Look at her drawings of Harry Potter, and you'll see a little bit of Mary GrandPre{acute}.

"Actually, Harry Potter is mostly me," says the artist behind the American editions of Harry Potter, volumes 1-5.

When she's having trouble getting a certain expression or pose down on paper, GrandPre{acute} studies someone as a model. Often, that person is herself. So it's not too surprising that the dark-haired boy wizard looks a little bit like the woman who draws him.

GrandPre{acute} lives in Minnesota and had a career as an artist before she was introduced to Harry. She likes to remind people that she has illustrated a number of picture books (including "Plum," a collection of poems by Tony Mitton due out next month).

When she took on the first assignment from Scholastic Press to illustrate "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," GrandPre{acute} assumed the job would be a one-time thing. But one book followed another, and as the popularity of the series soared, GrandPre{acute}'s illustrations helped shape how readers pictured Harry, Hermione, Ron, Hagrid, Dobby and all the others.

In the color drawings for the cover, and the black-and-white illustrations that start each chapter, she tries to stay as close to the story as she can, "but still bring some magic to it." Rowling's books are easy to illustrate, GrandPre{acute} says. "Her writing is so full and rich. She gives us so much description."

Not wanting her own vision of the books to be influenced by the two movies, GrandPre{acute} stayed away from them until recently. When she finally saw "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" a few months ago, she thought the movie's creators "did a really nice job." But she kept wanting to mess up Daniel Radcliffe's hair: He wasn't tousled enough for Harry.

Ask her if she's started working on "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," and she can't even tell you. She's sworn to secrecy about every detail of the book. But when she does get started, if she hasn't already, she'll follow her usual speedy schedule. From reading the novel to sketching the pictures to finishing the jacket, it will take her an intense six to eight weeks. "It's a rush," she says.

GrandPre{acute} has met J.K. Rowling only once, but knows that the author likes her illustrations. She has talked to lots of kids, parents and teachers about the pleasures of drawing, one of the advantages of being known as the Harry Potter illustrator. She also has donated time and signed copies of the books and her drawings to help raise money for charity.

Kids always ask GrandPre{acute} what's going to happen in the next book (sorry, she can't talk about that). They also want to know which is her favorite character to draw (Hagrid, because he reminds her of her dog Chopper -- "he's big and slobbery, but he protects me and he's very loyal").

-- Elizabeth Kastor

Mary GrandPre{acute} offers these tips on illustrating books:

The cover "has to represent the book without giving too much away." So it wouldn't work, for example, to have a cover revealing that Quirrell is the bad guy in book one. But GrandPre{acute} likes to pack her covers with hints of what's to come. For "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," she has Harry holding onto the tail of Fawkes, the phoenix, as he, Ron and Hermione soar from a dungeon. "I kind of think of the book cover as a mysterious map. It's full of bits and pieces you'll find in the book."

Remember that the mood of the book is important. Each Potter book is a bit more serious and more frightening than the one before. "They are going from magical to mysterious," she says. The cover of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" has the first full, close-up portrait of Harry, and GrandPre{acute} shifted the colors away from the reds and blues in the first three covers to greens and golds, colors that felt more mysterious to her.

The cover should draw readers in. "If they saw that book on the shelf, it would make them want to open it and buy it."

Which is just what her illustrations have done, again and again.

Mary GrandPre{acute}'s cover artwork includes clues of what lies ahead for Harry Potter.Mary GrandPre{acute} used herself as a model for Harry Potter.