I look back at the cover I did for JK Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and think I would draw Harry very differently now. His hair should have been messier and I should have put more thought into his outfit – he should have looked like he was going somewhere magical.
I was 22, starting out as an illustrator and working in a children’s bookshop in Cambridge. This was my first commission after leaving art school and a big deal. I was so focused on fulfilling the brief and meeting the deadline that I wasn’t really thinking as much as I should have done about the story. Besides, when you start out in a creative career you don’t want anyone to remember the first thing you did because it’s probably a bit rubbish. In my case, my first piece was quite high-profile and I can’t escape it.
2020欧洲杯体育投注开户Not that I really want to. I love the fact that for most British kids this was their first experience of Harry, and it’s exciting to have created something that has been seen by so many people.
I handed my portfolio in on spec at and the publisher Barry Cunningham saw it and called me out of the blue. He invited me in and handed me a huge pile of paper in manuscript form to take away and read. The book was obviously still a work in progress – I could see editing notes on the document. I wish I’d known how famous the book would become as it would be valuable now, but it went into recycling!
To begin with I was asked to supply ‘a wizard’ for the back of the book, so I created a generic one, making it look a bit like my dad for a laugh. But as Pottermania took off, people speculated who the wizard was. They clearly wanted it to be someone specific. Then a few websites speculated that I had advance knowledge of what was going to come next in the series. Bloomsbury, fed up with being bombarded with questions, asked me to create a Dumbledore to replace it.
I didn’t buy a copy of the first-edition hardback, which I kick myself about. Only 500 of these were ever printed and some have been known to fetch £46,000 in auctions. We had 10 first-editions in the shop and I remember thinking, ‘Maybe I should buy one of these,’ but the publisher had promised to send me a copy. I wish I’d bought all of them now. I didn’t get the job to do the other covers. I was a bit disappointed, but looking back I was a beginner and they needed a more experienced pair of hands.
Anyway, by then all I really wanted to do was create picture books for younger kids. I did get offers of work off the back of Harry, but had to explain that it was not the direction I wanted to go in. Now I appreciate it’s great to have on my CV, but it didn’t really feel like that at the time – it was something I tried to hide.
I finally left the bookshop two years after The Philosopher’s Stone and started working as an illustrator full-time. I now write books, ironically in the same genre as Harry Potter. was published last May and has been really successful, and has been optioned for a film. Its sequel has just been published and I am working on the third one. It’s a little bit like coming full circle – although not quite, because this time around I’m leaving the cover art to someone else to do!
— As told to Lucy Dunn