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Thread: Work of Art 6/23 Recap: Judging a Book by its Cover

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    Work of Art 6/23 Recap: Judging a Book by its Cover

    Welcome back to another episode of Work of Art! Last week, we said goodbye to Trong, whose work failed to inspire or interest, well, anyone. I would have voted for Judith to get the boot, simply on the merits of her ridiculously long explanation to the judges of her “sculpture,” which looked more like a bunch of cords piled on a pizza plate.

    Since this show focuses on the visual, I’m trying something new with this week’s recap. We’ll see how it goes. This week’s challenge deals with something near and dear to my heart: books. The challenge, explained to contestants by Kathryn Court, President and Publisher of Penguin Books, is to design a cover for one of 6 classic novels. Talk about big time. She urges the artists to distinguish themselves in this challenge. The novels in question are: Dracula, Frankenstein, Alice in Wonderland, Pride & Prejudice, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and The Time Machine. The artists are assigned the novels randomly. The winning cover will be on a new edition of the book that Penguin will publish this year for sale in America.

    I’ll attempt not to heap too much scorn on the artists who haven’t read the books for which they’re designing covers. Seriously though, all of these books should be required reading. The guest judge this week is not Kathryn Court, but rather artist and author Jonathan Santloffer.


    After a trip to Utrecht, one of my favorite places, the artists head back to the studio and get to work.

    Ryan – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

    Ryan, actually spelled Jekyll wrong on his cover, in spite of the fact that the book is right there in front of him. He fixed it, but still….dude. Ryan is happy with how his cover captured the story, but the judges don’t seem all that excited. There’s nbo way of knowing how they felt because we didn’t get to hear any of their comments. You know, for someone as cute as Ryan, he sure doesn’t get much screen time. I think he’s pretty talented, so maybe this means the producers are waiting until a later episode to highlight him more.

    Nao – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

    Nao says she ended up with the perfect novel since she’s a bit of a schizoid herself. (<----paraphrasing). Like in last week’s episode, we heard very little from Nao this week. Could it be that the producers don’t want the entire viewing public to hate her. I’d imagine Nao is better in small doses. Nao says people are responding well to her work, but we don’t even hear any judges comments, so they obviously weren’t bowled over by it.

    Nicole – Alice in Wonderland

    Apparently, Nicole is not a big reader because her cover features a drawer that pulls out and has a cookie inside that says “Eat me.” I don’t even know what to say about that. It’s like she didn’t understand the challenge. Visually, the cover is nice, but without the interest of the drawer, the design is pretty simple. Although Nicole is sure the judges will love it, the judges, well, don’t. The cover may be interesting as a work of art, but not as a book cover.

    Erik – Alice in Wonderland

    Once again, Erik has to bring up his lack of experience in the art world. Dude, enough already. You can only use that excuse for so long and then no one cares. This book is really special to Erik. Not only is it the only of the six books that he’s read but he actually has an Alice-themed tattoo.


    Miles – Frankenstein

    A guilt-ridden Miles decides that, because he’s never actually read Frankenstein, the best use of his time would be to sit down and read the book. He calculates that it will take him 4 hours to read the whole thing. Hey, this may not seem like great time management, but the kid won the last challenge and he napped through most of it, so who am I to pass judgment on his creative process? At least he took the time to read the book. His cover is inspired by a scene in the book where the Frankenstein monster is struck by lightning, so he sets an electrical fire in the studio to burn part of the wooden cover of his piece. Fortunately or unfortunately, the electrical fire plan goes awry, he has to use a lighter to burn the wood.

    Abdi – Frankenstein

    Abdi likes that he got Frankenstein because the book is so much about humanity. Abdi creates a sculpture of a man and then takes a photograph of the sculpture to work into his cover…and nothing goes his way….much like his process in last week’s challenge. At the end of the first day, he has no idea what to do with his project and is pretty sure he’ll be going home. He only has 59 minutes to do his entire book cover. The judges aren’t too enthused over Abdi’s cover and, once he sees it installed in the gallery, neither is Abdi.

    Jamie Lynn – Dracula

    Jamie Lynn talks about her Christianity and wanting to redeem herself in this challenge and, yeah, whatever. After seeing Mark’s work, Jamie Lynn feels the need to justify her own work – and says it’s nothing like Mark’s….and she says that like it’s a good thing and maybe it’s not. Her work this week is certainly miles better than last week’s vacuum cleaner debacle.

