Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Magritte for the masses - the cover art of the art cover, part 3. Includes substance abuse.

My chosen theme for an important Art exam is one of the finest examples of futuristic technology in existence.  It’s interactive, revolutionary, progressive.  I’ve picked something ultra-modern, a reflection of the fast-moving times we’re in. 

I’ve decided to portray a Space Invaders machine.   It is 1980, after all.  Space Invaders are taking over the world, or at least the pubs of the world.

And I’m going to draw it in oil pastels.

Only, trying to draw a stupid Space Invaders machine  in a stupid hot studio at college, with no previous experience of these stupid smudgy colour sticks I’ve bought is a bit like trying to paint the Sistine Chapel with lipstick.  We’re up against the clock too, this being an exam.  I keep having to leave the room to spray it with fixative which is a right pain, and gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “getting a fix” – or perhaps not.   The fixative smells like hairspray mixed with nail varnish, Evostik and vodka.  It can kill 30,000 brain cells in one sniff, or something like that, and if we knew all about CFCs and the ozone layer it would be banned, but we don’t - at least not for another nine years or so.

Anyway, every time I go out into the college corridor to sniff the fixative, Kirk is already there, sniffing his.  Kirk is one of my best friends.  He is tall, skinny, geeky, excruciatingly shy, a Sci-Fi fan with a dry, caustic wit, and he looks a bit like a young Catweazel, if you can imagine that.  I swear he eats nothing but cream buns and he wears those Cornish Pasty shoes.  He is also super-talented, an incredible young artist.  On a large piece of card he is portraying a wonderfully bizarre view from a window, abstract and full of dreamlike atmosphere, and it is a masterpiece - skillfully, expertly rendered – in oil pastels.  Even after several sniffs of fixative spray I think we can safely say he still has a lot more brain cells than me.

When the exam is over, Kirk has produced a piece of art good enough to hang in the Louvre.  Me, I’ve produced a piece of shit not even good enough to hang in the loo.

 I scrape by with a ‘C’  in my ‘A’ Level Art for a stupid smudgy picture of a stupid arcade machine being played by my disembodied hands; the whole thing looks more like a patterned jumper knitted by Aunt Ada after the malfunctioning sausage machine incident of '74.  However,  I’m very happy to say that Kirk is awarded an ‘A’ for his magnum opus.  Not only is it a brilliant piece in its own right, but it’s also an homage to another fantastic artist, René Magritte.

As you may know from the first part of this series, Magritte is one of my favourites, so this is where the cover art theme comes in, as it turns out that there are an awful lot more examples of Magritte's inspiration than Kirk's 'A' Level Art triumph and a Jackson Browne album sleeve.

Such as this…

Styx: The Grand Illusion

...and this…

Roger Daltrey: One Of The Boys

...this too.

Funeral For A Friend: Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation

Some are slightly less derivative, but still clearly inspired by Magritte...

Heart: Greatest Hits

Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle

There are also the covers which simply use original Magritte artwork, like these

Gladys Knight & The Pips: Visions

Jeff Beck: Beck-Ola

Alan Hull & Radiator

How brilliant and influential is Magritte?!  Far too many examples to compare and contrast this time, I'm sure you'll agree.  Mind you, I wish I could see Kirk's 'A' Level picture again and show it to you here; I have no doubt that it could still be a favourite...

... a bit like this was in 1980:

Space Invaders game


  1. I take it your Space Invaders pic is not in your portfolio?
    Enjoyed these Magritte's

    1. You're right - I didn't even collect it after the exam!
      I was quite surprised to see just how many Magritte-inspired album covers there are out there, I found even more that I haven't included here - you could create a whole new classification for filing purposes if you owned them!

  2. I would have liked to see the Space Invaders pic too - shame it was consigned to the art school "storage unit"!

    Until this series it had never occurred to me that so many album covers were based on famous paintings - just took them at face value. As for Space Invaders, that was the last time I knew how to play a computer game - it is an art form that has totally passed me by.

    1. The Space Invaders pic was not fit for public viewing, I can assure you!

      I'm learning a lot myself about the amount of cover art based on famous paintings. Have pages of scribbled notes, but might have to space out the next few posts on the subject.
      As for computer games - you mean you've never played Bejewelled or Candy Crush?! You haven't lived... ;-)

    2. Nope - I keep being "invited" to join Candy Crush but so far I've resisted the lure of it all!

    3. I can understand!
      But I do play some of these games online (not interactive, just on my own) when I want to chill out a bit and also to use a different part of my brain - word games and simple strategy games - not addicted as I wouldn't miss it if I couldn't do it, but at the same time I quite look forward to spending half an hour or so seeing if I can better a previous score and it takes my mind off everything else!
      Quite a nice way to relax so you never know... you might be crushing candies yet!

  3. Fabulously funny post and the Magritte artwork was a pleasure to see.

    I am intrigued however, by Aunt Adas 'incident of '74'

    All I have in my head now is boop boop boop boopdi boop boop over ;)

    1. Thanks for comment, Anon. Erm, tat's not you, is it Kirk? ;-)
      Boop boop... yes, definitely needs better sound effects...

  4. I think you are too hard on yourself. Hopefully the fixative didn't kill too many of your brain cells.

    I didn't know Magritte, he has a wonderful visual imagination.

    There's actually a song inspired by early 80s arcade games, called Pac-Man Fever (1982):

    1. That fixative was lethal - I still use it now and then, not sure if the formula has changed but I have to spray it out in the open and even then I make sure the neighbour's cat is not within sniffing distance, just in case...

      Thanks for that link Chris. Oh - Pac-Man - we thought it was so sophisticated!

  5. This is a wonderful post, C! I loved checking out the shots. Is that a colour palette of your own pastels? (Very nice lettering, too!) I would have loved to see your exam entry - too bad that you tossed it.

    1. Thanks VS, glad you enjoyed. There are so many of these covers I hadn't realised existed before now.
      I caan't take credit for the pastels pic, just something I found, but I like the way it's done.

  6. Great post. You had me at Styx!

    I got an E at A Level art. I could only dream of a C.

    1. Thanks Rol. I reckon Art exam results are meaningless. They're too subjective and the conditions the work is created in are unrealistic. That said, my pic was still absolutely dreadful!


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