Japanese woodblock printing (ukiyo-e) has a profound influence in western art since 19th century. “Japonism” has a visible presence in the art of many big names, such as Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin etc.
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839 -1892; also named as Taiso Yoshitoshi 大蘇芳年) was generally regarded as the last great master of the this art tradition. He was a very bold, imaginative and prolific artist. Some of the images he created are regarded as gruesome and disturbing. His most famous series are One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (1885–1892), and New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts (1889–1892).
In “Kiyomori sees hundreds of skulls at Fukuhara,” from the series New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts, Yoshitoshi portrayed the famous Japanese general (or soldier-dictator) Taira Kiyomori (平清盛, 1118 – 1181), who created the the first samurai-dominated government. The main attraction for me is the decisive and effective line work, and the presence of the character:
A few notes:
This is not an exact copy, partially because the paper I used was a failed texture experiment. I have to work with un-intended marks here and there.
Copying line work is a tricky business: you want to be careful because the ink is permanent; but if you are too careful you’ll lose the force and the gesture of the line.
Sometimes having random textures or marks on paper is not necessarily a bad thing. You are forced to be creative since you have to work around or work against it.
By the way, the art of ukiyo-e fell out of fashion in Japan in the late 19th century but saw a come back since the 70s in Asia. Some young artists incorporated the line works and the fanciful contents into Chinese fine brush painting or watercolor painting.
There’s nothing new about the painting itself. I was fascinated by the Japanese ukiyo-e art, and tried to create something in that style. The new things for me are the preparing of the paper and the final display.
To prepare the paper, I boiled 10 bags of Liption black tea in a pot, pour the water in a tray, and after it cooled, soaked the watercolor paper in it for a couple of hours. The result is a nicely tinted paper.
For display, I always find matting and framing of watercolor a chore, and that’s part of force driving me to acrylic painting in the beginning. I recently came across two videos on how to display watercolor painting without glass, or even frame. I am sure there are many other videos on the topic, but these are the ones I referenced:
Simply put it, if you want to frame the artwork without glass:
Glue the artwork onto gator board with acrylic gel medium, and let it dry overnight
Varnish it with 2 coats of gloss and 2 coats of matte varnishes, in that order
If you want to display the artwork directly:
Painted the edges of a cradled wood panel to desired color (this step is optional)
Glue the artwork to the panel with acrylic gel medium, and let it dry overnight
Varnish it (same as in previous method)
Mr. Burridge didn’t mention varnishing in his video, but I did it anyways. The result is a waterproof surface. There are artists online saying varnishing changes the color of their paintings. If you only use gloss varnish, the color will look more vibrant. If only matte varnish, it probably with dull or blur. I used both, and the result is fine. However, it always wise to test it on some old paintings first.