Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Cut and run

Last week we posted about Bill Pearson’s biography and the cover commissioned for his book Coal Flat from Colin McCahon. We’ve been looking at that cover some more as it must be one of the most awkward designs ever used to market a book. Not McCahon’s fault apparently . In the Pearson biography Paul Millar relates how publisher Janet Paul changed the background cover from what we are sure was a classy McCahon pink to a rather brash ‘marketing’ red. She also changed the type from black (er, the title is COAL Flat) by dropping it out in white. McCahon was not so impressed which you can tell from his recasting of the cover when it was reprinted making it more abstract and recovering the coal black type. McCahon worked up another couple of ideas for the cover which were completely abstract. You can see them here.

But what is that ugly white mess on top of the hills on the original cover? At first we thought it was McCahon clouds which you can see in the original, but we are inclined now to reckon it is white-out paint being used to clear-cut the hills that has been accidentally printed as a solid white. You can see how it really only serves to make a clear line across the top of the hill shape, not to create any sort of recognisable cloud formation (McCahon had already supplied this with his original art work after all). When we used the long white smear to clear-cut the hills we got a much happier version with a more balanced placement of Pearson’s name. While it might not be what McCahon was hoping to see, we suspect that, apart from the black type, it’s what Paul was.
Images: Top, McCahon’s painting for the cover. Bottom left, the published cover and right the doctored version clear-cutting the mountains.