Thursday, June 24, 2010

On the Cover

My thoughts on this week's episode of Work of Art. (spoilers coming for those who care)

Tonight's challenge was to create cover art for a randomly assigned novel, from a list of six literary classics. The big bonus was that the winner would get his or her design used on an actual Penguin edition of the novel. Pretty cool. The top two from the judges' crit both made decent commercial designs. The winner's piece (John, The Time Machine) was a bold abstract design that reminded me of a lot of sci-fi cover art of the late 60's/early 70's. Miles the printmaker decided to take the time to actually read his book (Frankenstein) and produced an artwork that captured some of the spirit of the book, which is very very different from the movies based on it. I'm pretty sure many of the other contestants were relying on a synopsis. Some of the art wasn't bad, but not the kind of thing that would work well as a book cover- in particular the titles would have been too small when reproduced at paperback book size.

The three artists on the eviction short list all produced problematic pieces. The art from Peregrine and Jaclyn didn't work on any level (not good art, no relationship to the novel, and for the latter, a misspelled author's name) and they were lucky not to get the boot. Judith, on borrowed time from the beginning, was finally sent packing. I get the feeling it's what she wanted. She told the camera at the beginning that she was a Fine Artist, and this challenge was a mere work assignment, not something she believed in. So she would just do her thing. The result- a mess with an unreadable title. For the third time she was unwilling (and likely unable) to meet the requirements of the challenge. My opinion is that she decided it was time to move on and gave the judges something that would make that happen.

Me, I like the occasional challenge. I've never been offered the chance to do a mass market book cover (my one cover publication to date is the academic journal above, using an previously created artwork), but I do regularly produce prints for specific theme shows and exchange folios. The recent For Love Not Money project is a good example; the results can be seen here. Back in the 90's I decided to enter a contest to produce a series of illustrations for a book. Frankenstein was on the list, but being afraid I'd be too influenced by Lynd Ward's version, I chose to illustrated another book on the list I knew- James Joyce's Dubliners. I did not win, but I ended up with some cool woodcuts that I have exhibited many times. Most of what I produce is fine art, but I'll do work for hire when the opportunity arises. Fine art is great, but it doesn't always sell.


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