Ed Ruscha designs artwork for Paul McCartney’s lockdown album, McCartney III

Using a typeface he designed in 1981 and employs in many of his word paintings, the artist has created an ethereal depiction of a dice for the musician’s third DIY solo project.

22 October 2020


American artist Ed Ruscha has designed the artwork for Paul McCartney’s much-talked-about third DIY solo album McCartney III, made during lockdown and announced last night (21 October). The artist is known for his type-centred acrylic paintings, often featuring short phrases or words in a geometric, capitalised sans serif overlaid on ethereal backdrops. His piece for McCartney III uses his signature typeface in white on a simple background of black fading to white, yet focuses on the glossy face of a dice showing the number three.

Ruscha has used this typeface in many of his typographic paintings, a typeface designed in 1981 and called Boy Scout Utility Modern, according to an interview quoted by Tate in an article about his piece Crossover Dreams. “If the telephone company was having a picnic and asked one of their employees to design a poster, this font is what he’d come up with,” Ruscha describes. “There are no curves to the letters – they’re all straight lines – and I’ve been using it for years. I guess it’s my font, because it’s become comfortable to me, and I can’t get beyond it – and don’t need to get beyond it.” Gagosian gallery says the artist uses type in his works to “explore the noise and fluidity of language”.

The artist has previously created artwork for albums including Mason Williams’ Music (1969) and Van Dyke Parks’ Dreaming of Paris.

McCartney III was written, performed and produced entirely by Paul McCartney at home during lockdown, with photography by his daughter Mary McCartney – stepping into her mother Linda’s shoes, who photographed artwork for the previous DIY albums.

It is his third DIY solo project, the first, McCartney, historically made and released as The Beatles were breaking up in late 1969 and early 1970; the second McCartney II released as Wings were breaking up in 1980. 40 years later comes McCartney III, which Loud and Quiet describes as “a sketchbook of freewheeling ideas,” that is “the most eclectic” of all three albums. McCartney gave the publication the exclusive interview about the new album, which you can read in all its glory here.

The album is out 11 December on Capitol Records.


© Mary McCartney/MPL Communications: Artwork for McCartney III by Paul McCartney

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Ed Ruscha (© Ed Ruscha, Paul McCartney and Capitol Records, 2020)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny (she/her) is online editor of It’s Nice That, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output. She was previously news editor for five years. Contact her with stories, pitches and tips relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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