Mary GrandPré

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Mary GrandPré
Mary GrandPré, 2011.jpg
GrandPré in 2011
Born (1954-02-13) February 13, 1954 (age 69)
Known forIllustration
Notable work
  • Harry Potter (U.S. eds.)
  • Pockets (picture book)
  • The Noisy Paint Box
Spouse(s)Kevin Whaley (divorced)
Tom Casmer
AwardsThe Society of Illustrators, 2015 Caldecott Honor

Mary GrandPré (/ˈɡrænpr/ GRAN-pray; born February 13, 1954) is an American illustrator best known for her cover and chapter illustrations of the Harry Potter books in their U.S. editions published by Scholastic. She received a Caldecott Honor in 2015 for illustrating Barb Rosenstock's The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art. GrandPré, who creates her artwork with paint and pastels, has illustrated more than twenty books and has appeared in gallery exhibitions and periodicals such as The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and The Wall Street Journal.

Early life[edit]

Mary GrandPré was born February 13, 1954[1] in South Dakota.[2] She began drawing when she was five years old, beginning with a reproduction of Walt Disney's cartoon character "Mickey Mouse". By age ten, she was imitating Salvador Dalí, experimenting with stretched objects painted with oils, before graduating to copying black-and-white photos from the encyclopedia.[3] She was influenced by the stained glass windows of the church where she attended Mass daily, saying, "There was a kind of luminous quality about them, a glow, that sometimes comes out in my artwork, whether I mean it to or not."[4]

She was a Fine Arts major at Pomona College[3] and was in her mid-twenties before she considered art school, having supposed illustration to be "a boring, commercial thing".[4][5] She graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1981.[3]


GrandPré married designer Kevin Whaley when she was young.[2] After they divorced, she attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.[4] After her graduation, GrandPré spent several years as a waitress while working to be noticed by ad agencies and attempting to find her own style. Her drawing evolved into what she calls "soft geometry", featuring pastels. Her work is created completely by hand, without using a computer.[5]

Mary GrandPré has created images for advertising and magazines, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and the Wall Street Journal.[5] Among her other famous works, she was commissioned to illustrate the official poster for the 2005 Minnesota State Fair.[6] A DreamWorks executive who enjoyed her work called to invite her to participate as an illustrator for their movie Antz, for which GrandPré was involved with creating some of the landscapes. She has also participated in character development for another animated film. She has taught at The Ringling School of Art and Design.[4][5]

Harry Potter series[edit]

GrandPré signing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at a Barnes & Noble in Lincoln Square in Manhattan on July 21, 2007, the day of the book's release

GrandPré's work on the Harry Potter novel series came when David Saylor of Scholastic contacted her. Though GrandPré initially declined the assignment due to her schedule, he eventually convinced her to take it. GrandPré says, "By the time I was working on Book 3, we knew we were dealing with something very special."[4] GrandPré illustrated all of the American editions of the Harry Potter novels. She was one of the few people who were able to read the Harry Potter books before they were released to the general public. When she received each new book, she read the story through once, highlighting descriptions that she felt would do well as an illustration. She then created various sketches as ideas for the cover and chapter art before sending her favorites to the editors to decide which should appear in the final publication. GrandPré devises her images after reading the manuscripts for the books, and does not collaborate with or receive input from J.K. Rowling, although the two have met.[7] Her artwork for the final novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was created using pastels on toned printmaking paper.[8]

Other work[edit]

In addition to the Harry Potter series, she has illustrated picture books including Pockets, The Noisy Paint Box, Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat, Vegetables Go to Bed, The Thread of Life, Swing Around the Sun, The Sea Chest, and Sweep Dreams. She also illustrated Plum, and Henry and Pawl and the Round Yellow Ball, which was co-written by her husband, Tom Casmer.[9]


