Ahead of the publication of The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac, publisher Bloomsbury have taken the opportunity to interview the illustrators who brought this companion title to life.
Pham Quang Phuc is a children’s book illustrator from Vietnam with a rich and decorative style. He has illustrated many books, and considers storytelling a way to balance his life. Among other prizes, Quang Phuc is a winner of The ASEAN Children’s Book Illustrator Best in Fiction award. In the Wizarding Almanac, readers can look out for his truly magnificent magical maps, noble Quidditch champions and sky-swooping, fire-blazing dragons.
Why did you choose to take part in this project and what about it is most exciting for you?
I think Harry Potter is a name that should not be overlooked by book readers and every children’s book illustrator wants to try drawing once in their career. So when this opportunity came, I gladly accepted it and tried my best. I knew that in the group of artists working on the book, there are big names who have worked on other Harry Potter books. I was extremely happy to be able to illustrate in the same book with Levi Pinfold, he is one of the people who inspired me to pursue illustrative work. It’s nice that after about ten years of pursuing this career, I can illustrate in the same book with someone I admired so much when I was an amateur illustrator. I have quite a few friends who are loyal fans of the series. Honestly, I feel that they love the book series more than I do, so I really want to do a good job of this book to give to my friends. The most memorable moment was probably the illustration of the cover of this book. It’s an honour for an unsung artist like me. I have illustrated the spreads in the book and the book cover with a lot of fun and excitement, hoping they will make the fans of the book as excited as I do.
What are your memories of first reading the Harry Potter stories?
I read the series from when I was in middle school until the end of high school. In my memories, the book series came out in my country nearly around the same time as the movie releases. Many fans lined up to buy books at bookstores every time there was a new volume. I didn’t have much money to buy the book because it was quite thick and expensive for me so I had to wait for my friends to finish reading it and borrow it. It’s almost like borrowing a book from a library. I feel like I grew up with characters like Daniel Radcliffe grew up with Harry Potter. In fact, I’m the same age as him. Now, as an adult, I collected Jim Kay’s beautifully illustrated books as a form of service to my work. The book series contributed greatly to bringing me to my current drawing style with dragons, monsters, magic and fantasy worlds. Later, when I had a lot of experience working and receiving illustrations for this book, I reread the books and learned a lot from J.K. Rowling about how she built the wizarding world. They are so vivid and rich in detail, which inspires me a lot.
Who are your favourite Harry Potter characters?
Rubeus Hagrid. He and I love fantastic beasts and dragons.
How did you become an illustrator? Have any other artists or illustrators particularly inspired you and your journey?
Although I love drawing and creating stories from a young age, I found out about the profession of illustrator quite late. When I was young, I wrote and drew a few short comics that were published in several magazines. After graduating from college, I became a graphic designer because there are not too many illustrators in my country. It’s not a common job. Having been in the design business for a short time, I discovered how interesting being an illustrator could be when I read some picture books. Black Dog by Levi Pinfold is one of them, that made me know how wonderful a picture book could be. It reminded me of what I used to love as a kid, drawing and writing children’s stories, so I tried to educate myself to become a book illustrator. I admire illustrators who can draw and write books brilliantly at the same time. I am a big fan of Jimmy Liao, Shaun Tan, Levi Pinfold, Oliver Jeffers … I love their works because their books are genius and their artworks are inspired. Their paintings help me expand my imagination.
How did you approach illustrating your sections of the book? Was illustrating the wizarding world difficult?
I’ve drawn pretty much everything in the fantasy world of fairy tales, but I’ve never drawn anything directly related to this series. I was a fan of the series as a child but I haven’t read them in a while. I reread all seven books, rewatched the eight movies to make sure what kind of spirit I wanted to convey to the readers. I think the biggest difficulty is to bring a lot of details from the book into my paintings. Fortunately, the process was hard, but it was also fun because I was once again living in the wizarding world, just like I was when I was a kid.
Bloomsbury have already shared your stunning Beyond the Reach of Magic spread to readers worldwide as a preview for the publication in October 2023. Please could you tell us a little bit about the making of this piece of artwork?
I was a bit pressured at first when I was tasked with this illustration. This is an important spread because it recalls the many meanings and emotions of the series. The characters in Harry Potter have been drawn by many famous artists. The actors of the film are also famous. It is difficult to create a cast of characters exactly as described in the book as well as to satisfy the imagination of the readers. It sounds funny but when I was in middle school, the movie Harry Potter came out and my friends said that I resembled the main character in the movie just because we both wore glasses. I felt relieved when I remembered this silly thing. I understood that everyone has the right to imagine the characters in the book in their own way and so did I. I started drawing the characters according to my imagination. Maybe they’d look a bit like someone I used to know or some famous character I’ve seen on TV. I ended up drawing Harry Potter that reminded me a bit of myself as a kid.
Aside from the Beyond the Reach of Magic page, what was your favourite spread to illustrate, and why?
I love Quidditch Through the Ages because I love watching sports on TV, especially soccer. I made that spread while watching the FIFA World Cup 2022. I love sportsmanship and positive, energetic things. Therefore I had a lot of fun when illustrating that spread. That is a great time of my life. Besides that, two maps (Fantastic Beast & Where to Find Them and Harry’s Corner of the Wizarding World) are my favourite spreads, too.
What is your Hogwarts house?
The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac publishes on 10 October 2023 – available to pre-order in 34 languages all over the world!