Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Harry Potter and the Missing Artist

This post has been moved to my new blog. Please follow the link to read it...

(see also: Harry and the Mysterious Wizard)


  1. That's so funny - I'm not sure I was supposed to laugh as much as I did, but there you have it! Well, sorry to disappoint you but I am utterly not famous, nor do I have any tenuous links to any famous people...oh, but wait...you're one of my bloggers - hey everyone, Harry Potter's a fan of my blog!

    You will definitely get lots of bloggers now!

    I can't believe you passed up the chance of a first edition.

    Well, I'm looking forward to your next chapter - your writing!

  2. A definitive explanation...now onwards and upwards!

  3. Thanks to you both:)

    We all have to start somewhere...

  4. Glad to hear you've kept your feet firmly on the ground and good to hear that it's your artistic passion that drives you not the kudos. Keep up the good work and i'm really enjoying your posts.

  5. Hi, Paul!

    Thanks for commenting -- I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. I've never had much web presence before so it's still a bit new to me.

    I'm glad to see you're doing well too. I'm suddenly aware that it's years since we last met!

    Did you notice that Darren commented a few posts back?

  6. Hi Thomas,

    Yes it's certainly years since we last met. I'd often wondered what you were up to. I've been in touch with Darren and Daniel for a few years now via email but always struggled to find the 'elusive' Thomas Taylor :)

    It was Darren that pointed me in the direction of your blog and I've been a quiet follower for a while.

    It would be nice to all meet up sometime, but I fear the likelihood of that is slim - with everyone's work and family commitments.

    Still at least we can follow each other through our blogs - I'm on facebook as well if you're feeling particularly web savvy at the moment.

    For now though, it's good to hear from you too!

  7. Hello Thomas,

    I've never commented on your blog even though I've been following it from day 1 (sorry!).

    I am surprised and pleased to discover you did the first Harry Potter cover, as I think it's the nicest one of them all!

    I look forward to seeing your name - as author - on many books!

  8. Many thanks for the compliment, Leon. It's good to see you stand up and be counted:)

  9. "Came accross a blog post"? Have you been Googling yourself Thomas?

    I'm glad you've cleared up all the rumours now; I'll admit to a little curiosity on my part about the whole situation, so good to hear it from the horse's mouth, so to speak. have you contacted the author of the blog in question?

    Yours is still the best illustration of the series, an iconic image that's far more distinctive than the other generic covers that followed.

    I see Paul has found you too [Hi Paul]... it's like a mini virtual reunion here.

    Kind regards,

  10. Horse's mouth? Nay.

    Oh dear. I suppose googling oneself doesn't look too good. 'All is vanity,' etc.

    I'm proud to host a mini reunion on my blog. all we need now is for Kieron to swoop through...

  11. Oh Thomas! That has to be the best blog posting I have ever read! Bravo!!! And I remember visiting your elevated studio-with-balcony in Cambridge as you embarked on the Harry Potter pictures. Wish I'd snaffled one of the roughs into my pocket...

    It's a great story. But a cautionary one too.

    Either way...it's more impressive than my debut (even if it didn't feature Agnetha Faltskog!)

  12. Wow, thanks James. There's a lot to be said for Agnetha -- and they say that sales of ABBA go up during recessions.

  13. Thomas, you write so beautifully, and honestly. I can't wait until your pirate novel sees the light of day- I'd buy it.

    I really feel your joy/pain over the HP thing- Must've been a horribly confusing start to a career. I think I woulda hidden in Heffers stock room til the 7th book came out, and other books began to creep in and take its' place! (Heffers is CLOSED?!!!)

    Anyway, I found your blog a while back and had been admiring your sketches, and now I know how you got so good- you were one of the Cambridge pupils! The Harry Potter cover is on the wall, at ARU (as it's now called). I have to confess, I was one of the ones that Martin had to chase with a sketch book- the sketchbook-keeping didn't come naturally to me at all! Though I've always admired those who do do it so well, and those piccies of your kids are really lovely.

    (sorry for the uber long comment!)

