Twenty years ago today, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published in the U.K. The U.S. was next with a title change to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and publication on September 1, 1998—which happens to be the first day of term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ten points to Hufflepuff! (I’m a proud Hufflepuff, and nothing will change that!)
Now, the series has sold more than 500 million copies worldwide has been translated into 73 languages. We met Amanda Penley last year thanks to her magical Harry Potter digital illustrations. Get to know Penley below, and hear how the world of Harry Potter has impacted her artistic expression.
Making Art Magic with Digital Art
I studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Georgia, and graduated in June. I love the Harry Potter series. This might sound terribly cliche, but Harry is my favorite character. We share the same birthday, and while I don’t share his absolutely terrible past, I did lose my father when I was very young. He became a character that I could really relate to since we shared similar issues.
I was sitting at home one day in October and Harry Potter was playing on ABC Family (now Freeform), and that feeling of old parchment and warm Butterbeer helped me realize it was time to pay homage to something that was so near and dear to my heart.
For the Harry Potter Illustrations, I start off with a reference photograph, then get to work on Adobe Illustrator and start blocking out shapes of the buildings. I also work with a limited color palette, and I create all the scenes of the locations at night for contingency. For example, with Malfoy Manor, I decided to create Malfoy Manor with a blue tone because Malfoy is described as loving Peacocks. I wanted to subtly hint to that.
Once I flesh out the building, I start to add shadows and figure out how I want the piece to animate. From there I bring it into photoshop where I add textures and halftones, among other elements.
With digital art, opportunities are endless. Firstly you have the ability to completely correct your mistakes as if they never happened. Secondly, once you know how to use the tools, it becomes the only toolbox you need.
With Photoshop Brushes, you can create realistic looking gouache paintings and overlaying textures. Other than digital illustrations, I really enjoy just using pen, ink, and gouache paint. They help keep me grounded from all the technology.
The best advice I can give is to create art that you love, but also art that will inspire and capture others. I wanted to create fan art to share my love for Harry Potter, and from there you never know who will be looking–say an editor for a magazine!
This inside look into Amanda Penley’s digital art first appeared in a past issue of The Artist’s Magazine.