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Life of Pi: Croatian Illustrator Takes on a Modern Classic

What perseverance in the face of rejection has to do with tigers and the quest for belonging.

It’s a familiar story — author faces series of rejection letters but perseveres to eventually reach wide critical acclaim. That’s exactly what happened to Yann Martel, whose fantasy adventure novel Life of Pi was rejected by at least five UK publishers before being published by a Canadian one in 2001 and awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction the following year for its UK edition. It tells the story of an Indian boy, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, stranded for 227 days after a shipwreck on a boat he shares with a Bengali tiger named Pi. It’s a story of faith, adventure, survival and belonging.

But what makes the book most noteworthy is that, in 2005, a worldwide competition set out to find an artist to illustrate a new, special edition of the book, settling on the wonderful Croatian illustrator and painter Tomislav Torjanac. Torjanac used his distinctive blend of oil paints and digital illustration to produce 40 stunning illustrations with a conceptual twist — the scenes he portrayed were viewed from Pi’s subjective perspective.

My vision of the illustrated edition of Life of Pi is based on paintings from a first person’s perspective — Pi’s perspective. The interpretation of what Pi sees is intermeshed with what he feels and it is shown through the use of colours, perspective, symbols, hand gestures, etc… Hence some of the scenes may look realistic and may correspond to ‘reality,’ while others may contain elements of sylization or even abstract elements (for example: the scene of blindness out of the sea).” ~ Tomislav Torjanac

Here is a fascinating glimpse of Torjanac’s creative process:

Island Study
Lifeboat Study
‘I quite deliberately dressed wild animals in tame costumes of my imagination.’
‘Only when they threw me overboard did I begin to have doubts…’
‘And what a thump it was.’
‘I threw the mako towards the stern.’

Breathtakingly beautiful, exhilarating and poetic, the artwork in Life of Pi is an absolute feast for the eyes and heart.

Some images via The Guardian


Published August 3, 2011

https://www.brainpickings.org/2011/08/03/life-of-pi-tomislav-torjanac/

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