  14. Cassia, many thanks for your kind comments. You have found the perfect word to describe the start to my career: confusing!

    Yes, there still is a Heffers Children's Book dept at the Grafton Centre (at least, there was when I last looked) but back in the late '90s there was a dedicated shop in a prime location on Trinity Street. It was quite an institution – on of the best kid's bookshops in the country -- and now it's gone.

    I've seen your blog too, and I like your style very much. It reminds me of my own. It's hard for me to accept that there's now a whole generation of art graduates who have come through Anglia behind me and who are already working! I suppose I have to finally admit to being middle-aged, though I'm not quite ready to buy a sports car and wear tight jeans:)

  15. Wotcha, Tom....Dan the Beardless Dwarf from Paston here....DG told me about here...Great to be able to find you! We have been trying for a while to find ye....Helloooo...

  16. Hi, Dan! Welcome to the party. Pringle?

  17. Not only is Heffers Children's Bookshop closed, the other Heffers in the Grafton Centre is now closed, along with its children's section.

    Sigh. Plenty of shoe shops though. It's a sign of the times.

    Thanks for that post anyway, It's a lovely little true story.

    From a current (middle aged!) student at Cambridge.

  18. Thanks for commenting, Mike. It's good to hear from Cambridge, but sad that the last vestige of Heffer's Children's Bookshop has finally gone. It's alarming how as books recede, shoes, mobile phones and coffee seem to expand to take their place. I suppose those are three things no-one wants to buy off the internet.

  19. Excellent blog Thomas. Good to know the whole story having heard bits of it over the years from you and your mother. ! We recently cleared the house out of lots of children's books that our two are too old for now, but have kept hold of our beautifully signed copy of the The Loudest Roar. Still one of my faves. Good luck with the pirate book, and hope to see you and Celia and the boys soon.
    Gaynor xx

  20. Ha! This most amusing from a 'publishing industry stupid' perspective. I guess you won't really be able to say if it was a good or a bad thing in the long run until you are 90 and looking back on an entire career.

    And there's no question but that your art is way better than the agonisingly-awaited book seven. When that was first released, it was passed around the office of the publisher I was working for, with us all marvelling at how it managed to be so fantastically crap.

  21. Thanks, Anna, and for the mention on your blog too. And thanks, Gaynor -- I didn't see you there.

  22. sucha fan of this cover, understated and allows to book to create its own image alongside.
    this is quite irrelevant but as a 'drawer' myself, i wondered how you turn your original sketches into the finished colour pictures that they are?

  23. Hi, Edward. Thanks for commenting.

    I've been using concentrated watercolour and coloured pencils for years (ink for body colour and pencil for highlights), but lately I have been experimenting with digital techniques to finish off ink work. This cover was entirely traditional media though.

  24. Great story of the perils of fame.

    So did you get your signed copy? And if so, where do you keep it?

    (Not planning to steal it - just wondering if it's stuck in your bedroom bookshelf or in a safety deposit box. And if so, which bank.)

  25. Hi, Maine Character.

    I was a given a signed second edition in the end, which I sold at auction some years later. It's a pain having to look after things of value and anyway money is more useful:)

  26. Hi Thomas - Liam here - get in touch old chap and let's keep in touch this time..xxME Liam Kelly that is.... look for me on google and you shall find I'm sure if not then I shall try and get an email address to you - I don't want it published on here as you can imagine...

  27. Hi, Liam! Look me up on facebook. I'm only a click or two away...

  28. Noooo, I can't believe you never got your hands on a copy! Great blog post, I just found you via Faye Durston's blog comments and this was the first post I read, going off to explore some more. I recognise you already though, from Martin Salisbury's book "Illustrating Children's Books".

  29. Hi, Sheena. Thanks for commenting.

    Just to be clear, I did get a copy eventually, but it was a second edition.

