zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

This is an illustrated chapter from the book along with a book cover. Both are from the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and both are hand illustrations in watercolor.

book cover

chapter illustration

watercolor illustration


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a research intensive project. I already read the book and had an understanding for the philosophical themes along with the narrative plot but I knew I had to find a way to visually relay the complex philosophy.

I researched various illustrative techniques that represented the Classical thought which was essentially logical and rational thought. I analyzed parts of the text discussing logic that talked about impossibility, math, science, laws, and existence. This led me to research mathematical equations and theories that had a graphical representation and I focused on Euler’s Formula because the theory behind the forumla applied to the philosophical reasoning in the book. I ended up not using the graphical illustration of Euler itself but kept the concept of a linear background for the final product

The second part of the philosophy was the Romantic thought which was related to Taoism, arts, and expression. I researched ways to introduce taoist movement and researched Abstract Expressionists like Clyfford Still and Helen Frankenthaler.

I knew I wanted to incorporate the Super Hawk, Honda CB77, that the characters use for their roadtrip. I sketched out the motorcycle and drew the line similar to a blueprint.

The comps below were drafts where I felt the illustration wasn’t as strong. The blue background was the version that used Euler’s Formula as an illustrative element.
In the end, I used a grid structure to format my type and used lines and circles to indicate the layout of the cover. I illustrated a watercolor motorcycle that expressed the form and referenced flowing movement.

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