Archive | December 2012

Blog Post #8 – Japonism & Woodblock Printing

First Geisha

Japonism is a term used to describe the influence of Japanese art on European artists. Japonisme was coined in France by Jules Claretie. From Wikipedia: “Japanese wood-block prints became a source of inspiration for many European impressionist painters in France and elsewhere, and eventually for Art Nouveau and Cubism. Artists were especially affected by the lack of perspective and shadow, the flat areas of strong color, and the compositional freedom gained by placing the subject off-center, mostly with a low diagonal axis to the background. “

I fell in love with Japanese painting and Japanese woodblock printing, last spring when I took my Color Design class. The instructor was teaching us how to create color palettes for either digital or regular painting and he had us download several of these images for the assignment.

Japanese woodblock (sometimes called woodcut) prints lend themselves perfectly to this training because of their limited, simplistic, yet pleasing palettes. The images I chose to use to create my palettes are shown below. As with most of these prints, artists are unknown.

First we import the image into Photoshop and with the Eyedropper tool we pick out the various colors and fill the rectangles in the color bar with them. At first glance there seems to be just a handful of colors, but with the Eyedropper tool you soon discover that what at first looks to be orange is actually three shades of orange.  This fun exercise also required the estimation of the percentage of the whole painting that each color was used. The vertical bar to the right of each painting shows the resulting color palette and the approximate amount of each color.

Color Palette Exercise for Color Design Class by Laura J. Larson

Color Palette Exercise for Color Design Class by Laura J. Larson

After you finish this exercise, you can save your palette for a future digital painting, or you can print it in order to mix your own palette from paints, or your choice of medium, from pastels to colored pencil. This method allows one to create art that has pleasing hues and color combinations. It’s also very efficient because you can make all your color decisions up front, prepare your colors in advance, and have a general idea of the overall color tone of your piece.

I promised myself at the time to collect more of these Japanese woodblock prints for future use. I found several themes in this style of art: nature, floral, fruit, fish and birds, waves, etc. but my favorites are the Geishas. Many of these prints were never signed, so accreditation is rarely possible. For the purposes of this blog, I want to share them with you without details.

Two Kois

History of Woodblock Printing

During the Edo period in Japan (1603-1867) Japan began to adopt the Chinese method of woodblock printing to print books. The earliest known examples of woodblock printing from Japan were small wooden pagodas, each with a woodblock scroll in Buddhist text. One million of these were commissioned by the Empress Koken to give to temples around the country as symbols of thanksgiving that the Emi Rebellion was over.

Woodblock printing was a method that allowed for the first attempts at mass production. It was used for the printing of many literary materials to include the Japanese classics, travel guides, advice manuals, novels, art books, and plays.

Technique

The text or image was first drawn on paper, glued to a block of wood (usually cherry), and then the wood was cut away based on the design. Ink was applied to the block and pressed onto paper. This was first done all by hand; later complex mechanisms were invented to hold the wood block still, apply consistent pressure, and allowed for precision alignment when multiple layers of color were later introduced.

Geisha One and Two

There were many types of Japanese woodblock printing as technology developed:

Sumizuri-e: Monochrome printing using only black ink

Benizuri-e: Red or green details or highlights were added to the monochrome

Aizuri-e: A single color, mostly indigo or purple, was used instead of black ink

Urushi-e: Ink was thickened with glue for relief, and sometimes gold or mica

Nishiki-e: A method of using multiple blocks for different portions of the image, using several colors to achieve complex and detailed designs; registration marks called “kento” were used to align each application of blocks.
Right Geisha

Research:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japonism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodblock_printing_in_Japan

http://www.ehow.com/about_5246819_japanese-woodblock-prints-history.html

http://www.stolaf.edu/people/kucera/YoshidaWebsite/evolution/essay_pages/jason_bossen.htm

http://www.ukiyoe-reproductions.com/html/history.html

http://www.artelino.com/articles/japanese-woodblock-prints.asp

 

This entry was posted on December 5, 2012. 1 Comment

Blog Post #7 – Frida Kahlo

Self-Portrait, 1926, Oil on canvas, 31 x 23 in., Private collection, Mexico City

Self-Portrait, 1926, Oil on canvas, 31 x 23 in., Private collection, Mexico City

Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 in Coyoacan, Mexico. At first glance, looking through her paintings, one notices that she did a lot of self-portraits over the years. Frida was truthful when she said, quote: “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” I also noticed there were quite a few disturbing, bloody paintings depicting seemingly helpless women with surgical scars. I looked into her biography in order to learn the meaning of all of this macabre subject matter.

Kahlo endured lifelong health problems during her relatively short life of only 47 years. At the age of six, she was afflicted with polio, which caused one leg to be much thinner than the other. For most of her life she wore long, colorful skirts to disguise her defect. Then at the age of 18, Kahlo was in a major bus accident and she suffered a whole list of serious injuries: a broken spinal column, collarbone, ribs, pelvis, eleven fractures in her withered leg, a crushed right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. In addition, an iron railing punctured her abdomen and uterus, ruining her ability to ever have children.  She spent three months in a full body cast and had pain her entire life, sometimes to the point of requiring many hospitalizations. She had as many as 35 operations to repair the various injuries, thus the theme of many of her paintings.

A Few Small Nips, 1935, Oil on metal, 15 x 19 in., Collection of Dolores Olmedo Foundation, Mexico City

A Few Small Nips, 1935, Oil on metal, 15 x 19 in.,
Collection of Dolores Olmedo Foundation, Mexico City

The one good outcome of the bus accident is that Kahlo painted to occupy her time during her various recoveries, and decided to forgo the study of medicine which was her original life plan. Her mother had a special easel made so she could paint in bed, and her father gave her a box of oil paints and some brushes. She was self-taught and eventually went on to create 143 paintings, of which 55 are self-portraits. She said, “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”

Kahlo’s other influences included her native Mexican culture and her stormy relationships, shown in an almost primitive style, along with her use of bright colors and emotional symbolism. She is considered a Mexican surrealist.

At the age of 22, Kahlo married the famous Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera, who was 20 years older than her. They had a very contentious, stormy, yet passionate marriage, divorces, and then remarriage. There were many affairs on both sides; and Kahlo was rumored to have had affairs with both men and women.

Kahlo’s work was very different from her contemporaries but that allowed her to go on and become one of “Mexico’s greatest and most shocking of painters.” She was popular in her day and had many fans. One interesting story is about the day of her cremation. Many mourners came to the crematorium to witness the event. At one point the sudden blast of heat from the open incinerator doors caused her body to bolt upright. On fire, her hair blazed around her head in a giant halo; a very dramatic goodbye from a very dramatic artist.

Self-Portrait with the Portrait of Doctor Farill, 1951, Oil on Masonite,16-1/2 x 19-3/4 in., Private collection, Mexico City

Self-Portrait with the Portrait of Doctor Farill, 1951, Oil on Masonite,
16-1/2 x 19-3/4 in., Private collection, Mexico City

An excellent website about the life of Frida Kahlo, with many photographs is found at http://www.pbs.ord/weta/fridakahlo .

Recovering from her many surgeries, Frida Kahlo often painted in bed. Here is Frida painting while her husband, Diego Rivera, holds her canvas.

Recovering from her many surgeries, Frida Kahlo often painted in bed.
Here is Frida painting while her husband, Diego Rivera, holds her canvas.

Research:

http://www.fridakahlo.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frida_Kahlo
http://www.pbs.org/weta/fridakahlo/

This entry was posted on December 1, 2012. 2 Comments