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Hokusai & Teraoko: merging East and West.

Hokusai & Teraoko: Merging East and West

Looking and Comparing

What could Katsushika Hokusai, who lived from 1760 to 1849, have in common with Masami Teraoka, born in 1936 and currently living in Hawaii? Both artists synthesize aesthetic elements from the East and West to visualize human concerns that transcend time and place. Hokusai's work captures nature's relationship with people. Teraoka's satirizes the infiltration of a dominant country's business into foreign cultures. The dynamic action in both of their artworks is heightened by a strong, fluid contour line developed by the practice of calligraphy.

In the early 1700s Japanese artists were following Chinese models for painting, to satisfy the requests of their patrons -- the nobility. Hokusai broke with tradition by establishing landscapes and the affairs of the lower class people as the main subjects in his prints. Kanagawa-oli namiura (Under the Wave at Kanagawa) is one print from the series Fugaku sanju-rokkei (Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji). The "Honorable Mountain" is about to be swallowed by a wave that swirls the viewer's eye around the print, then probes for humans clinging to their boats. Hokusai adapted Western shading techniques and three-dimensional perspective to make the Kanagawa wave a dominant force and to project the viewer into the scene.

The contour line in Hokusai's print directs the viewer's eye around curves as it defines the positive and negative spaces in the composition. In 31 Flavors Invading Japan/French Vanilla, Teraoka attracts the viewer's curiosity with a jutting, facial expression. An outstretched arm below, and a noren above, anchor juxtaposing diagonals in the shapes of hair combs, a dripping ice cream cone, a kimono pattern and floor boards. The viewer's eye scans from right to left, reading in the direction of the Japanese language. Teraoka uses two-dimensional "flatness" techniques from Japanese painting and prints to include multiple views of an event in one scene.

How many functions does line have in the artworks of Hokusai and Teraoka? It outlines space to define volume, texture and directional movement. It creates the structure for composing the subjects. In Hokusai's print, it represents the marks of the carving tool. A calligraphic line adds written meanings to the visual symbols. Artists brush their signatures and publishers stamp their seals on the face of the print. To understand the written and aesthetic vocabulary of the Japanese language, Teraoka taught himself the special Edo-period script used in a seventeenth century woodblock print's cartouche; but his messages are of twentieth century concerns. The cartouche near the woman's head reads: "East-West people eat smelly stuff."


Curiosity led both Hokusai and Teraoka to seek training in a variety of art media and styles. At the age of 18, Hokusai studied wood-block engraving and in 1779 published his first known works. During this time, few major print designers possessed engraving skills. Usually they sketched the design for a woodblock cutter to carve. Hokusai carved the woodblock, and sometimes applied the inks by using his hand.

By 1797, Hokusai had begun to study Chinese painting styles and, in the early 1800s, Western perspective techniques. When he was 68 years old, he spent two years producing the Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji. Each print captures a unique mood of the mountain from a different location. When Hokusai died at the age of 89, he had completed approximately 10,000 woodcuts and 35,000 drawings.

Teraoka prefers to call himself a "Japanese container with American contents." At seven years of age, he began to study watercolor painting from a local artist who had mastered traditional Japanese and Western techniques. Teraoka was taught how to control his brush, to stroke a fluid, precise line, and how to layer watercolors to create a rich, luminous play of colors. After graduating from college, he traveled to Los Angeles in 1961 to study the Western styles of art, especially Pop Art. In the 1970s, his increasing interest in figuration pointed him to the work of Ukiyo-e masters.

Ukiyo was originally a Buddhist term emphasizing the transitory nature of human life. When the suffix "e" was added the term meant "floating world picture." Ukiyo-e prints were bought by the growing Japanese merchant class, who wanted symbols of wealth immediately. They were ignorant of the subtleties of Chinese philosophy, literature and art, which had been important to the nobility. To interest the potential patrons of their work, artists produced scenes from the merchants' daily environment.

The compositional elements of Ukiyo-e provide a visual and verbal structure for Teraoka's opinions on cross-cultural exchanges. In his painting, how is traditional Japan reacting to a contemporary lifestyle?

Key Concepts

* As the relationship between the East and

West changes daily, customs and design

elements continue to provide visual and verbal

vocabularies for artists' comments on

current social conditions and human concerns. * An artist's choice of subject matter and its

placement in the overall composition can

strengthen the drama and message of a

visual story. * An artist can control a line to build the

design structure for an artwork, give the image

life and write a story about the subject.

Katsushika Hokusai

1760 Born in Honjo quarter, east of Edo,

Japan. 1775 Apprenticed to a woodblock engraver. 1778 Entered studio of leading Ukiyo-e

master, Kat Sukawa Shunsho. 1779 Published his first series of prints under

the name Shunro. 1797 Adopted the name "Hokusai" and

began his major period of print and book

production. 1805 Began a concentrated study of Chinese

painting and graphic art. 1829 Publication of most famous series,

Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji. 1849 Died at the age of eighty-nine.

Suggested Activities

These activities can be adapted for all levels. They may be used in sequence, as a unit, independently or in combinations.

* Prepare for creating a series of drawings and prints by discussing the Hokusai and Teraoka artworks in depth. If a photocopy machine is available, it may be helpful to copy each image and place them side by side. Compare the positive and negative spaces, compositions, shape relationships and directional movement in each artwork. What are the dominant elements used by each artist?

* Have students draw self-portraits including an object and a part of the environment.

* Have students research a person from a foreign culture. Ask them to draw this person performing a daily task, including objects from their environment. Ask students to imagine meeting this person and exchanging objects from each culture. Have them sketch two drawings demonstrating what each would do with these objects.

* Have students cut four pieces of paper, two into squares and two into long, horizontal rectangles. Have them reorganize each drawing from the preceding activity to compose two new drawings, one for each shape. They can enlarge the size of the person, object or location to allow only a part of it to be seen in the drawing. Encourage students to experiment with diagonal compositions and unusual viewpoints. Make copies of these drawings.

* Have students brush or draw a contour outline on the edges of the people, objects and location of each original drawing. Compare with the copies made in the preceding activity. How does the contour line affect the composition and direct the movement of the viewer's eye?

* Have students carve one of the drawings into a piece of linoleum or a block of wood.

* Using one color of ink, have students make key prints. Ask them to study the key prints to decide how to color a series of prints. Have them experiment with the impression different color schemes convey: colors in a similar range of tones, colors that contrast, and colors native to the culture of each person in the drawing.

* Actors from the traditional Japanese theatre are the subjects of many Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Ask students to think about the actors they see on television and at the movies. Have them draw sketches of the actors from their favorite television programs, and develop the most interesting sketch into a painting, an oil-pastel composition or a linoleum print.


Cartouche: A scroll-like tablet providing space for an inscription or for ornamental purposes.

Key print: The woodblock used as a guide to registration in printing color editions. This is usually the black "outline" block.

Noren: Shop curtain, banner.

Ukiyo-e: The school of "floating world" artists that developed in the mid-seventeenth century.

PHOTO : Masami Teraoka, 31 Flavors Invading Japan/French Vanilla, 1978. 65-color screenprint,

PHOTO : 55" x 11" (140 cm x 28 cm).

PHOTO : Hokusai, Self-portrait.

Peg Koetsch is an education consultant to museums, schools and associations.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Looking/Learning; Katsushika Hokusai; Masami Teraoka
Author:Koetsch, Peg
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Previous Article:Dog prints.
Next Article:Fun & Games but learning too, part two.

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