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The Colours of Magic: Paul Kidby Presents Terry Pratchett's Discworld Imaginarium

Posted on 14th November 2017 by Martha Greengrass

Paul Kidby discovered Terry Pratchett's Discworld in 1993 and since then has devoted his working life to the place. He is the illustrator of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Colouring Book, the bestselling special volumes The Last Hero and The Art of Discworld, as well as the Discworld Diaries and, of course, the book covers.

Here, exclusively for Waterstones, he introduces a gallery of artwork from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Imaginarium, the stunning new portfolio of Discworld illustrations, and offers some insight into the process of working with Terry Pratchett. 

What can we expect from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Imaginarium?

I am really looking forward to the publication of the Imaginarium as it includes many of my personal favourite Discworld illustrations produced over the past twenty five years. We have also selected recent and new works, which celebrate the amazing ongoing legacy of Sir Terry.

The book reveals lots of previously unseen working drawings and many full-colour illustrations. I personally oversaw every aspect of the design and am delighted with the finished item – all the main characters are to be found within its 272 pages.

Tell us a bit about the illustration process and working with Terry.

Designing the characters is the best fun – but also the most challenging aspect of the illustration process. Terry’s writing is descriptive without being prescriptive, so it leaves a wide sense of creative freedom for the illustrator; for example Vetinari the Patrician is described as a ‘black predatory flamingo’.

In the past I would take my pencil character designs to Pratchett Towers to show Terry, and very occasionally he would nudge me in a different direction; for example I initially drew the wizard Ponder Stibbons resembling John Lennon, but Terry advised me that he imagined him more as a Bill Gates type.  

Once we had finished discussing the illustrations we would move on to chat about gardening, folklore, astronomy . . . and cats.

When my detailed pencil drawing is complete, I create a tonal under-painting to secure the form and structure before adding colour in thin layers of acrylic or oil wash. I often use colour pencil for the final finishing touches. A book jacket can take up to six weeks from initial pencil rough designs to finished artwork.

What are your favourite titles and characters?

I think my mainstay favourite title is Guards! Guards! as I enjoy the upward trajectory of Vimes’ life journey; over the years he has become one of my favourite characters. I also have a special soft spot for Granny Weatherwax who reminds me of my own stern Welsh mum, and Death – of course.

These three characters have complexities about them that create an illustrative challenge; for example, drawing a kindly looking skull is working against centuries of cultural conditioning, and when I draw the stern face of Granny Weatherwax I try to show that deep inside she has hidden kindness.

That being said, it seems wrong to isolate a few characters as the whole Discworld cast is a gift to draw. The many-faceted characters Terry created range from the grotesque to the hilarious and I relish the many creative opportunities they give me. 

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Imaginarium is an illustrative window into his wonderful world that continues to inspire me so much.


Join us for a very special event at our Gower Street branch as Paul Kidby and Rob Wilkins discuss Terry Pratchett's Discworld Imaginarium

Thursday 23rd November 18:30 at London - Gower Street


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