'll be working on one of the most well-known and well-loved children's book series in the history of children's books, which is terrifying.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KAY: It took me nearly a year to create the universe of "Harry Potter." And then to cast it, I had to find real children because these children age, you see, over seven years. And it's far easier for an illustrator to work from a real child, to watch how they grow old, to watch how they change in proportion. So it's made me look at people in all their variety. And the more varied the better, really. So I think if everybody thought of people as illustrators do, I think you'd appreciate the variety of shapes and sizes. And then, you know, there's no such thing as beautiful or ugly; it's all sort of interesting.

MARTIN: That's illustrator Jim Kay, talking about his work re-illustrating the world of "Harry Potter."

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