Wood Block Prints by Kristina Hagman
Storm-tossed boats cling to ephemeral life as the Great Wave looms over them; Mount Fuji stands as a serene witness in the distance. “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” I have been told that in some circles it is as famous as the “Mona Lisa.” This work by master woodblock artist Hokusai (1760–1849) is only one in his series of “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.” Some of the views depict the mountain, alone in nature, as it would have been in primordial times; other views show city people going about their business seemingly oblivious to the great mountain in their midst.
Naturalistic compositions and perspectives were unusual in Hokusai’s day. During his lifetime, Japanese artists were exposed to the techniques of western art and its more realistic approach for the first time in centuries. Hokusai eagerly incorporated western ideas and materials (such as Prussian blue) into his work, as did his followers Hokuju (1790–1820) and Hokkei (1780–1850). Soon after his death, trade restrictions between Japan and the rest of the world were lifted.
An explosion of discovery ensued as western artists sought out work by Japanese artists and began to emulate their colors and compositions. This exchange continues today. Woodblock artists in particular enjoy a lively connection between the two cultures, which the Internet has helped facilitate. I am one of many artists who reach across the water for inspiration.
When I moved to Seattle a dozen years ago, I kept seeing Mount Rainier out of the corner of my eye as I was going about my busy life. Because of this, I have embarked on a series of woodblock prints dedicated to “Thirty-six Views of Mount Rainier.” Like my Japanese predecessor, I create images of the mountain from many different viewpoints and in many different environments. I often incorporate the freeway, cityscapes, cars, even my family—many of the things that make up life in this region.
Traditional Japanese woodblock printing is done with water-based colors. I prefer the color intensity and viscosity of oil-based inks. It is a joy to work in the medium of wood, exploring ways to take advantage of the grain as I carve.
About the Author
Although I am a self-taught artist, living in the art colony of Santa Fe, New Mexico for many years was an education of sorts. Through portfolio reviews I have had the opportunity to study painting with some of the artists I most admire, such as Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn, and Nathan Oliveira. Since then I have worked with several master printmakers from Japan and the United States and continue to learn the craft of fine art printmaking while I self-publish my series of prints dedicated to Mount Rainier that I hope to finish by 2010.
See the series of prints dedicated to Mount Rainier and more of Kristina Hagman’s work at kristinahagman.com