ROLLING DOWN ROUTE 66: Louis Vuitton celebrated the launch of “Route 66” in Chicago last Thursday, one of four new titles within its Travel Book series that features the artwork of Thomas Ott.
The 152-page hardcover book traces the graphic artist’s journey along the historic route through a series of black-and-white illustrations, created using a knife and coated scratchboard. Ott is now taking the book on the road again, literally, making a stop in Santa Fe and concluding his book tour at the Louis Vuitton store in Santa Monica on Thursday.
The Zurich-based artist chose Route 66 as the focus for the book. “At first they wanted to send me to Shanghai or Beijing, but I figured out that too much architecture doesn’t inspire me,” Ott said. “I am very happy they agreed about Route 66, even though they said it’s not our main destination.”
In June 2015, Ott and a friend began the journey in a new Dodge Charger. It wasn’t the vintage Ford Mustang convertible he envisioned, but this one proved more comfortable in the end, as it had AC.
“I brought all my stuff for drawing. I was so nervous because the road was so long,” he said. “Finally, I just took photographs. It’s the first time I really worked on photographs for a project.”
For his art, Ott works from black and then adds in white lines to give lightness to the dark.
“Even if I do a sunny sky, you always think, mmm, something is wrong,” he said. “This is just a technique. It makes like an old black-and-white movie. It always has a feeling like something is not good. I am someone who loves to show the shadows, instead of everything is nice.”
Driving along Route 66 was like time travel, Ott said.
“The funny side of this trip is that when you read all the guides they say ‘see the Blue Whale’ and you go there and it’s deserted,” he said. “This is funny and it’s a little bit sad. You see a forgotten time.”
The book took two years to finish and he worked on it from his home in Zurich.
“Route 66” launched May 1, retails for $56 and is available in all Louis Vuitton U.S. stores and online. The other Travel Books that debuted in May include Cuba, Prague and Rome.