Ukiyo-e Search

Ukiyo-e Search: Utagawa Toyoharu, Hokusai  Katsushika, Inoue Yasuji, Utagawa Fusatane, Tsuchiya Koitsu, Fujishima Takeji, Watanabe Shotei, Shotei Takahashi, Yoshida Hiroshi
Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints extending in time from the early eighteenth century to the early twentieth. It was followed by the early twentieth century genres of Shin-hanga and Sosaku-hanga, which carried forward some of the Ukiyo-e sensibilities while adding their own characteristics, particularly in the adoption of visual techniques from Western art.

From the mid-nineteenth century forward, in particular — when new methods of printing in color were developed, and a greater number of people had resources to buy art — these prints became increasingly popular in Japan, as well as in Europe and the U.S. (where they had a distinct influence on artists).

Just as the internet has in general made images of great artworks more available, it has also facilitated the ability to access art images across cultural boundaries, and images of Ukiyo-e prints are widely available on the web.

Finding them, however, has always been a hit-and-miss proposition; resources are scattered and even naming conventions are inconsistent (made more difficult by the occasional Western reversal of the order of Japanese names, and the fact that many of the artists were known by different names over the course of their careers).

Ukiyo-e Search is a wonderful new project by programmer and Japanese print enthusiast John Resig that begins to address that situation by providing an intelligent search tool for finding Japanese woodblock prints in a well organized interface, as well as allowing the ability to search for similar prints across multiple sources.

The images are hosted on the site, in a consistent manner, with links to the original source. They are also usually large enough to get a good feeling of the original.

In the initial browsing pages, when you roll your mouse over a thumbnail, it loads a range of thumbnails that you can browse by moving the mouse across the image.

There is also a blog, in which Resig posts about about prints and related subjects.

The project is still in its early stages, and is just, in Resig’s words: “a demonstration of what’s possible”. The website, correspondingly, has something of a Beta feel, and there is a subscription available to be notified of updates.

However, with a well thought out interface and access to over 200,000 prints, it’s already a delight for those of us who enjoy these works, but have only a passing familiarity with the many artists who might be of interest.

It’s also extensive enough, even at this stage, that I’ll give it my Major Timesink Warning.

[Note: a few (very few) of the images are distinctly NSFW and not suitable for children]

(Images above: Utagawa Toyoharu, Hokusai Katsushika, Inoue Yasuji, Utagawa Fusatane, Tsuchiya Koitsu, Fujishima Takeji, Watanabe Shotei, Shotei Takahashi, Yoshida Hiroshi)


Liam Peters

Liam Peters
Originally from Brisbane, Australia and now living in the U.S., Liam Peters is an illustrator an visual development artist for the gaming industry.

His digital paintings, done in Photoshop, often delve into vivid imaginings of the grotesque and the fantastic.

He frequently uses a muted palette, punctuated with brighter passages, and a range of intricate textures to give his work a theatrical drama and sense of tactile presence.

In addition to his blog/website, you can find portfolios of his work on the site of his artists representative, Shannon Associates, as well as on his deviantART page.


Jacob Kerssemakers

Jacob Kerssemakers
Most painters who buy canvas by the roll cut off rectangles in common sizes. Dutch artist Jacob Kerssemakers, in contrast, cuts his 30 foot rolls lengthwise into horizontal strips, 10 to 20 inches high, to accommodate his novel approach to plein air painting on long scrolls.

There is a short film by Roland Kemp on YouTube of Kerssemakers working at a plein air event in Kenya that shows his process — and the custom easel and spindle arrangement he’s created for deploying his rolls in easy-to-mange sections (screen caps, first seven images above).

In the video, he works through in an initial pass — drawing with light washes, rolling and unrolling from the right as he goes — then makes a second pass for final painting in oil and acrylic.

Kerssemakers initially developed his penchant for working this way while working in the studio with markers on blotter paper. (I remember my own experiences as teenager making long scrolling pen drawings on small rolls of adding machine paper, so I can understand the appeal.)

He moved from there to ink on rolls of watercolor paper and then to watercolor, before developing his process for oil and acrylic.

Kerssemakers says that a light touch and care not to roll or re-roll repeatedly allows the use of oils without too much lifting from the back of the canvas.

There are additional videos of Kerssemakers and his work on YouTube, though the ones that pan through his paintings do so too rapidly.

Kerssemakers has a website. Unfortunately it’s one of those multi-artist cookie-cutter sites, and suffers from poor presentation, particular for Kerssemakers’ unique format. His work would benefit from a specifically designed interface that would allow viewers to scroll through his long works at their own pace.

Similarly, Kerssemakers has had to find sometimes makeshift ways to physically display his unusually sized works (images above, bottom two), at times simply resorting to taping the longer ones to gallery walls.

I encountered Kerssemakers on the Outdoor Painter site, which has a more extensive article on the artist and his process.


Eye Candy for Today: Piranesi architectural fantasy

Part of a spacious and magnificent harbor for the use of the ancient Romans opening onto a large market square..., Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Part of a spacious and magnificent harbor for the use of the ancient Romans opening onto a large market square…, Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Etching, engraving, drypoint and sulphur tint, 16×21″ (20x54cm). From a portfolio titled Various Works of Architecture, perspectives, grotesques, and antiquities; designed and etched by Giambattista Piranesi, Venetian Architect. In the collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art. Use the Fullscreen link and zoom controls or download arrow.

In addition to his more famous series of “Imaginary Prisons“, eighteenth century architect and artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi created a stunning series of graphics depicting actual Roman ruins, and others showcasing his fantastic imaginings of potential Roman architectural glory.

In all three ranges of subjects, Piranesi was fascinated with structures of enormous scale (far anticipating the exaggerated scale of imaginary environments favored by contemporary science fiction, fantasy and visual development artists).