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Graphic Design

John Paul Thurlow

Posted by Will Hudson,

What started back in April of last year as “a homage to the creative men and women who produce such disposable perfection.” Covers is now a collection of 91 detailed, articulate and personal recreations.

All the big guns are in there, Vogue, Purple Fashion, Love, Man About Town, Eye, V, Another Magazine, The Face, Carls Cars, Creative Review, the list goes on and since following the blog for just over six months it was about time to ask the creator, John Paul Thurlow a few questions.

Hi John Paul , can you tell us briefly why you started the Covers series and what it is about the magazines that you read that makes you want to reproduce them?

I started Covers because I had some spare time earlier this year and because I very much needed to do something creative for myself. For no one else. Initially Covers was a therapeutic project, the antidote to ten years of commercial work. The fact that so many people have enjoyed Covers is a bonus I did not expect. I consider Covers a success because it’s made me feel more creatively fulfilled and because it has served as an introduction to loads of cool people I otherwise would not have met.

The idea behind the project has two sides: The first is an hommage to the men and women producing the magazines I love. I know how much work goes into making what is for most people a disposable commodity. As for the second aspect of Covers, I’m taking a perfect, mass-produced item and turning it into a singular, defaced object. I try my best to reproduce the magazines but there’s always a tipping point where the drawing gets too cute and I have to destroy the pretty-pretty. There’s an edge that I can’t do without.

In the end they’re much more than copies to me. My Covers are the fucked up flip-sides of the originals. I am in love with the original magazine covers but I don’t believe they always tell the truth. I want to cut through the loveliness and reveal something that’s lurking behind. For a long time I wrestled with the idea of reproducing Covers at all, I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to make a living from other’s work, but recently I’ve decided I want my drawings to have a life of their own and this decision has lead me into collaborations with one or two trusted friends. The defacing of the artwork is most definitely open to collaboration, it’s almost better that way.

How does the selection process work, do you subscribe to many of these magazines or do you buy from newsstands depending on what catches your eye?

I don’t usually subscribe. I’m too much of a mag slag for that. The job of a magazine cover is to instantly connect, to cut through the noise of the newsstand. It’s like love at first sight. I just go with whatever jumps out at me. I must admit to being very fussy and I inspect things closely… there are so many magazines out there it’s almost like looking for reasons not to buy… especially when it comes to lazy typography and tame art direction. Anyway when I browse the newsstand I hope to connect with an idea or an emotion radiating from the cover, I long to clap eyes on a new classic and when I do, I buy. In the end I very much aspire to this sensation with my cover versions… to achieve that communication, that feeling.

What makes a good magazine? And what do you read regularly?

A great magazine must stand for something… define an attitude, a time or movement. For me a great magazine has a strong identity. It is focused. It illuminates a theme. It is a window into another world, a vicarious pleasure. For example, if I fancy some titillation and sarcasm I’ll pick up a copy of Vice down the pub. If I feel like a hit of glamour I’ll go for Vogue Italia and because I don’t read Italian so well there’s no distractions from the extremely artistic imagery. I’ve fallen for V recently, and for Self Service (it’s so luxuriously bound).

Fabien Baron’s work on Interview in the last couple of years is rather special. I also have a genuine penchant for small independent zines. I’m always on the look out for them, and try to make contact with the good ones… what else? Purple Fashion is so joyously pretentious, it always makes me smile, I have adored Purple right from the start. Every issue is like a September issue at Purple. I can’t think of one edition Acne Paper that hasn’t been great, I love the format too, it’s like a style broadsheet… I could go on and on re: this subject… so I’ll shut up….

The plan is to turn the drawings into a book at some stage, what will be on the cover?

Yes, that’s correct. This will happen at the 100 Covers mark, so not long now, although I do have a few early covers that deserve some retrospective attention. I have planned the art direction of the Covers Vol. 1 magazine/book and will limit it to 100 copies. As for what will be on the cover… quite possibly a self portrait of some sort (although I’m dreading making that drawing).

If you could appear on the cover of any magazine, what would it be?

Do you mean my work or me? If I think of my work then Frieze or Creative Review would lend a certain air of canonisation. To work with the editor and art director for any of the magazines I’ve mentioned in this interview would be a huge privilege… but I expect my drawings would work best with a fashion or music magazine that has an edge to it’s editorial.

As for me, maybe being on the cover of BUTT would be fun, as would i-D. I’m not spectacular looking so I’d be out of place on the cover of a fashion mag.


Posted by Will Hudson

Will founded It’s Nice That in 2007 and is now director of the company. Once one of the main contributors to the site he has stepped back from writing as the business has expanded. He is a regular guest on the Studio Audience podcast.

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