art by Arlene Kim Suda

pay attention...

pay attention…

Lessons from Hokusai

Posted on November 9, 2014 by aks

Such a great reminder about the dedication required to be serious about one’s craft and life. It’s a rarity when something great comes quickly.

The Great Wave at Kanagawa
from a Series of Thirty–Six Views of Mount Fuji
ca. 1831–33. Katsushika Hokusai

From the age of six I had a penchant for copying the form of objects. Around the age of fifty, I had published an infinity of drawings; but until the age of seventy, nothing that I have produced is worth taking into account. It was at the age of seventy-three that I was somewhat able to fathom the structure of real nature, animals, trees, birds, fish and insects. In consequence, at the age of eighty, I will have made even more progress: at ninety, I will penetrate the mystery of things; at a hundred I shall certainly have reached a marvelous stage and when I am a hundred and ten, everything I do, be it a dot or a line, will be alive. I beg those who live as long as I to see if I do not keep my word.  Written at the age of 75 by me, once Hokusai, today Gwakio Rojin — the old man mad about drawing.

– Hokusai, an extract from One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji  [found in an essay in the book, Cy Twombly: Blooming, A Scattering of Blossoms and Other Things]

Here is a description of this particular work, The Great Wave at Kanagawa, from The Met:

“The preeminence of this print—said to have inspired both Debussy’s La Mer and Rilke’s Der Berg—can be attributed, in addition to its sheer graphic beauty, to the compelling force of the contrast between the wave and the mountain. The turbulent wave seems to tower above the viewer, whereas the tiny stable pyramid of Mount Fuji sits in the distance. The eternal mountain is envisioned in a single moment frozen in time. Hokusai characteristically cast a traditional theme in a novel interpretation. In the traditional meisho-e (scene of a famous place), Mount Fuji was always the focus of the composition. Hokusai inventively inverted this formula and positioned a small Mount Fuji within the midst of a thundering seascape. Foundering among the great waves are three boats thought to be barges conveying fish from the southern islands of Edo. Thus a scene of everyday labor is grafted onto the seascape view of the mountain.”