With a sprinkling of Floo Powder - visitors were transported into the enchanting world of Harry Potter as re-imagined by illustrator Jim Kay as we launched our brand new exhibition.

On Friday 13 November - we kept our doors open for a very special visitor. Illustrator Jim Kay and representatives from Bloomsbury Publishing were the first to see our brand new Illustrating Harry Potter exhibition now on display in the Gillian Dickinson gallery. Members of the public, annual pass holders and special guests were also invited to this exclusive preview evening complete with an abundance of Every Flavour sweets in the bookshop and a chance for fans of Jim's work to meet the illustrator and get their books signed. What a magical night was had by all!

Jim was delighted and somewhat overwhelmed to see his work on the walls; commenting on how lucky he felt to have an exhibition at Seven Stories:

"How wonderful for me to see this finally up on the walls and out in the open. You forget what you've done...you do so much in preparation for the book so finally I get a chance to have a look at those drawings again. It's been a delight and a pleasant surprise."

The evening was buzzing with conversation about illustration, reminiscing about favourite scenes, 

characters and story lines from the Harry Potter series and kind words to reflect the patience and warmness of Jim Kay who effortlessly greeted each child, adult and staff member in an epic two hour signing spree.

Jim praised two sisters he spotted replicating his drawings in the exhibition and later encouraged budding artists when he commented:

"It's your ideas that are important ...ideas are the key thing...you can get better with drawing the more and more you do but finding good ideas is the answer. I often find children who don't think they can be an artist because they can't draw very well but they have years to perfect that skill and their ideas are fantastic."

The exhibition includes intricate sketches and stunning pencil drawings which form only a handful of the multiple concept drawings Jim does as he begins to build a sense of the characters he is creating. We learn from the exhibition that Jim uses a myriad of techniques to arrive at the end illustrations - working from clay models, impressive paper constructs and even lighting model versions of Hogwarts to see how the light falls before he begins his illustrations. Meticulous doesn't cover it - Jim's research for the illustrations also sees him going through the seven books again and again to piece together J. K. Rowling's intricate details of the architecture, landscapes and characters to most accurately recreate the world of Harry Potter. Jim told us what he found challenging about taking on this project:

Thanks to our friends at Bloomsbury for supporting this exhibition and what a delight to finally meet the incredibly warm and friendly Jim Kay. Explore Jim’s fascinating process of re-imagining one of the most famous books in children’s literature in this exhibition which includes:

  • Jim’s model of the Hogwarts Express
  • impressive concept artwork of iconic scenes and characters
  • a short film revealing how he approached illustrating J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
  • final oil on board artwork of Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore

Free exhibition, admission to the centre still applies. Supported by Bloomsbury Publishing. Click here for more information.

Find out more about Jim and follow his epic illustration journey on his blog here. Jim Kay is the 2012 Kate Greenaway Medal winning illustrator of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness whose impressive illustrative style is atmospheric and haunting.  Jim loves to work with print but turned to watercolour and pencil for his more recent work. We were thrilled to be joined by 2015 Carnegie Medal winner Tanya Landman who surprised us with a visit to see Jim's exhibition too.

Image (C) Seven Stories - The National Centre for Children's Books Photography by Damien Wootten.