By Ruth Rowland
It was great to be asked to talk to the students on the Picturing Magic course, aligned with the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition at The British Library, London, UK.
At the end of 2017 and again at the beginning of 2018, The British Library invited students to sign up to a course to learn how to create their own fantasy-based illustrations, inspired by the magical works on display in the show.
Starting with a private, curator-led tour of the Harry Potter exhibition, illustrator and educator, Sion Ap Tomos guided the students through an array of magical subjects, taking creative inspiration from herbology manuscripts, botanical illustrations and fantastical bestiaries found within the collection. By the end of the six week course, the students had amassed a series of illustrations which they then bound into their own unique magical book, taught by bookbinder Shelagh McCarthy.
I was asked to contribute to the course on the second week by introducing the students to a range of inks and pens to annotate their illustrations. I arrived with a box of nibs, dip ink pens, inks and watercolours as well as a selection of more modern cartridge pens and markers. My aim was to show them the possibilities for making inventive titles and descriptive text to complement their illustrations and complete their books.
To help illustrate my talk, I put together a small handmade lettering sketchbook to display as I was demonstrating different techniques to the students. You can see a few of the pages here, along with a series of short videos of the book itself as I flip though it on my desk.
Inspired by the magical Harry Potter exhibition as well as many items in the extraordinary British Library collection, these are sketches rather than finished pieces - a great chance for me to experiment with my more specialist inks and pens, exploring texture, pattern, letterform and layout.
The course is now finished but I’ve continued to work in the sketchbook and will update this article as I have new images and videos to show. If you’re interested in seeing more of the project, follow me on social media, where I’ll also be posting new material.
As part of the exhibition teaching team at the British Library, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Harry Potter: A History of Magic private view. A great evening with lots of famous faces in the crowd and a *spellbinding* (sorry) opening speech from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child actor, Jamie Parker. I've posted a few photos from the evening below.