Zen art, nature, and Ukiyo-E

Outside the fine art and historical world, most of the interest and support for Ukiyo-E is in the Manga community. The positive there is that comic books and anime are constantly drawing young eyes to a much broader world of expression (just like they have always done). The negative is that a great deal of beautiful work gets ignored in favor of battle scenes, yokai, and other more graphic forms.

As for myself, my first exposures to Ukiyo-E came through an interest in Buddhist art, and an attraction to the simple elegance of Japanese art in general.

Some of the most under rated Ukiyo-E images are portrayals of nature. This is the point where a more scholarly sort would talk about the development of the style and how it came to Japan through mimicking the Chinese style of landscape and so on…but I am not here to provide art history so much as to talk about the art I am presenting.

At any rate, I do not attempt much in the way of nature art…for reasons previously discussed in a post about an oil I did (Painting hard feelings). The painting I am posting today is an exception to that and I kind of painted myself into a corner with the need to do it when I decided to do a series based on Ukiyo-E.

The reason I felt like it had to be done is because no nod to Japanese art and beauty could ever be complete without several subjects being covered. Amongst them would be Samurai, Geisha, Buddhism, Mount Fuji, and of course Cherry blossoms. In this series, so far I have addresses all but Mount Fuji… and of the ones completed I have shared all but one of a Geisha here on this website, after this post of course.

Todays painting is titled “Sparrow and Cherry Blossom” and is simple image of a sparrow perched on a cherry branch in bloom.

Sparrow and Cherry Blossom

“Sparrow and Cherry Blossom” is an 18×24 gouache painting on watercolor paper. The original piece and prints are available here.

Is it still sexy?

The image I am sharing today is a nod to Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. Yoshitoshi is one of the great Ukiyo-E artists who lived from 1839 to 1892. If you have glanced at Japanese art, and especially Ukioyo-E you have undoubtedly seen some of his work.

Of his work, my favorite come from a series classified as muzan-e (cruel pictures) by the name of “28 famous murders”. In this set one particular image caught my eye and struck me as amusing. It is the 12th in the series, is titled “Inada Kyūzō Shinsuke: woman suspended from rope”, and features a woman being murdered by Shinsuke while she is hanging in shibari.

At this time I feel like I should note that my amusement was not at this woman’s murder or the savagery of its method (though it is a compelling image), but lies in the fact that today shibari (or rope bondage) is a very popular fetish when historically it was used as a brutal form of torture.

Psychologically it makes sense for a ton of reasons ranging from risk taking to the physical confusion between pleasure and pain that BDSM practitioners know well.

Nevertheless, the image struck me so I felt compelled to do an homage to it as part of my series of honoring Ukiyo-e. That series by the way is not complete, but has seemed to burn itself out lately and I am working on other projects.

All of that is why I gave the piece the title, “Is it still sexy?”. A tongue in cheek question for the whole BDSM scene.

“Is it still sexy?” 18×24 Gouache and brush pen on watercolor paper.

Prints are available in a variety of formats at my Fine Art America store.

Thoughts and Prayers

Its been a few months since I posted anything here. I would like to say it is because I have been super busy and just haven’t had time to share.

The truth is that this is pretty typical for me.

I have still been making art…just not as intensely. I still have a bunch of art I want to share, talk about, and even sell… but I am revisiting how I want to go about that. And a bunch of other side thoughts that have nothing to do with this post.

What does have to do with this post is bright colors, skeletons, hallucinogens, water color brush pens, and bristol board.

“Thoughts and Prayers” 9×12 water color brush pens on Bristol

It was fun to draw and even more fun to “research” having mushrooms on the brain.

Currently I do not have any prints of this being sold, but depending on how I move forward, that is likely to change.