By Samantha Puc
Right beside the She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Fan Experience on the main show floor of New York Comic Con 2018, Jelly Belly Artist In Residence Kristen Cumings is spending her con in a unique position: planted in front of a massive portrait of young Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter.
The portrait, painted by Cumings and then covered in spray adhesive, is being slowly covered by Jelly Belly jelly beans over the course of the 4-day convention. Cumings pulls colors from assorted boxes that carry the Original 50 flavors as well as seasonal and partner-branded jelly beans (like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, in partnership with Warner Bros.) to complete her masterpiece — she says she usually has about 100 colors to choose from at any given time.
“I really like about the medium that it’s not snooty and high-falutin, you know?” Cumings says. “I really like that it’s accessible and that kids like it. They always have such good questions and comments and I think it’s sometimes surprising, especially since there’s hardly any art in schools anymore, so I think it’s cool to see something unusual.”
Each portrait takes Cumings around 100 hours to complete and each one, she says, has an element she has to work out how to do for the first time. “There’s some element of every piece that’s challenging, like, ‘how am I going to do that with jelly beans?” Cumings says. “With Darth Vader, it was trying to make the lightsaber look like it was glowing compared to the rest of him.”
In the Harry Potter piece, Cumings says, “It’s probably the sky. A lot of times, when it’s my choice, I’ll choose a really simple background. I know that if I’m at an event, I can pace myself because that part will go really quick. With these, the Harry Potter ones, they really want them to match as a series.”
Harry Potter is third in a series of Hogwarts-themed portraits by Cumings, who began doing official Jelly Belly art in 2009. She previously completed portraits of Professor Dumbledore and Ron Weasley and says she has plans to do more in the spring.
In addition to the Harry Potter portraits, Cumings has recreated masterwork paintings, completed a portrait of Jelly Belly founder Gustav Goelitz, and jelly-bean-ified several pop culture masterpieces — including a completed Batman piece, also on display at NYCC.
Cumings says she will likely finish her Harry Potter portrait on Sunday evening, when the con ends. When The Beat chatted with her on Thursday morning at the start of the con, she had just begun working on Harry’s robes using a box of black-shaded Jelly Bellys.
As for Cumings’ favorite Harry Potter character, she says, “I like Professor Lupin a lot. He’s great, isn’t he? I like him and I’m also a Luna Lovegood fan.”
Follow #beatnycc18 on Twitter for live updates of Cumings’ progress throughout the weekend, including the completed portrait on Sunday. You can also follow Cumings directly on Instagram.
Samantha Puc is an essayist and culture critic whose work has been featured on Bustle, The Mary Sue, SheKnows, The Tempest, Rogues Portal, and elsewhere. She mostly writes intersectional pop culture analysis with a particular focus on representation of LGBTQ and fat characters in fiction. Samantha is also the co-creator of Fatventure Mag, an outdoors zine for fat women and non-binary creators who are into being active, but not into toxic weight-loss culture. She lives in Rhode Island with her spouse and cats.