Artist Research: Mary Grandpré, and the Inspration for my FMP

Mary Grandpré has been drawing since the age of 5 years old. She was born in South Dakota in 1954, and is an illustrator best known for her Harry Potter book covers.

Her book covers are arguably some of the most iconic pieces of artwork surrounding the Harry Potter universe, having been featured on the cover of the first edition prints of each book and beyond. Some of her covers, especially the first edition first print ones, are highly sought after and considered to be treasured collector’s items. Potter books have not been printed with her covers on the front for several years, making them all the more valuable.

Her involvement with artwork for the series began when the art director for Scholastic Publishing reached out to her, inviting her to submit illustrations for a British Fantasy series. She sent in three different sketches in response – one of which was selected for the cover. Rowling was so happy with Grandpré’s work that the artist stayed on to illustrate every single book cover for each new release. The work pictures above was featured on the cover of TIME magazine.

When Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was first announced to be released, my Mom pre-ordered the book online to use as a bedtime storybook for myself and my brother. They both quickly fell in love with the story, and pre-ordered every single book as they were released to read to us.

One of the reasons Mary Grandpré is such a huge inspiration for my project is because my parents pre-ordered hardback copies of the books with her illustrated covers for the first four books (the three books beyond that had different covers because we moved to England). I grew up with these covers, and as I got older and continued to go back to the books and re-read them over and over again, I would always find myself admiring the artwork before and after reading. Even from a young age, I took note of the skillful shading, the different tones, hues, and forms, and how each and every thing on the cover was inspired by things in the book.

From the example above, we can see the trees of the Forbidden Forest, Fluffy the Three Headed Dog, the key to open the door puzzle at the end of the book, the unicorn Voldemort drank the blood of, an owl bringing Harry his Hogwarts acceptance letter, Dumbledore sweeping through the grounds, the Hogwarts castle, a Bludger from a Quidditch game, and of course Harry on his broom, racing to catch the golden snitch.

In a rather benign but interesting addition to this, curtains can be seen on each end of the book cover. This is to symbolise the curtains opening at the beginning of a play. The only other book we can see this on is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, symbolising the curtains closing at the end of a play.

I think that pulling prevalent imagery and places from the books make for a well-rounded summary of each edition. The covers fit the brief – they make sense in accordance to the story, and they are visually interesting enough to reel in and appeal to people who have never read the book before.
I would like to try and weave that element of appealing to both side of the fence in my work – it won’t be an easy feat by any means as people have very different tastes, but I definitely think it will be worth it. I find something very satisfying about being able to pinpoint all of the references in Grandpré’s covers, and I know that I loved them all the same even when. I would like to emulate this feeling if at all possible in my work.

I would also emulate the interesting angles of her work, which bring an interesting and visually appealing sense of depth to each piece. I tend to work by creating pieces face-on, but it would be interesting to dabble with angles

Additionally, I would love to dabble with placing the name of the book somewhere in the design – I think that it really makes the book cover and the title inclusive, and makes everything flow very nicely. I’m especially enamored with the Philosophers Stone cover, where the title is worked into the brickwork of the arch. However, I am also fond of the cursive script in the two penultimate books.

Finally, I would love to draw inspiration from her colour palettes. She seems to favour either a warm undertone or a cool undertone depending on the feeling, context, and emotion of the cover, and then use one particular colour to draw off of and use multiple times in multiple places. This adds a sense of coalescence to each cover – something I struggle to create, as I tend to dip into many different tones and hues, which can tend to muddle and confuse a piece.

Sources used:

Bookgeeking (2015). HP Covers around the world | A World of Books. [online] Available at: <> (Accessed 18 Mar. 2017).

Grandpré, M (2017). Welcome Mary GrandPre. [online] Available at: <> (Accessed 17 Mar. 2017) (2017). Mary GrandPré | Minneapolis College of Art and Design. [online] Available at: <> (Accessed 17 Mar. 2017)

Parker, C (2008). Mary Grandpré | Lines and Colors. [online] Available at:
<> (Accessed 18 Mar. 2017)

Yosphan, G (2017). Harry Potter Illustrations by Mary Grandpre. [online] Pinterest. Available at:
<> (Accessed 18 Mar. 2017)


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