Brian Clarke's first public collaboration with Paul McCartney was the series of works made for his number-one album Tug of War in 1982. Clarke designed the cover which includes a painted portrait of McCartney in the recording studio, based on a photograph by Linda McCartney. He did this by first painting with lithographic ink over the photo through a sheet of film, and then laying atop of it a second layer of film and repainting some of the geometric forms of the oil painting in blue and red transfer dye. He then combined these with a base layer photographic print of his painting, so that the three layers appeared to blend together, creating a sense of depth and transparency.
Clarke returned to this composition as the basis of a series of five ‘Tug of War’ stained glass panels in different colours and treatments. The geometric elements of the painting, which he calls 'reticules', were used in promotional material for the release, incorporated throughout the vinyl and CD booklets, and appear on the vinyl labels. The album sold over one million copies in the United States in the first year of its release, where it has been certified platinum. In 2021, the British Royal Mail produced a stamp featuring Brian's cover painting and design for the LP.