  30. Dear Mr. Taylor,

    Being a Belgian myself, I like your appreciation (if that’s what it is...) of Belgian beer, and at the same time I hope you excuse my poor English.
    I only just noticed your blog (by way of the interview you gave to Harry Potter Reviews in December 2010). Can I ask you about the original back cover of the young wizard which you showed to the interviewer? For instance: who is this wizard? In HP-fandom some say he represents young Dumbledore, others say he is Prof. Quirell, or Nicholas Flamel. I think he is just a random wizard, and is not meant to represent one of the characters described in the book. Am I right?
    Next: when did you create the illustration of Dumbledore with his long white hair, which appeared on the back cover of the same book after a certain number of prints? Did Bloomsbury ask you for this picture of Dumbledore later on, or was it among the first sketches and illustrations, and did Bloomsbury just decide to change the back cover after a number of prints?
    I hope I am not bothering you too much with these silly questions, but I just had to ask.

  31. Hi Chlidonias

    Thanks for your questions, which I'm more than happy to answer.

    When I was commissioned to do the artwork for HP, the publishers asked for "a wizard to decorate the back cover". I didn't have any particular character in mind as the world of Hogwarts and wizardry was clearly full of magical people, and it never occurred to me to draw Dumbledore. So you're quite right that it was just a random wizard (loosely based on my father, actually). Later on, Bloomsbury found themselves repeatedly asked about the wizard on the back, and it was clear that readers expected to see Dumbledore. The publishers got in touch and commissioned the new picture.



  32. Hi Thomas

    Thank you so much for your answer! You just ended two and a half years of uncertainty and discussion. Love your pictures, by the way.
    (And I guess your father must be a real cool person).

  33. Chlidonias, it's a pleasure. In fact, I think I'll make a blog post out of this uncertainty over the old wizards identity, so thank you for bringing the question to my attention.

  34. Hi Thomas, lovely to stumble across your blog! I am in the process of purchasing a leather slipcase edition of Philosopher's Stone, in which you painted a full page picture of Harry in his quidditch gear on the pitch at Hogwarts. I was just wondering if you remember doing this (I have a pic if you need to see), and under what circumstances you decided to paint this (was it a commission etc?). Thank you for any help - I love to know the history behind the items I buy, and I absolutely adore your artwork. Best wishes, Rachael.

    1. Rachael,
      Do you have any photos of the book and artwork you bought. I would love to see it. If so, please email to jdclar3@gmail.com
      I keep a large archive of photos related to Harry Potter collecting and maintain a website I sometimes add them to. Anyway, would love to see it.


  35. Hi, Rachael. Thanks for getting in touch. I was once commissioned by a book dealer in London to produce colour sketches in editions of Harry Potter, and sometimes on seperate paper to be bound in later. I think all the HP illustrators produced artwork for the same dealer. I'm not sure if the resulting books were ever leather bound, but it sounds like they must have been. I hope you enjoy owning this special book, because there can't be more than a dozen like it, and each one would be different.

    I remember that the paper was of atrociously poor quality, and almost impossible to paint on.

  36. oh wow.i found your blog! I wish I could get your autograph :) being the first HP cover art illustrator makes you awesome.

  37. Thanks, Adri. I'm not sure how awsome I really am, but thanks for that too;-)

  38. Hello Thomas, recently I bought some artwork you did for a Charity auction: Morni Theater Collective. Just wanted to let you know I love the book and artwork. Keep up the good work with your current publishing too!

  39. Jonathan, thanks for getting in touch. And thanks also for bidding on the book so handsomely -- the proceeds will help fund an exciting theatre project in India. Thanks again and I hope the book reaches you soon:)

    1. Received the book today. Love it! Just wondering, do you do any commissioned Harry Potter art these days? I noticed I book of many watercolors you did that went up for sell at sotheby's. I would love one of those type of watercolors suitable for framing to display. The book will go nicely with the rest of my HP art collection, but it is a bit hard to display. Thank so much again!

  40. I'm glad it got there safely, Jonathan. Thanks again for supporting Morni.

    I don't really do any commissioned HP art these days -- I'm too pre-occupied with my own writing now. The watercolours you saw date from the late 90s, I think. Sorry to be disappointing!

    Best wishes



Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.