There are some images you see as a child, that truly shape who you are. Whatever the reason for it, the minute you see the image it becomes seared into your psyche and is referenced in your decision making process for the rest of your life.
For me that image was a black refrigerator magnet with a grey/silver drawing on it. It was a poured item and the drawn lines on it were raised from the background. The image was of an owl swooping down on a mouse. The mouse held a pistol behind his back. Underneath it said, “That’s confidence.”
I have spent an unreasonable amount of time thinking about this. Not to mention the amount of time I spent trying to draw it. In my mind the pistol, and even the notion of fighting back disappeared over time.
The idea of it representing confidence even became nonsense. Seriously, no gun that a creature the size of a mouse could hold and fire would ever be able to stop, let alone kill an inbound owl with hunger on its mind.
And as I got older and became aware of philosophies like stoicism and transcendentalism… I adopted ideas like “no fear, no regrets” and chose to live my life by them. Pirate concepts like “No quarter asked, and none given” became my rallying cry.
When I look back at the directions I took philosophically. It is all rooted in that image.
Well I replaced the mouse’s gun with a middle finger, and instead of staring at the owl, he is looking off to the side, to whatever it is that he wants to look at.
His death isn’t important. The way he is choosing to live is.
“Elige Bene Mori” is latin for choose a good death. I encourage you to embrace this notion and hold it close to your heart. The original painting in gouache on watercolor paper is not currently for sale, but you can purchase prints of it through my account at Fine Art America, HERE.
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.