The goal of this student project was to create an art book focused on an artist assigned at random. The intent was to dive deep into the artist’s work, life, and methods, in order to produce a meaningful and evocative result. Instead of a generic and removed art book cover solution, a successful result would be connected to the subject in some way, and would be representative as well as understanding of their work.
The mandate in this specific case was to create a book about Bridget Riley, titled Bridget Riley: Works 1981-2015. Riley is an English painter born in 1931, who is most known for her associations with Op Art, despite her efforts to distance herself from the movement. The focus of her geometric patterns is not so much optical illusions, but the range of experiences that the eye can have. Unexpectedly far from a reference to the mechanical, her art seeks to replicate the effects that nature can provide.
Careful research into the books published about Bridget Riley, as well the interviews and talks she has given, was an essential part of relating to her work. As her art spans multiple decades and has transformed from a study of Seurat and pointillism to hundreds of studies of geometric forms, delving into her work, knowledge and opinions about art was useful preparation for working with this subject.
The research helped establish that rhythm and repetition are at the heart of the artist’s process, and the meticulous work she puts into her experimentations can be likened to an evolution. Starting from the very small scale by creating a number of colour studies in gouache, Riley hand mixes the paints to achieve the precise hue and intensity that she is after.
As for the painting process, it is entirely done by hand. No rulers are used. The same goes for masking tape and mechanical methods - they are not part of the creation process. This focus on experimentation, and on precision achieved by manual skills, seemed like a compelling foundation for the concept of the book.
The solution offered winks at Riley’s methodical way of working, and the incremental way she introduced colour, both throughout her career and in each individual painting.
The front cover's main appeal is its interactivity. What seems at first a flat detail of one of Riley’s stripe paintings is in fact a layered piece. On the cover itself, a faint grid is printed, while the stripes are separated by colour and printed on three individual acetates. The acetates are attached at the top, and the cover features a bottom pocket from which it is possible to lift each sheet. This way, people can interact with the cover and see the work from beginning to end, as each acetate is placed back in the pocket.
The intention for the inside spreads was to be colourful while easy on the eyes. They do carry the theme of verticality in some aspect and details, without being redundant. They are spacious, inviting, and easy to read.
The design of this art book cover goes beyond showcasing one of Bridget Riley’s striking paintings. Instead of simply showing the result, it invites the reader to take the place of the painter, and get a glimpse of the artist’s process. The cover and spreads are as colourful as Riley’s body of work, with a grid that grounds the design while allowing play.