Few people will ever have heard of Cliff Wright, yet most will instantly recognise his work.

It can be seen on the bookshelves of millions of people around the world but when you say Harry Potter fans will think of author JK Rowling, not Cliff.

Cliff, 36, of Newhaven, created the artwork for the second and third books in the popular series: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Despite the success of his illustrations, Cliff turned down an invitation to design the cover of the fourth book, which hit the shelves last month, after a dispute with publishers Bloomsbury.

Among other issues which have upset him was the loss of his priceless artwork for the Prisoner of Azkaban.

He said: "It's good the books are so popular and my illustrations are involved with something so successful but it has not been the bed of roses you would expect it to be and I turned down the fourth book because of the dispute. The artwork is irreplaceable."

But Cliff, who has also written and illustrated his own children's books, is proud of his association with the Harry Potter phenomenon and was delighted with the response he got to his work from JK Rowling.

He said: "It's quite difficult to draw other people's characters. If you write something you have a very strong idea of what things look like and I know I would be disappointed if I wrote something and the illustrations weren't quite right.

"But I feel safe with my Harry Potter illustrations. I met JK Rowling when she was doing a book reading in Brighton and she seemed happy with my work."

Cliff, a former pupil at Tideway School in Newhaven, studied illustration at the then Brighton Polytechnic.

One of his teachers was the creator of the Snowman, Raymond Briggs, although he was more influenced by his main tutor, John Lord.

Cliff, who works with pen and watercolour, did not illustrate the cover of the first Harry Potter book and had not even read the full manuscript of the second when he came up with his memorable artwork.

He said: "I had no inkling at all that they would become so huge."

Cliff used JK Rowling's own descriptions of her characters to come up with his illustrations and certain passages in the text were suggested to him as subjects.

Each painting took between two and three weeks to perfect, with Cliff coming up with the ideas as well as the final artwork.

He said: "I am happier with the finished cover for the Prisoner of Azkaban. The first cover I did, for the second book, is not as exciting as the third book's cover, which is why I'm so upset it has gone missing."

When asked about the lost artwork, Rosamund de la Hey, head of children's sales and marketing at publishers Bloomsbury, said: "We are extremely sorry about the whole episode and we have been in discussions with Cliff about the loss of his artwork.

"We still hope we will be able to find it and all efforts are being made."

Cliff is currently working on the illustrations for a series of posters and hopes to continue working on one of his own children's books.

You can find out more about the Harry Potter books at www.geocities.com/hpfactsandfun/index.html