Q&A with Harry Potter Anniversary Edition Illustrator Levi Pinfold

If you’ve got your hands on a copy of our just-released fall issue, you’ll note Catherine Batac Walder’s article on Harry Potter’s twentieth anniversary and Bloomsbury’s new ‘House-specific’ anniversary editions of the book that started it all, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Walder interviewed illustrator Levi Pinfold about his inspiration and his artistic process. We’re sharing here more from that interview.

CBW: How are these Harry Potter illustrations different/similar to the work that you usually do?

LP: Normally I don’t work in line, so it was a pleasure to use some ink for a change.

CBW: Related to question 1, did you look at existing illustrations or did you try not to?

LP: I tried to stay away from existing material during the time I worked on the pictures. I found myself looking more to Albrecht Dürer etchings and other work from Renaissance artists for inspiration. I’ve since allowed myself to leaf through Jim Kay’s amazing work on the major illustrated editions, though.

harry 3d visual_Revised (1) copy.jpgCBW: What difficulties had you encountered in finishing the drawings?

LP: Man’s greatest enemy...time!

CBW: Did you read all the HP books before you got the job/were you a fan? Did you have to know the books very well for this job?

LP: I had read and enjoyed them beforehand, yes. I had also listened to the audiobooks some years ago whilst working. It was fantastic to re-familiarize myself with the books for the job. It definitely didn’t feel like work!

CBW: What kind of research did you do before starting with the drawings? Any fascinating facts about coat of arms that you could share?

LP: The crests are based around traditional heraldic symbolism. Each element has a house specific meaning. For instance--a crescent moon means glory and splendor for Slytherin, or a beehive meaning hard work and industry for Hufflepuff. There are some great resources worth investigating on the Internet, if you like that sort of thing.

CBW: I know that as an artist you cannot really measure the time you work on an illustration as it depends on inspiration, but could you give an idea roughly how long it took to illustrate a cover, to redo it, etc.? What was your working day like?

LP: I was working under a tight deadline with the covers, so the days were long; anywhere between 10 and 18 hours. Most of the work took place at night because it was midsummer here in Australia and the days were just too hot! Generally each cover took around 3 days. Lots of variations and mistakes.

CBW: Would this be the most fun job you’ve ever had? I read your comment about it being a responsibility, will it be one of the hardest jobs as well?

LP: It was about as fun as illustration gets! The audiobooks were playing in the background and it was fascinating to immerse myself in the world and mythology. However, I have never worked on something with such a massive readership, so I have to admit that I found myself prey to a general hum of anxiety throughout the project.

CBW: I understand you also did the illustrations featured in the pages of the books?

LP: I did indeed. Inside and out. The house founders were particularly fun.

CBW: Will you be doing some more work for Harry Potter?

LP: Nothing at the moment, but I would certainly be keen for more.

CBW: How did you get the job and how has it changed your life/career so far?

LP: A combination of factors led to me getting the job, there are lots of people working behind the scenes. I still don’t quite know how the decision was made. My agent, the art director and the rest of the team at Bloomsbury all had something to do with it. Other than that, pure luck!

Image courtesy of Bloomsbury

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