Vietnamese artist among illustrators of new Harry Potter book

November 12, 2023 - 08:39
The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac, the first official companion to the Harry Potter books, features works by seven artists from around the world, including Phạm Quang Phúc of Việt Nam.
Illustrator Phạm Quang Phúc is pictured with the Vietnamese edition of 'The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac'. Photo courtesy of the artist

By Lương Thu Hương

To a Harry Potter enthusiast like artist Phạm Quang Phúc, it was a dream come true to live in the magical world of wizards after he was invited to illustrate the new Harry Potter book.

The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac, the first official companion to the Harry Potter books, features works by seven artists from around the world. Among them, Phúc drew 16 double-page illustrations, equivalent to 32 pages, in addition to the front and back covers.

The 208-page book provides a comprehensive collection of information and insights into the magical world of Harry Potter. It serves as a reference guide for fans, offering details about the characters, creatures, spells, locations, and various aspects of the wizarding universe created by author J.K. Rowling.

The front cover of 'The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac' which was illustrated by Phúc.— Photo courtesy of the artist

Phúc was contacted by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK), inviting him to participate in a secret project in mid-2021. After agreeing to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the publisher, he was informed that they were seeking artists to join the latest project related to Harry Potter.

After over four months of creating a demo illustration featuring the magical creatures from the Harry Potter series, and going through more than ten rounds of revisions, Phúc was finally chosen as one of the seven illustrators of the latest Harry Potter book.

"I was overjoyed to become one of the illustrators for The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac," he said.

But the 34-year-old, with over 10 years' experience in illustration, admitted that he felt under tremendous pressure.

“This is a project by the globally renowned author J.K. Rowling, and it involves the collaboration of numerous individuals, from editors and graphic designers to prominent illustrators. Each participant in the project is highly skilled in their fields, which puts a significant amount of pressure to contribute to the work. The difficulty and volume of the tasks at hand were immense, requiring me to exert much more effort than usual,” he said

Embarking on the project, Phúc had to re-read all seven Harry Potter books and watch eight films again.

Additionally, he had to read 20-40 pages of comprehensive English information, including requirements for the artwork and excerpts from the books, before conducting further research to verify the information and images. The research process to prepare for each illustration consumed a large amount of time.

After acquiring the essence and spirit of the series, he had the confidence to infuse his own interpretations and creativity into the illustrations.

Phúc revealed that initially he was assigned to draw a certain number of illustrations. However, the plans changed slightly to allow him to fully utilise his strengths.

“This close collaboration, combined with flexibility, presented me with the opportunity to also work on designing the book cover during the final stage of the project,” he recalled.

It took Phúc up to 1.5 years to finish his assigned artwork. Some of his illustrations for the book include Quidditch Through the Ages, Dragons, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, All About Brooms, Creatures of the Deep and Beyond the Reach of Magic.

Phúc's illustrations for 'Dragons' in 'The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac'. — Photo courtesy of the artist

He said his greatest challenge was the concern of not being able to satisfy readers' imagination, as the Harry Potter series has already been so famed worldwide. Besides this, it was a significant challenge to create his own version without duplicating existing ones.

“However, throughout the process, I received encouragement and trust from the publisher to freely express my creativity and ideas while still meeting their requirements in terms of content and the book's concept,” he added.

He particularly enjoyed working on the Quidditch Through the Ages illustration in The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac.

Phúc particularly enjoyed the 'Quidditch Through the Ages' illustration. — Photo courtesy of the artist

"I was actually watching the live broadcast of the 2022 World Cup while working on the illustration. I infused the artwork with images of players in action and enthusiastic fans cheering, capturing the vibrant atmosphere of the sport," he said.

The HCM City-based freelance illustrator revealed that he doesn’t pursue a specific style. His current illustrating style resulted from a process of practice, selection, and evolving his drawing techniques based on his personal aesthetic preferences over time.

“I aim to become a skilled children's book illustrator, so I focus on honing both my skills and artistic style for this field of work," Phúc said.

“Participating in The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac, I utilised my strengths from previous projects, such as illustrating fantastic creatures, dragons and monsters, to create a magical atmosphere and bring a bright source of energy to young readers through my illustrations.”

The Vietnamese edition of the almanac has been published by the Trẻ (Youth) Publishing House at the same time as the international editions.

“After the book was released worldwide and translated into over 30 languages at the same time, I felt extremely proud and found my efforts were truly worthwhile,” he added.

Phúc has won a number of prestigious honours worldwide, including winner of the ASEAN Children’s Book Illustrator in 2018 for the artwork Everywhere Monster, finalist of the Scholastic Picture Book Award in 2017 for Dreams Are Calling, and second prize winner of Samsung KidsTime Authors’ Award 2016 for The Party of Cats' King.

His illustration, The Garden of Us, was selected for the Unpublished Picturebook Showcase 4 at the Bologna Book Fair this year. VNS