    Mark – Dracula

    Mark is really comfortable with graphic design work and feels confident, even though he’s never read Dracula. Simon is very enthused about Mark’s work, which Jamie Lynn says is “very commercial”….and she says that like it’s a bad thing and maybe it’s not. The judges like the graphic quality of the piece and Kathryn Court confirms that book covers need to be simple in order to grab the consumer. Mark makes the top two, but loses out to…..


    John – The Time Machine - WINNER

    John keeps his design simple and uses bright colors and it obviously works really well. He says he wants his piece to look like it’s glowing. Simon du Pury thinks it may be too abstract, but hey, what does he know? John adds the ladder at the bottom to make it a little less abstract. The judges really like John’s cover and agree that it has an unfolding quality and the brighter colors would draw people to it. Finally, someone who isn’t Miles wins a challenge! His book cover will be on a new edition of the book to be sold in book stores all over the country. John is particularly thrilled because his father is a librarian, so he has a big history with books.

    Peregrine – The Time Machine

    Peregrine says her piece will look like Victorian wallpaper. To me, it looks like a paper cut. Simon thinks it may be too intricate and that’s not really good for a book cover. Jonathan Santloffer takes a closer look at Peregrine’s cover and says the teddy bear and sail boat could very well be on a cover for The Little Mermaid. While the judges feel it’s interesting and compelling as an object, it’s a total failure as a book cover. Jonathan Santloffer urges someone to burn it.

    Jaclyn – Pride and Prejudice

    I think the problem with Jaclyn’s work can be summed up this way: she hasn’t read the book and has only seen the movie. She probably means the one with Keira Knightly that was more like “The WB Presents Jane Austen.” UGH. This explains a lot because, as far as I can remember (and I’ve read Pride and Prejudice at least half a dozen times), Elizabeth Bennett never whips off her top. Still, her cover is 1,000 times better than Judith’s. In keeping in the narcissism theme with Jaclyn this season, she bases the cover art on a photograph of herself. She tries to tell Simon that she read a synopsis of the book rather than copping to only seeing the movie. She then tells us about the relationship between Elizabeth and “Darby.” *facepalm* The judges call it generic and then note that Jaclyn spelled the author’s name “Austin.”

    Judith – Pride and Prejudice - ELIMINATED

    Throughout the episode, Judith does her best Gary Busey imitation, talking to herself and generally annoying the other artists. Judith claims she’s a fine artist and doesn’t like the fact that this challenge feels like a job and she’s a “fine artist” (i.e. starving artist). She’ll be using her own fingerprints in the piece. Judith’s book cover looks like something I would have drawn on my notebook in junior high. She also can’t tell Simon how her design refers to the story at all….because it doesn’t. Judith spends quite of bit of time ranting to Miles like a loon. No one in the studio seems very enthused about her work, including Judith. Mark notes that she’s pretty scornful of commercial art, which makes me wonder what she thought being on this show would entail. Judith seems pretty proud of the fact that her piece isn’t literally like a book cover. Uh-huh. It’s really no shock that an unapologetic Judith is sent home.

    Next week, the artists set about to make a shocking work of art.
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' - Isaac Asimov

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"

  2. #2
    Think Spring Arielflies's Avatar
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    Re: Work of Art 6/23 Recap: Judging a Book by its Cover

    Thank you, Critical for your visual presentation. It really helps to see the works as you write about them and how they did in the show.
    The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. Dorothy Parker, (attributed)

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    Re: Work of Art 6/23 Recap: Judging a Book by its Cover

    This is a great recap format- thanks for the visuals!

    The judges made a passing comment about how so many of the works didn't feature the title of the book prominently, and that was their downfall.

    I think Ryan, Nao, and possibly Miles would have fared better if they'd had the title larger. As it is, so many of the artists almost tried to hide the title as an afterthought.

    I think the judges made the right decision- John's was definitely the most marketable book cover presented. Although I have to admit I've never read The Time Machine : I've read all the others, though!
    And I sing sometimes like my life is at stake because you're only as loud as the noises you make.

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