{ feuilleton }


• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


The Chronicle of the Cursed Sleeve


A copy of the cover art that I attempted to colour-correct some years ago to compensate for the poor print reproduction.

This month I’m in Record Collector magazine talking in a sidebar feature about my work on the Hawkwind album The Chronicle of the Black Sword. The issue is Hawkwind-heavy, with a Nik Turner interview, a history of Flicknife Records (the label that released COTBS), and a retrospective feature on the Black Sword album which was released in December 1985. My words were slightly cut to fit the allotted space but I can run the full text here in which I describe my ambivalent feelings towards this particular cover.


The Black Sword album for me has always been a combination of pleasure and disappointment. I was very pleased initially to hear that Hawkwind were writing a concept based on the Elric books, a series I’d enjoyed for many years. Cover discussions were a little more detailed than usual since this design was sketched out beforehand then approved by the Dave Brock and co. Prior to this I’d been creating something vague after equally vague requests; communication back then was all done via post and call box as I didn’t own a phone.

This was the first album where I was able to create an integrated front and back cover design. A friend had recently found me a copy of George Bain’s Celtic Art: Its Methods of Construction (1951), a study of the creation of Celtic knotwork, and I was keen to use this somehow. Rather than do a cover that looked like a fantasy paperback the idea was to use the knotwork style to create something that was suitably Hawkish whilst also fitting the Elric theme. The front cover has some nods back to earlier Hawkart in the winged sphere—which goes back to Barney Bubbles and his obsession with Ancient Egypt—and the eye-in-a-triangle, a symbol which first appeared on the cover of the Hawklog booklet in the In Search of Space album, and which I scattered throughout many of my Hawkwind designs.

All the lettering on the album was hand-drawn (not very well in places) using letterforms based on Bain’s examples from the books of Kells and Lindisfarne. I drew the track listing onto the artwork for the back cover, a decision that later proved to be a bad one when the band decided to change the running order of the songs, hence the large purple square that spoils the design. My lack of any direct contact with the record company made problems like this inevitable; I was trying to do graphic design at a distance without having any communication at all with the printers responsible for the sleeve. Before digital design, the creation of an album cover could be a complicated business involving photo-mechanical transfers, knockout areas, overlays, typesetters and more; if you weren’t in direct contact with the printer (or somebody who was) then you simply had to hope for the best.

This process of design-at-a-distance led to the disaster with the cover printing, the front of which has an unwarranted blue cast that dulled the impact of the sleeve and, for me, ruined the whole thing. You can see how the cover should have looked by comparing the background colours of front and back; the front was also printed in its true colours on the back page of the 1985 tour programme. It was this, and the messy appearance of the lettering on the back, that pushed me further towards ending my involvement with Hawkwind and doing something of my own over which I’d have complete control.


The retrospective feature in the magazine includes a picture of the back cover of the tour programme (above) so those familiar with the album can see the difference in reproduction. The difference isn’t so noticeable on the copies posted here after I tried altering the tones of the cover. Over the years I’ve grown used to the blueness but the back cover remains blighted by its purple boxes.

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Turn, Turn, Turn, a film by Jud Yalkut


I’m currently reading my way through Rob Chapman’s lysergic doorstop Psychedelia and Other Colours, a comprehensive study of a cultural phenomenon that’s well-represented on these pages. So expect more posts like this one which concerns another gem of abstract/psychedelic cinema. Turn, Turn, Turn (1966) is a collaboration between Jud Yalkut (visuals) and the Us Company aka USCO (sound). The latter receive several mentions in Chapman’s detailing of the early psych scene in San Francisco in the mid-60s; here they put a Byrds song through the mangler while Yalkut’s mechanical and other effects flicker and gyrate. The visuals are reminiscent in places of the film made by László Moholy-Nagy of his Light-Space Modulator, fittingly so when Chapman credits Moholy-Nagy’s machine with being one of the many forerunners of psychedelia in the art movements of the early 20th century.

The YouTube copy linked here has a bonus at the end with a truncated version of a later Yalkut collaboration with Nam June Paik, Beatles Electronique.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Mothlight, a film by Stan Brakhage
Walter Ruttmann’s abstract cinema
7362, a film by Pat O’Neill
Here and There, a film by Andrzej Pawlowski
Power Spot by Michael Scroggins
Kusama’s Self-Obliteration, a film by Jud Yalkut
OffOn by Scott Bartlett
The Flow III
Chris Parks
Len Lye
Matrix III by John Whitney
Symphonie Diagonale by Viking Eggeling
Mary Ellen Bute: Films 1934–1957
Norman McLaren
John Whitney’s Catalog
Arabesque by John Whitney
Moonlight in Glory
Jordan Belson on DVD
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney




Relativity (1953) by MC Escher.

Escher’s famous lithograph has a less familiar companion piece in the woodcut below.



Delirius (1972) by Philippe Druillet.

Lone Sloane’s adventure on the pleasure planet of Delirius was written by Jacques Lob, and features this diversion in the Palais d’Escher. Possibly the first fictional use of one of Escher’s prints.

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Hugo Steiner-Prag’s Ghostly Ballads


Mountain Voices.

In which the illustrator of Gustav Meyrink’s The Golem illustrates six ballads or lieder by Heinrich Heine. These etchings don’t bear comparison to Steiner-Prag’s peerless Golem illustrations, or those for his illustrated Poe, but they’re good to see even if the meaning remains obscure.


Man Behind a Window.


The Dream.

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Yoshitoshi’s ghosts


The Flying Demon (1889).

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is also the season of ghosts, spooks and spectres, so this post continues the Japanese trend of the past few days with a selection from New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892). The more I look at Yoshitoshi’s print series the more I like them; the draughtsmanship is stunning, while the composition and graphic effects are persistently inventive. The series subjects range through portraits of warriors and generals, gory crime scenes (Twenty-Eight Famous Murders with Verses), A Collection of Desires, and One Hundred Aspects of the Moon. New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts was a later series produced from 1889 to 1892, and is notable as much for its demons as for its aesthetic qualities. Also of note is the frayed edges Yoshitoshi gives to each of the pictures, an effect I’ve not seen before in Japanese prints.


The Killing of a Nue (1890).


Skulls at Furuhara (1890).

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Lovecraftiana Calendar 2016

    Lovecratiana Calendar 2016



Coulthart Books

    The Haunter of the Dark



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