When reality television gets its hands on Pride and Prejudice…

I just read this story.  In short, a television series (Bravo’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist” which is self-explanatory- oh and involves Sarah Jessica Parker somehow) asked the contestants to come up with a book cover design for one of several classics.  And, shock horror, Pride and Prejudice was on that list.  Now, now.  I have seen some ugly covers in my time (and I pick up every copy of Pride and Prejudice I see just for a look), but these just take the biscuit!

The books Frankenstein, Time Machine, Alice in Wonderland, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dracula were also involved.  Before I criticise too heavily I’m going to say, straight out, that I have ZERO artistic talent of my own (I can fingerpaint and do stick figures fairly awesomely though) and I am no expert.  But I know what I like.  I’m also going to give them a bit of a break because they only had ONE DAY (fair, no way?!) to come up with and create the cover in, did not get to choose the book (meaning I doubt any of them had any clue what was in what they were illustrating) and a mere 100 bucks to spend at some art supply store (which sounds like a lot, but it is a very expensive business).  I also don’t think cover art is in any way simple.

There is a lot at stake in this show.  We all know that artists are generally working ten jobs, living out of cardboard boxes and eating things out of dumpsters (not unlike journalists, film directors, McDonald’s employees etc) and this show offers 100,000 US big ones and a solo exhibition at the end.

This competition, however, gave the winner the added bonus of seeing their image published by Penguin (who have come up with some pretty epic covers in the past, for instance check out my Top Ten Pride and Prejudice Covers).

Two female contestants attempted Pride and Prejudice.  Judith and Jaclyn.  And two major mistakes came up.  Judith’s entire design was writing the title ‘Pride and Prejudice’ BACKWARDS.  As in… Edirp dna ecidujerp.  It could potentially be a cute idea… but on a book cover?  It’s unreadable and therefore doesn’t fit the project!  This is her piece:


To me it just looks messy, the colours don’t make sense and the idea of duality in it (through the two different sides)- although not original- isn’t a bad one but could have been done so much better.  Where is the professionalism?  The judges criticised it by saying that it wasn’t okay to make the audience feel stupid. 

Apparently she had previously had ideas of using chalk and doing something with fingerprints, which actually sounds sort of interesting.  Unfortunately, this was the work of art that sent her home.

Jaclyn on the other hand made the second big mistake.  She wrote ‘Jane AustIn’.  My most hated spelling error on this planet!  She did realise how bad and sloppy this was (perplexingly crying about it later on in the episode) but come on!  Obviously neither of these women have read Pride and Prejudice before, although reputedly Jaclyn has seen the movie (2005?).  Especially considering what Jaclyn finally came up with:

I sort of get what she was trying to say (even if I’m half-heartedly trying to ignore the spelling error and the fact that it is based on a topless photo of herself).  The symbolism is nice, the black Darcy hat, the almost-Roman feel (same upright morality et cetera) and the sense of the outdoors, but it doesn’t scream ‘Pride and Prejudice’ at me.  I really think she could make a beautiful P&P cover given another reading of the book and some more time and thought.  Any nudity is a sure fire way to irritate most AustIn fans (sorry, couldn’t resist) but I cannot deny that the overall effect is pretty, and I am a sucker for anything whimsical and watercolour-esque (thanks to my Mother’s artsy side), if cliched.

So, how would you have designed the cover?  Was there any merit in either of those?  Am I being too harsh?

Quotes to keep you amused:
Jaclyn- “I knew I wanted to do something that communicated the love story between Elizabeth and Darby. … I don’t know if that’s right. I should probably read it.”

Jaclyn, again, on being asked whether she had read the book- “Well, I read the synopsis.”

A Judge on Judith’s work- “I haven’t seen pink look that drab in a long time.”

Judith, about her first attempt using fingerprints- “The flowers and the gardens. I mean, I’ve read Jane Austen.”

And, finally, for your amusement, a vid on youtube summarizing the episode for us:

1 Comment

Filed under Discussion, Other Review

One response to “When reality television gets its hands on Pride and Prejudice…

  1. Pingback: Q&A with book cover designer, Laurén Magda | The Bennet Sisters

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