26 Nov

Hiroshige 1

Husb and I spent a few days away in Northern Italy, exploring museums and galleries on a guided tour arranged by New Scientist magazine. We took in a fabulous exhibition, “Beyond The Wave”, of Japanese Ukiyo e printmakers, Hokusai and Hiroshige in Bologna. I was fascinated by their process. To my surprise, the artists themselves didn’t do any printmaking, but just provided the initial simple ink line drawing (which didn’t survive the process). The drawing was transferred to a number of blocks, up to fifteen depending on the amount of colours, and cut by a carver. Finally the blocks were handed over to a printmaker to produce the fabulous full-colour images that we’re used to seeing today. This process reminds me of that used in the production of modern comics, with the artist producing pencil drawings, handing them over to an inker and then to a letterer. Coincidentally, Hokusai and Hiroshige are a great influence on Japanese Manga and Anime.

In my small sketchbook, I made some little studies of the beautiful simple compositions of some of the prints. Most had very sparse detail and the artist’s original line drawings are usually quite basic. The richness of pattern and colour are down to the skills of the printmaker who often used a blending technique called Bokashi which gives beautifully graduated colours. Ukiyo e prints became very fashionable through Japonism and had an enormous influence on later 19th century and 20th century European art and artists including the Impressionists and post-Impressionists and individual artists including Cassatt, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and van Gogh.

8 Responses to “Bokashi!”

  1. Leonie Andrews November 28, 2018 at 02:41 #

    I think we saw a version or a very similar exhibition in Melbourne about a year ago. What was interesting was the direct comparison between two prints of the Great Wave, done at different time periods.

    BTW I can highly recommend the YouTube channel of David Bull, a Canadian who now lives in Japan and makes his living as a wood block carver. Somewhat eccentric but very knowledgeable. We saw a doco about him recently and are now working our way through his back catalogue of videos. Lots of technical stuff so fascinating for practitioners of printing.

    • Rosie Scribblah December 5, 2018 at 06:42 #

      Oh yes, I have been watching some of his stuff, so interesting.

  2. Deb Breton November 27, 2018 at 19:47 #

    Sounds like a wonderful and inspiring trip! Love the notan sketches.

  3. Phil Cooper November 27, 2018 at 00:18 #

    What a great trip Rosie, and super sketches, love the simple compositions

    • Rosie Scribblah November 27, 2018 at 07:17 #

      Thanks Phil. Always ready to learn from the masters. I adored Bologna, my first visit. BTW, they never have bolognese sauce with spaghetti, it’s used for lasagne and it was the best lasagne I have ever had.

      • Phil Cooper November 27, 2018 at 09:01 #

        Yes, I love Bologna too, I went there in my early 20s, what an amazing city. I’d love to go back, and take my sketchbook 😊

      • Rosie Scribblah December 5, 2018 at 06:40 #

        I want to go again and travel to Fabriano, not far away, which has made paper for artists since the Renaissance

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