Katsushika Hokusai was one of the first artists we noticed on our first trip to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. There was a series of Japanese work, in an exhibition titled ‘The Aspects of Japan’. I remember the name of Katsushika Hokusai as soon as I saw it on the information slip. He is most known for his image ‘The Great Wave’ (pictured below). I have always been a huge fan of Hokusai, in particular his huge attention to detail. All of his work are Colour Woodblock Prints, which require a huge attention to be perfectly accurate as every single mark you make into the wood, will be shown in your outcome. There has been many variations of this below image, were it has been remastered to give a more ‘bluer’ sea, a brighter sky and development into the mountain you can see in the middle near the bottom, but I believe this is the original as Katsushika Hokusai intended. Many people have also tried to carry on The Great Wave, by designing the other side of the wave (to the right, off the canvas), but I think this is the best edition. The colours are all so natural and look purely intended. The subtle changes in the sky; from a light yellow to white are incredible.

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Picture below is the image I took inside the Art Gallery of Katsushika Hokusais’s featured piece. It is titled “A Journey to the Waterfalls of all the Provinces: Ono Waterfall on the Kisokaido Road”. The description from inside BMAG reads like this:

“Published in 1832, this is one of a series of eight prints featuring views of famous waterfalls in Japan. The Ono waterfall is located by the Kiso River, near the town of Agematsu in Nagano. A group of travellers pause on a bridge to marvel at the magnificent view of the waterfall. There are two buildings nearby; the central one is a small shrine, while the one on the left is a teahouse for travellers.”

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This piece is a beautiful as The Great Wave and should be as noticed as the more familiar. The attention to detail is also so high, and contrast between the blue of the waterfall and the river to the strong browns of the tree trunks creates a strong visual hierarchy were your eye is drawn to certain areas of the image, and allows you to cast your eye into the piece to find the detail.

Another of my great loves in design is Japanese and Chinese lettering and type. For many years, I have been interest in Japanese art, and emulated something using a strong cartoon style in my A-Level Art course – but nothing like this. I hope to sometime use Chinese/Japanese lettering along this Uni course, and if not, then I will just do a little experiment for myself. I kind of see the shapes as pure shape and not a lettering, so I think it would be nice to redesign a type face combining the typical typeface, such as Helvetica and symbols from images such like this.

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