Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jiro of Japanism

When I first got into science fiction and fantasy fandom the dominant ethnicity was Celtic and anything "Celtic" was thrilling and heroic. That was something that is the heritage of the Romantic literary and political movements of the nineteenth century which has recently re-surfaced in a dark way. But the other thrilling ethnicity was Japanese, something which came to the English-speaking world on its own promotional hype of anime, games, sushi, manga, samurais, and Toshiro Mifune films. Back in colonial days it was called "japonisme," (French coinage) which inspired much of 19th century Art Nouveau and Impressionism in painting, graphics, and design.

Japonism, or Japanism, hit hard in the 1980s and hasn't gone away. We enjoy all sorts of imports, even if we never play a video game or pick up a samurai sword. I drive a Honda wagon (built in the good old USA), I love sushi (made by a Thai emigre in a mall) and many of my best art materials such as my Irojiten colored pencils are made by Japanese companies using Asian workers. 

This piece, "Jiro the Angry," was done as an illustration to a Japanese folktale, re-told by the renowned children's author Jane Yolen. The story is about an artisan named Jiro who has what we would now call "anger management" problems. He marries a mysterious woman and finds something astonishing about her. The rest of the story is in anthologies none of which I have found. My illustration was for a fan magazine which was unfortunately never published. This is a series, more will follow.

I did my best to imitate a "Japanese print" or Kabuki theater style. I remember poring over this whole world of design I had never known about, just as the Europeans did during the period of "japonisme." And the Japan-ery is still going strong, just ask Hello Kitty or any anime enthusiast.

"Jiro the Angry One" original is ink on illustration board, about 8" x 5", July 1981.

1 comment:

Tristan Alexander said...

I didn't know you ever did any Japanese inspired works. These are nice.