This exercise offer two options, either to design a book cover using a still life or to juxtapose a person with the result of their labour. As can be seen in fig. 1 my choice is the book cover.
The Wheelwright’s Shop (1) is linked, although not central, to my research for assignment 5 which is partly based on the writings of George Sturt. Sturt lived in the village where I grew up and was writing in the late 19th and early 20th century about life in rural Surrey at a time of great and rapid change. He had inherited The Wheelwright’s Shop from his father but his real love was writing and he handed over the business in 1891 to his foreman, whom he made a partner, and retired to his cottage in Lower Bourne to write a series of books and journals and to contribute to magazines such as Country Life.
The Wheelwright’s Shop, which he wrote in the period between 1884 and 1891 is widely regarded as his finest and most important work describing, in great detail, the complex processes involved in building wheels, carts, wagons and carriages. Sturt’s importance as a historical documentarian lies in his respect and admiration for the tradesmen employed in his business whom he describes as his friends. This elevates this book beyond being a technical journal through his descriptions of attitudes and life styles that bring the reader into close contact with the working man of the late 19th century.
For my subject I chose two exhibits from Farnham Museum, the first is one of Sturt’s wheels and the other is from the collection of his tools that are currently on display. I wanted to design a cover that created an impression of a wheel being manufactured, creating a sense of past-times and suggestive of a craftsman’s bench. The juxtaposition is the completed wheel on one hand and the tools that might have made it on the other with the wood shavings acting as a link between the two.
- I started with two images, the wheel (fig. 2) and the tools (fig.3)
- They were both taken with the same exposure settings and a small on-camera flash gun, I used the same 24 to 70mm lens using my distance from the subject to achieve the difference in scale.
- I introduced the two photographs into photoshop as separate layers.
- My initial idea was to have the tools on top at about 80% opacity so that the wheel shoed through the tools but the result lacked any real punch.
- I then removed all the background from the wheel photo to give me a clean cut out and laid that over the tools.
- I adjusted the size of the wheel and moved the layer to create a compositional relationship between the tool handles and the wheel rim.
- Because it was a book cover the whole canvas had to be orientated vertically.
- For the text I wanted to use a font that reflected the time of the original book’s publication in 1923 and although Times New Roman, my final choice, wasn’t invented until 1932 it felt right.
- I added the text and created a mild 3D effect by copying the text layers, expanding the copies by 5% and changing the text colour to black. This gives a fine black line around the original white text which helps the text stand out without using any too modern techniques.
(1) Sturt, George (1923) The Wheelwright’s Shop, 1963 edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.