They say that you should never work with animals or children, but the two are deeply entwined in the life and work of artist, illustrator and print maker Olivia Lomenech Gill. By the end of her ‘Inspired in Hull’ lecture on Friday 9th March, it was clear to all that the spontaneity of children, and the inspiration to be gained from the natural world provided a magic that both elevated and transcended her most famous work.
The most significant career highlight for Olivia so far has been to illustrate the most recent addition to the Harry Potter cannon, JK Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. It is hard to imagine a greater honour or responsibility for an illustrator than to be tasked with bringing to life this modern day bestiary of fantastic imaginary creatures from the universe of Harry Potter. An honour, because it means working with one of the most famous and significant literary phenomena of the 21st century; a responsibility, because of the role that Harry Potter has played in the imaginative lives of a generation of children and young people. It is a challenge, though, to which Olivia responded magnificently, producing an unquestionably beautiful book that compliments that source material and yet also has a distinct and vivid vision that is uniquely hers.
Olivia bewitched the audience, weaving an enchanting web of stories and images that spoke of a voracious curiousity, a relatable intellectualism and a healthy appetite for life and living. This was a lecture that seemed to encompass everything. From her childhood drawings and the books she loved growing-up, through experiences travelling in Britain, Europe and beyond to Syria and Egypt, and on to the building of her studio and her spartan but bucolic life in Northumbria with her children and her husband Vincent, this was more a wonder tour of a creatively alive imagination and memory than an early evening lecture and it was well received by both the adults and the children in the room.
Going into great detail about her creative process, Olivia revealed the real-life inspirations for her creatures, the animals that she had found on trips with her children, and who she practiced drawing to give life and reality to the fantastical beasts of the imagination in the book. She had taken her inspiration, too, from the earliest natural history texts and encyclopedias, meaning that the finished book has a depth and a relationship to history and ‘reality’ that adds an extra dimension to the magic and imagination of JK Rowling’s fantasy world.
The Q&A included questions from some of the children in the audience who were keen to know which of the Fantastic Beasts she most enjoyed drawing, or would most like to meet. There was also a stage invasion from Olivia’s three year-old son, who wanted to rest his head on his mother’s lap at the end of a long day. It was the perfect illustration of the struggle Olivia had talked about earlier in the lecture, of balancing work and the job of raising three children. In all regards, it is a struggle that Olivia has succeeded in turning into a creative platform that continues to fuel an inspiring and burgeoning body of work.
5 thoughts on ““From Hull to Hogwarts” with Artist and Illustrator Olivia Lomenech Gill, 9 March 2018”
I was at university college .. hull.. from 1948/51 ..resident at old camp hall..cottingham……..economics…and one of my lecturers was Lord Michael Lindsay. I was thrilled by the stories he told us about his life in China in the late 1930s to 1945.with the Chinese guerrillas…an Chairman Mao in particular. All my memories came back when on his recent state visit to the Uk..he addressed both Houses of Parliament ….and said in his opinion the greatest Englishman was Lord Lindsay. I have done quite a lot of research into his life and wonder if there is any record of his great achievements . I,m fairly certain no one in Hull has ever heard of him..if I am right .. I would happily update the records .that englands Greatest Man was a teacher at the University for 3 years. I had 3 wonderful years at Hull,met my wife at Hull Teachers Training college 69 years age and have many fond memories and stories,Dances, Rag Days (getting arrested 4 times in one night). I have copy of the Rag Day magazine ( cost 1/- ) march 1949 in which the then principal John N. Nicholson who wrote ( It will I hope, not be very long before Hull is in the full sense a university City ) I,ve also got a few photos of student friends ..70 years ago ! Kind regards, John Gilbert B.Com ( B.Sc. Econ )
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Hi John, thank you very much for your message. It sounds like you’ve got so many great stories and so many great memories. We’d love to hear from you, and an article about Lord Michael Lindsay would be a good fit for our ‘Key figures on Campus’ series. Please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org as we’d love to talk about how we could share some of your stories on the blog.
Wow, what a nice writeup, thank you very much. I will ignore the fact that, in the photograph, I look like I am demonstrating how a Lancaster Bomber takes off, (I must learn to be more restrained!), and say thank you very much, I am very glad you enjoyed the talk. I had to pinch myself, talking to a University audience….it was a pleasure to come back to Hull, thank you!
Hi Olivia, thank you very much for your comment, and thank you once again for your visit and lecture – it was a truly memorable evening, and we’d love to welcome you back to the University again in the future!