Louis Vuitton Travel Book Hawai, illustre par Esad Ribic, 2017

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a male adorned with traditional Hawaiian tattoos.

As part of their contemporary travel book series, luxury brand louis vuitton recently released three new titles including the Hawaii Travel Book illustrated by Croatian comic book artist Esad Ribić. Th e limited-edition books have been illustrated by renown and promising young talent picked by Louis Vuitton to tell their tales of travel via the medium of which they are known. Hawai‘i can now be counted among other Louis Vuitton exotic locales such as Vietnam, Easter Island and Paris. Ribić, whose notable work includes illustrations of sci-fisuperheroes such as the X-Men and the Silver Surfer for Marvel Comics, was recruited by Travel Book art director Frederic Bortolletti for the Hawai‘i project.

At the time, Ribić was engaged in a lengthy project with Marvel and couldn’t commit at first; but once his project was completed, the artist traveled to the Hawaiian Isles in 2015 to begin his explorations.

Once here, Ribić was immediately overwhelmed with Hawai‘i’s natural beauty and fell in love with its diverse topography and climate. “You can tell it’s geographically new, all the natural processes are fast there—new land creation from volcanoes, [lava] hardening, erosion, [the creation of] coral reef around it,” he says. Th e diverse climates that covered each island also marveled the illustrator. “… You can go from jungle into almost desert in a few miles!” he adds.

Coming from a sci-fi background where super heroes dominate, Ribić had to rethink how to portray his visions of Hawai‘i for Louis Vuitton. As this work was something he does not typically do, it took time for Ribić to develop a connected narrative for the series. Nature became his center point for much of what he illustrated, but cityscapes do come into play in many of his pieces. “I did want to focus more on nature than other things, even cityscapes were done [in such a way] that you feel the intrusion of green in that, that’s what this place looks like anyway …”

In addition, Ribić also decided to approach his illustrations with a much looser style than his usual comic book realism. “I like a lot of landscape art, and this was my chance to [pay homage] to it, with my little twists, of course.” In one landscape piece, he creates a surreal view of steep, Hawaiian mountains looming over a sleepy, waterside park. Hues of green swallow the toy-like cars parked beachside. In a portrait piece, the artist depicts a powerful man covered in tribal tattoos siting within a dark jungle who glares back at the observer.

His surfer illustrations are clearly a nod at his comic background as he attributes the watermen with super-human strength. In one instance, rippling back muscles explodes out of a roaring wave. Th e surfer’s face is warped with angst as he prepares to tackle the next wave nature throws at him.

Using his regular mix of watercolor and tempera, Ribić used rougher textured papers and painted with a desired wet-on-wet technique he can’t employ in his regular work. “Th is kind of variety is not something I can usually indulge in because painted comics need to have a more uniform look, and that dictates a paper with a smooth surface for details, ” he elaborates. The looser approach also gave Ribić the ability to create “dreamy looking” illustrations as “opposed to fully fleshed out realism, that’d make it look too ‘postcardy.’”

Ribić did note his favorite art from the Hawaii Travel Book are his volcano-related pieces. “Just the scope of things and the bleakness that surrounds it makes you feel you’re on another world!” he opines. But Ribić’s favorite individual piece was surfer image used for the tome’s cover. Th e image shows another heroic surfer sailing offa multicolored wave with a city landscape in the background. Th e illustration wasn’t based on any photograph but an image conjured from the artist’s own mind. Ribić says, “It was just my impression of Honolulu— straight from my head on paper!”