GrandPré's illustrations for The Noisy Paint Box were recognized by the 2015 Caldecott Medal committee. She was given a Caldecott Honor for her work in this picture book biography of Wassily Kandinsky, evoking his synesthesia. GrandPré's work with the Harry Potter books has been featured on the cover of Time magazine. Her work, chosen from thousands of illustrators, has also been featured on the cover of Showcase 16. She has received awards from The Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, Graphis, Print, and Art Direction, and has been profiled in Step-by-Step Graphics and Communications Arts Magazine. GrandPré has also been featured in the book How Jane Won, which examines fifty women who have been successful in their chosen career and in their personal lives.[10]

Charity work[edit]

In 2006, GrandPré began creating art for herself instead of for an assignment. She has donated several pieces to The Wellness Community of Southwest Florida, a non-profit organization providing support for people with cancer.[11] She has also contributed to her local Habitat for Humanity charity by donating pieces and books, as well.

Personal life[edit]

According to a November 2003 article in Sarasota magazine, Grandpré had recently moved to Sarasota, Florida with her husband, Tom Casmer, who had recently taken a position as head of the illustration department at the Ringling School of Art and Design.[4][7]

In a June 2007 St. Paul Pioneer Press article, GrandPré revealed that six months prior, she and her husband went to China, where they adopted a little girl.[12]

Selected works[edit]

Poetry collections[edit]

  • Swing Around the Sun, poems by Barbara Juster Esbensen (the Fall season; Lerner Publishing Group, 2002)
  • Plum, poetry by Tony Mitton (Scholastic, 2003)

Harry Potter series[edit]


  • Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat, by Jennifer Armstrong (Crown Publishers, 1993), LCCN 92-8658
  • The Vegetables Go to Bed, by Christopher L. King (Crown, 1994)
  • The Thread of Life: Twelve Old Italian Tales, retold by Domenico Vittorini (Crown, 1995), OCLC 28709363; Running Press Kids; New Ed edition, 2003
  • Pockets, by Jennifer Armstrong (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1998)
  • The House of Wisdom, by Florence Parry Heide and J. Heide Gilliland (DK Children, 1999)
  • The Sea Chest, by Toni Buzzeo (Dial, 2002)
  • Henry and Pawl and the Round Yellow Ball, co-written with her husband, Tom Casmer (Dial, 2005), LCCN 2003-2355
  • Sweep Dreams, by Nancy Willard (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2005)
  • Lucia and the Light, by Phyllis Root (Candlewick Press, 2006)
  • Aunt Claire's Yellow Beehive Hair, by Deborah Blumenthal (Pelican, 2007)
  • Goodnight Little Me, by Jennifer Dewing (2013)
  • The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art, by Barb Rosenstock (Knopf, 2014) – about Wassily Kandinsky


  1. ^ "GrandPré, Mary". Library of Congress Authorities. Archived from the original on July 13, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "GrandPré, Mary 1954-". Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Alumni Careers: Mary GrandPre, '81". Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Mary’s Magic". Sarasota. November 1, 2003.
  5. ^ a b c d Jarvis, John (1999). "Mary GrandPré". Communication Arts. Archived from the original on 2006-11-30. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  6. ^ "Recent Print Projects: Minnesota State Fair". Husom & Rose Fine Art Giclee Print Studio. Archived from the original on 2007-09-20. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  7. ^ a b "Illustrator puts a bit of herself on Potter cover: GrandPré feels pressure to create something special with each book". Associated Press. March 8, 2005. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  8. ^ Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; American edition; Arthur A. Levine Books; 2007; Final credits page
  9. ^ "Mary GrandPré". Arthur A. Levine Books. Archived from the original on 2006-02-14. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  10. ^ Rimm, Sylvia B.; Rimm-Kaufman, Sara (2001). Editorial Review for How Jane Won. ISBN 0609607588.
  11. ^ "The Inner Embrace of Mary GrandPré". The Wellness Community ( December 19, 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  12. ^ Guthrey, Molly (June 9, 2007). "Harry Potter illustrator says goodbye". St. Paul Pioneer Press.

External links[edit]